End of thought

Tonight’s post was inspired by Regina Spektor’s “End of Thought,” which I listened to while riding home in the purple-orange glow of late-summer dusk, September’s warning snap to the air, on the way home from yoga and meditation on Friday.

After a summer of being Supermom (with some really fun me-time where I could fit it in), I ended my workday Friday knowing I was about to have 10 days to myself while my kids are at camp. I had irons in the fire: A picnic with my neighbourhood moms, an opportunity to meet a man from my past for a drink… but instead, I chose ME.

I rode home from work in a fervour, making the most of summer hours to grab my mat, get changed and cycle to my studio for a special 5pm class. It’s a Yin yoga class, run by a beautiful soul with a mid-western American accent. You hold poses for a really long time, releasing stuck chi, the practice itself becoming a meditation in staying with oneself through discomfort. And wow, lots of your buried shit comes up in the process.

For example, my mid-back gets locked up frequently. At the chiropractor, she uses acupuncture to release me a bit before she even tries to adjust me there. In doing a move called “Chain of beads” that’s intended to articulate your spine as it was designed – one vertebrae at a time – I noticed I was stuck there. And in working out the spot with repeated and deliberate movement, a long-buried memory appeared.

I was maybe 16 or 17. I was hanging out on my older cousin’s driveway in the suburbs, holding court with family friends who were also teens. My uncle, the controlling patriarch of our family who always demanded respect, got out of his car. I was mid-sentence and didn’t acknowledge him right away. Typically, it would be expected that I stop what I was saying and make a big deal of his arrival, greeting him as I normally would. But on this day, I didn’t feel like it. So I looked in his direction and continued talking.

He walked up to me and said, “Boy!” (In our language, very derogatory.) And he smacked me hard between the shoulder blades. I recoiled and said, “Ow!” And he did not care for that. I went from being his absolute favourite (he was big on favouritism. One of his sons became a dentist, the other a drug dealer.) to him not speaking to me for MONTHS.

He was a father figure to me, as my dad was mostly absent due to his personality and also because he worked two jobs, I spent way more time with my uncle (who was married to my mother’s sister). I’d forgotten this experience completely, but there it was, hiding in my thoracic spine, somewhere between the T6 and T7 if I had to guess.

I got a massive release (though that spot needs more work), and then we followed with Yoga Nidra, which is deep rest meditation. I’ve stopped struggling and actually find it delicious now, how I try to grasp her words as she guides, trying to stay conscious and present until eventually something gives up and I end up in lucid napping state. I felt pretty good. Even saw a new (straight?) guy (no wedding band) in class and that made me optimistic that my spiritual life partner is out there.


I thought about what you said
And it’s the end of the thought that really got in my head

I biked home listening to my “Chill Mix” – Apple pre-programs what I might find relaxing based on what I’ve listened to or favourited in the past. And this lovely Regina Spektor song came up. And I couldn’t help but think about the intense summer I had, somehow in relationship with Monsieur Magique without actually seeing him. It proved to me how much of our relationships happen in our minds, through our thoughts which then drive our feelings (which then drive our actions – I have this all memorized now from coaching lol).

I hadn’t heard from him at all in three weeks. I’d mostly made my peace with it. Still, his words were lingering. The way he’d perceived how I’d behaved. Were his words true? Were they true for me? Did they make me better?

Be careful before you decide
Be careful before you decide

It has been too easy to get persnickety about what he said. To be all, “Oh please!” But in leaving meditation, I had compassion for him too. The fact that he’s coming from a place of fear. And desire to control outcomes. That he believes the story he tells himself that he needs to work this much, sleeping four hours a night. (I seriously worry he’s going to have a heart attack.)

Even more so, I had a deep compassion for myself. I’d set my intention to “self” – self-acceptance, self-respect, self-worth. The homework that my therapist, Danny, gave me was to reflect on my worthiness and learning what I deserve, so self-reflection goes in there too. I turned the mirror inward, I found the girl who had been wronged by her dad and also by her key alternate father figure. And I knew that while she gets closer with each experience, she’s still got some work to do to trust others and understand when she should accommodate and when she should do herself a favour and cut the damn cord. He couldn’t give me what I needed, and rather than break loose, I worried that since “he can’t love me the way I need” keeps repeating for me, that I was the common denominator in the equation. So I spent all summer digging DEEP.


Risk only what you won’t miss
And all the rest you can leave for all the others to take
You cannot make a mistake
The universe is too big
The universe is too big

It was nearly midnight when he texted me.

“Wanted to say hello. I am a bad man for not giving news. I know you are probably mad and do not understand what is going on. I would feel the same way. LMK when you are free this weekend to talk maybe, if you want to. Hope the kids are good and excited for their BIG back to school week. Also sure your big project keeps you very busy in a good way and you are enjoying running it, Miss Incredible!”

It caught me off guard, so even though my usual, most-natural reaction to anyone else would be to respond right away, I decided to go to sleep and decide what to do in the morning.

I don’t know why I let you stay
I don’t know why I let you stay
I don’t know why I let you stay around
In my mind


In my mind, we are done. His behaviour this summer was appalling. How would we ever come back from that? How could I ever trust him not to cast me aside like that again? It’s literally the deepest relationship conflict I have, the quickest way to wound me – being ignored or shelved. And yet every single one of them (Theo, Ali, Mr. SN and now MM) has done this.

So I’ve tried to take responsibility. I’ve done the psych work (still going!) to understand why this is my achilles. I feel like we’ve gotten some insight in the past few posts. I’ve filled my life with so much good cake, that I can barely even see HOW I will make space for a partner, unless he’s willing to let me be free to continue to pursue my passions and friendships, and also willing to blend into this fun, chaotic, rich life I’ve built. I’m not needy, but I’m clingy a bit. And what I’ve learned through therapy is that this comes out when the other person is not in it with his whole ass!

In my mind we are done. Because we are at odds. He can’t get emotionally attached (his words), and I can’t even do a regular casual WITHOUT emotionally attaching. That’s who I am. My cleaner is not that good, for example, but I love her so much that I can’t imagine cutting her loose. I have long-term friendships with other humans where they let me down, or don’t show up for me how I’d like, but I can replace them with other friends (or fill in the gaps with other people). In monogamy, you can’t do this unless you swap out the lacklustre partner altogether!

I thought about what you said
And it’s the end of your thought that really made me upset

The end of his thought was, “You stop giving yourself freely because you have been hurt in the past and things seem always calculated to protect yourself.” I weighed it carefully and through consultation with my consiglieri (shout out to the inner circle!), I realized that even if he’s 20% correct, it takes time to build intimacy and trust. And the one thing we never had was time.

I hung out with friends yesterday afternoon, then stopped at a dog park (calming for me) in the sunshine and called him. No answer (and no dogs in the park – sign?). He called back but it was minutes before I was meeting the Patron Saint of No Bullshit for hangs so I didn’t answer. He texted to say he’d tried me and I should try him any time that evening. I replied to set the expectation that I’d connect with him later.

Be careful before you decide
The universe is too big
The universe is too big
You cannot make a mistake
You cannot make a mistake


After a super illuminating evening with the Patron St. of No BS, I called. And it was as expected. A very casual conversation catching each other up on what happened over the summer (without bringing up the relationship). I felt calm, cool and like I knew what I wanted and that this wasn’t it. I stand by it.

There was a long silence… Him: “Is there anything you want to say to me?”

“About what?”

“About this summer, about how I treated you…” I got the sense from his “bad man” comment that he wanted to be eviscerated, but I as I’m practicing non-violence, I didn’t see the point. I knew he may perceive it as lack of passion, but I don’t care. I’ve done that kind of fiery passion and it only leads to misery. I chose to stay rooted in my truth.

“What is there to say? If you’re expecting me to be angry, I’m not. I can’t be mad at what is. I was supremely disappointed and hurt in July, but I’ve had weeks to process those feelings and while I’m still disappointed, I’m good. You can’t give me what I need right now, and that’s the circumstance. It is what it is. Is there something you were hoping I’d say?”

“I just miss you. I really miss you. I miss the fun times we have together. But I’ve been working all week until 1 am, so this is the first opportunity I had to tell you.” (*cough* bullshit * cough*) “I’m sorry if I hurt you. I was so overwhelmed. (his voice cracked) Truly overwhelmed. I just couldn’t. I’m sorry. I’m realizing how much a role I have to play in how much I’m working. That I can’t let go. I don’t know how.”

Grown-ass Maria did not swoop in to rescue. Grown-ass Maria held space for his hurt, expressed that she really wanted him to get his shit together because she cares about him and his health and well-being. And then she peaced out. He didn’t seem to want to get off the phone. He mentioned multiple times that he felt we should see each other to talk it out further.

“Can I ask you something,” I proposed. He agreed. “If it’s two years from now and everything in your life was perfect…”

“TWO YEARS?! Oh god no, I’ll be dead. Six months?”

“OK fine, six months. Everything that’s stressing you out goes away… what would be different with us? How would it be different?”

If I got a clear answer, I don’t recall. I don’t care. You’ve shown me who you are. “Wait until September” was a lie, one made as an offer of hope, but full of bullshit, because he doesn’t actually want to change until everything is perfect, which doesn’t exist. We texted today and he offered Thursday as a possible day to meet up and talk. I know what I want to say if that date transpires, and he’s not going to like it, but what I know after all the work I’ve done is this: I am the prize. The prize is sacred. Not just anybody gets to win the prize. It’s not a lottery. You have to earn it.

Spiritual soulmate – I’m coming for you…

I don’t know why I let you stay
I don’t know why I let you stay
I don’t know why I let you stay around
In my mind

Au revoir, part two

Read Part One here >

As I discussed my discoveries about my childhood self with Dr. X, she asked me to investigate why my father did some of the incredibly hurtful things he did. Eventually I hope to find the time and space to ask him before it’s too late. After writing down a series of questions from a place of curiosity in my journal, I got a message from another single mom I know telling me she’d been reading about Attachment Theory, specifically this article. And boom, there was my father in all his flawed, deeply pained, unrealized self. “A child with an avoidant attachment attempts to meet their own needs, because it is too painful depending on others who consistently fail to respond to them. They develop a sense of shame, thinking, ‘I am not worth paying attention to.’ They then disconnect from their needs in an effort to avoid feeling this shame.”

I know little of my father’s upbringing. Much of it clouded by editorializing from my mom, who despised her mother-in-law and confronted her in-laws in such a disrespectful way that my father was emasculated and didn’t talk to his parents for many years. By my mother’s accounts my father was left alone much of the time, ignored in favour of his younger sister, etc. I often wonder about my father’s appalling social skills, whether he would be diagnosed on some sort of spectrum if he were born now. And if that undiagnosed neurological quirk made him a difficult child, therefore causing small town rural parents with little resources to deal with him via neglect. I will never know. But I know that my father’s distance has to do with his feelings that it’s better if he’s not around, he does not feel worthy of love. We’ve had to work our way up to hugs and kisses and occasional I love yous.

They say there’s nothing more damaging to a child than a parent’s unrealized self. Let that sink in. For those who know my real identity and know how much I do, it largely comes from this place. Life is full of experiences and opportunities for joy. All we have to do is say yes. I’m also learning that my energy stores will dwindle as I age, and that despite my desire to do and try all the things, I have to be selective about where my energy goes. My children provide me that checkpoint: What am I modelling for them? One of my most favourite things Dr. X ever said to me was when I was speaking about my parents, talking about how I don’t want to live like they do. “Aren’t you lucky to have such great teachers in how not to be?” Game changer. Positioning and perspective are everything.


As I learned more about attachment theory, I learned that people who grow up with an avoidant attachment parent are also prone to insecure attachment and that can show up as avoidant or anxious attachment where you may seem needy or jealous. So boom again. Guess what I am?

This article, also by Lisa Firestone, PhD really spoke to me. “An anxiously attached person assumes they want closeness but engages in patterns that actually leave a certain amount of emotional turmoil and distance. Although they may perceive themselves as feeling real love toward their partner, they may actually be experiencing emotional hunger. Their actions, which are often based on desperation or insecurity, exacerbate their own fears of distance or rejection. When their partner does come closer or gives them what they want, they may react in unconscious ways that push their partner away or create distance. They may find that their true tolerance for intimacy is much smaller than they thought because real love and closeness would challenge their core beliefs about themselves and relationships. Therefore, while they may believe they want security, they actually feel compelled to remain in a state of anxiety.”

WHOA! Wait a second. I’m actually attracted to the conditions which make me feel shitty and then I do shitty self-sabotage-y things to keep me in the shitty feeling state that I’m used to because that equals love to me? HOLD MY BEER! Why am I, as Glennon Doyle says, not “speaking my insides on the outside?” Oh, because my brain is used to this weird dance of “Come here, go away! Gah! Boys are so confusing! No one will love me the way I waaaaaaaant!” BOOM!

What I love about this kind of deep work is that once you become conscious of your behaviours and patterns, you have to stay conscious. Because it’s no longer a reflex, now it’s a choice you’re making. I’m not saying this work is easy folks, but much like how my body hurts whether or not I exercise but only one of those choices keeps me healthy, staying in a place of self-harm and self-sabotage hurts worse than doing this kind of excavation. Also, I’m not suggesting you should do this on your own. Much like having a trainer or a yoga teacher, having a therapist, homeopath or life coach can help to make sure you’re figuring this stuff out safely and correctly. (I have all three.)

So now I know what’s going on. Now I have compassion for 12-year-old Maria and I meditate while giving her a hug in my mind. I’ll take care of you, I tell her, we will overcome this together. You don’t need to be scared anymore. You don’t need to crave the affections of a man with the same desperation any longer. We are safe. We are resilient enough to stand on our own no matter what comes. We will figure it out together.


It still took some courage to speak my insides on the outside. I chose the liquid form. While day drunk on sangria this weekend, I decided to send a simple text that amounted to, “Hi! Haven’t heard your voice in three weeks. So are we doing this or taking a break? I can roll with whatever, but I have zero influence over this right now. If we’re doing this, here are my minimum requirements:

  1. I see your face every 2-3 weeks
  2. We talk on the phone once a week
  3. You share with me what’s going on with you. It has to be a 2-way conversation.”

Couldn’t get more basic. That is the bottom of the barrel as a single parent. This is where I need to start. The baseline. We build from here.

Meditation and journalling gave me the insight to see I was suffering and I could end it, simply by asking for what I needed and risking losing someone in the process. Because real love comes from within, not from something or someone outside yourself. You can know it intellectually, but knowing it in your soul takes some work and consistent practice until you form the spiritual equivalent of muscle memory. 12-year-old Maria needs me to take care of her and she needed clarity.

Monsieur Magique responded with a typical for him slew of “I have all this stuff going on right now and I tried to see you last weekend but got shut down.” PETTY SIDEBAR: hilarious because when I’d initially asked him for that date he’d responded with “Bastille Day…” which — what the fuck does that mean? Are you storming something? Can I come? Also why do I have to make myself available when he wants? And why does he feel rejected when I have to say no? That’s for him to uncover, because he doesn’t give me enough time for me to ask. He went on to say that what I proposed made sense, seemed like something we could both handle and sorry. Pfft.

My response to his overwhelm was good and true to me, and came from a place of compassion for us both. I said: “I’m sorry too. You have been going through a ton, and I get it. I hoped that I could be someone you could lean on during this super intense time. I honestly don’t need much, because as you said I’ve got my own things going on. Unfortunately I feel like my minimum threshold for feeling secure in this relationship was below the red line, and it just doesn’t feel good. I just want to be your person, Magique. I don’t want to be put on a shelf like a box of old photos. I want to fight your fights with you and vice versa. But it’s too much right now and I understand.”

I felt free. Hugely free. (Like I even went dancing and smiled a genuine smile the whole time, and I happened to be five minutes from his house). Because I could finally see what I was resisting. The truth. This is not someone who can make me a priority right now. He’s said it countless times, but also enjoyed keeping me shelved to take out like a toy when he was able, and that’s not enough for me, but I was scared to admit it because he’s so amazing in so many ways. He had asked for patience until September, but I couldn’t reduce my expectations any lower without compromising myself. The person he was asking me to be meant I had to fight my brain daily to accept things that made me feel insecure.

This has been a truly positive experience because now I KNOW. He has been a gift, because he lead me to truly see what I deserve, both through positive and negative interactions. I’m not afraid anymore. I know what I want and I will no longer apologize for it. I want my person. As I said to a friend yesterday, “I have four vibrators, a great house, an amazing career, two incredible children, a body I take good care of, a mind that I’m constantly working on and a spirit full of love and energy for anyone who wants to bask in it. I need nothing. I’m basically a cactus. This is a turnkey property. You just move in and enjoy.”

I don’t know if this is the end of Monsieur Magique for good. I use au revoir in the title, because it connotes that you hope to see someone again soon. But what I know is that I still have a few things to get my shit together on, and he has to do his work on his own. I’m not his person. He isn’t ready to make me his person. But you know what? I AM MY PERSON! And while it feels lonely in situations full of couples, or when I notice the foundation of the house crumbling and look around to see who knows how to take care of that (which should not be gendered, I know), it’s also liberating as fuck.

Let me say it louder for the people in the back (and shout out to my friends who are right now thinking, “Girl! I told you so!”) I DO NOT NEED TO SETTLE! I’m so proud of myself for finally figuring it out and speaking my truth. My horoscope on Co-Star yesterday said, “Climb to the top of the mountain, from there you will be able to see everything.” So friends, I’m rising higher. Today’s horoscope said, “Clarity is the same as transcendence.” Breathe that in. Is that not just beautiful enough to get a tattoo of? The air is getting thinner, so the work to keep going is getting harder… but the view, the vantage point, the perspective… it’s worth it.

Au revoir, part one

Well it’s been an INTENSE AF Cancer season, folks! Two eclipses and Mercury in retrograde. It all flips today as Leo season starts. Breathe easy because this is supposed to be some of the best astrology of the year! Mid-July to mid-August is going to bring sweet summer times for all. I for one am feeling FREE!

As a Cancerian, I come alive as soon as summer solstice hits. June 21, the longest day of the year, I feel it. I can’t explain it but the sun tips in my direction ever just so and my typical Energizer Bunny spirit is on Nitro! I fall in love with my city, with nature, with my family and friends all over again. My relationship with myself strengthens each year in this time, through these environmental and relational experiences. It’s also my bday in the middle of it. Three summers ago, when I found myself single for the first time in two decades, I decided I would no longer wait for someone to organize celebrations for me or depend on another human to make my summer dreams come true. So every year I now spend the first week of summer with my small humans (who are rapidly outgrowing that term) and then when I return from our travels, I throw myself the most fun birthday party imaginable, full of the best collection of women I’ve come to know and love, and who love me back in return. For me, it’s the most life-affirming way to ring in the beginning of another trip around the sun.

However the skies or the Universe or somebody needed me to learn some things. So while I’ve had so much joy, I’ve also had more struggle than I would have liked. As such the past month has brought forth an incredible amount of self-discovery.

Monsieur Magique has been far less magical in the past few months as the shine has worn off our initial glow. The pressures of his job (some self-imposed), combined with some unpleasant twists and turns in life has meant he’s not fully engaged in building a relationship and that’s been tough for me to accept. At the end of June, full of overwhelm, he unloaded all his worries and stresses on me to explain why the weekend away that we were planning was being reduced from two nights to one, after I’d expressed disappointment. I’d like to know what it’s like to really spend time with this person, and my dismay was expressed because I was trying to come to terms with whether I accept “almost good enough,” both in terms of what was being offered and also in how what was being offered made me feel about me.

To be fair to him, his life is full of landmines right now, but now that I’ve had some distance from it, I believe this is happening to him because the Universe is trying to break him open. He’s resisting, of course, and because he is not learning the key lessons of acceptance and surrender, each day brings a new bomb. Each set back is piling up and up and it’s hard to see someone you care about go through a period like this.

If I were someone he chose to lean on more regularly, maybe I could have helped. At least I would have felt like I was a part of his life. Instead, after a beautiful Saturday and Sunday away together where we savoured each other’s company and had a lot of fun celebrating my birthday a week early, he completely shut me out. He didn’t wish me happy birthday on the day, and that was one thing. I found I could accept it in that I know that he mentally checked off “celebrate Maria’s birthday” when he generously and lovingly took me away and romanced me. But more so, all our text conversations over the past few weeks have been of me sharing what was going on with me and him sharing nothing of himself, often not responding for three to four days. This behaviour would be one thing if this was brand new, but we’ve been seeing each other for almost seven months. We have shared some very personal things with each other. It’s so strange to feel so close to someone and then to have them disappear into a world of short sentences that say nothing once or twice a week and no phone calls. Connection is work. Connection is what I was lacking towards the end of my marriage. Connection is a big reason I decided to break up with Mr. Saturday Night.


Through this discomfort, I’ve been doing a shit ton of work on myself. Questioning everything, meditating, exercising, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, journalling, talking to friends, working with my business partner Rock ’n’ Roll Coach to get my thinking straight, and seeking the council of Dr. X. All of this was done to make sure that I wasn’t making problems where there were none, confirming that my ego wasn’t driving the bus, trying to accept reality to avoid undue suffering, testing and questioning to keep myself from getting trapped in a story. Byron Katie’s work Loving What Is was exceptionally helpful in this time, as was Glennon Doyle’s Love Warrior and the work of the coaching model that RRC teaches.

And wow did I ever have some major breakthroughs! The big questions: How much attention do I need from a man? Do I really love myself and realize the true universal love that is ever-present, so that I’m not mistaking my feelings? What thoughts are leading me to have the uncomfortable feelings I’m having? What thoughts do I need to have to feel better about this relationship with Monsieur Magique? What thoughts do I need to have to push me forward with lovingkindness?

So the big breakthrough was a way, way back one. I grew up in a house full of violence. It’s not something I talk about much, because I have a mostly healthy relationship with my parents now, working towards accepting them for who they are. My big scary father has softened with age and I have found a way to feel love and compassion for him, but there’s still work to be done there in forgiving him. In my childhood home, if my father was quiet for three days, it meant he was holding in something he was angry about, and on the fourth day all hell would break loose. He would flip a dresser, or throw all my clothes out the front door, or throw a bottle at my head or smash my sister’s face into a plate of eggs.

I realized that for some people, letting go of past memories is a simple choice. My sister accepts my father as he is because she knows that by getting angry at his bizarre behaviour instead of laughing at it, hurts her more than it does him. He’s already in pain, a product of his own fucked up childhood, and at nearly 80 years old we are not going to change his behaviour anytime soon. While he’s not violent anymore, he cannot spend time with his family, often greeting us at the door and then leaving, unable to just BE with us. The other day he walked into my house at dinner, grabbed some food off the dinner table and ate it in his car. It was 35 degrees Celsius out. I have air conditioning and chairs. It’s so strange and upsetting and yet I can choose to let it upset me, or I can ignore it. I’m not there yet, it’s still upsetting, but I do see now how I make it worse with my thoughts about it. It’s not personal. I can’t be mad at him for not being who I want him to be — that’s futile. Sigh.

Explaining this to you all is important, because until I work through this, I will not be able to move past it and I will continue to invite men into my life who trigger this same anger, disappointment and feeling of unlovability in me, not to mention the fear of abandonment and fear of rejection. Feelings that I’m a fuck-up, or a bad girl, or somehow less than, all stem from this critical developmental relationship that was never functional. So in my life now, how this shows up is that when a man goes silent with me for a few days, my default is to examine what I could have done to make him disappear. 12-year-old Maria feels very unsafe when men go quiet for a few days. What I love about Monsieur Magique is that he’s not at all afraid to speak his feelings and thoughts, but what doesn’t feel good is that he can’t communicate consistently. It’s normal to only hear from him twice a week via a text reply. If I get tired of carrying the conversation, or feel like I’m doing all the sharing and I decide to ignore my impulses to share bits of my life with him, he will finally send a note after four days. There’s no daily cadence of chatter, which I actually think is healthy in relationship building. Simple courtesies like “good morning” and “goodnight” would be lovely, I would be really happy with an “This made me think of you,” but this is not how this is going. I would honestly settle for a few times a week of “here’s what’s been going on for me, what’s been going on for you?” As a writer, my love language is words! Followed by quality time and touch — hard to get any of this when someone doesn’t have time for you!

While I can accept that his work and parenting situations leave him very little personal time (as he’s quick to explain when questioned or challenged), when you add it all up there’s the faint smell of bullshit, too. He’s able to make time to run in a triathlon with friends, he has time to watch stuff on YouTube, and as even my ex was quick to point out yesterday, “It takes 30 seconds to send a text to let someone know you are thinking of them.” Ha! So I did the thought work. I applied the model of writing down all the circumstances, evaluating which thoughts were leading to what feelings, and then examining the actions and results that came from each. And I could clearly see where I was making matters worse and what was a result of his lack of engagement.

Dr. X suggested I follow Thich Nhat Hanh’s meditation on the five-year-old self, which has three parts. (Full details here.) The idea is that if you can feel compassion for your inner child, if you can tell your inner child that you’ll always take care of them, and then you shift your attention to seeing your parents in their vulnerable, fragile, five year old selves, you can heal a lot of the past. This meditation will be my focus for the rest of the summer, because as a parent, healing the inner child within, as well as the inner children of our parents that live within each of us helps us to parent our own children with compassion and presence. It stops the cycles of our past (in my case violence, lack of agency and neglect/abandonment) from being transferred to our own children. I’ll let you know how it goes.

(to be continued…)

Reflecting on fear

Dr. X is a dear friend and also a homeopath. But she’s not a regular pill prescriber, but more of a therapist that uses homeopathic remedies to help you get to where you need to go, healthwise. The researcher in me knows that I can’t sway any skeptics here—the science doesn’t hold up. But anecdotally there is magic that happens, and I know because beyond my own experiences, the two therapists in my family’s life take their families to her too.

I got a UTI two weeks ago, from getting too cocky (pardon the pun) and forgetting that I should go pee after fun sex with Mr. Saturday Night. So I called Dr. X to help, because she has in the past and I hadn’t had one in a decade or so as a result (and while my marriage was broken and I felt we didn’t have sex enough, we still had sex more than lots of couples, so don’t try to pin that on abstinence). After prescribing something that worked almost immediately, I called her to check in about the weird sensations I was still experiencing. There’s been a dull ache in my lower back, on the left side, and it feels like energy is stuck there or something, or maybe it’s actual back pain. But my panic and anxiety is back after maybe 18 months of nothing. (And so, I’ve got an appointment to rule out anything more serious this week.)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the kidneys are affected by fear. So the belief is that any issues with your kidneys are impacted by deep, prolonged fear. I’ve been anxious my whole life (though anxiety lives in the lungs in TCM), but there’s something deeper in me, a fear that makes me make decisions that aren’t in my best interest. Dr. X said I should use the Jewish holidays to reflect on my transgressions (I’m not Jewish, but we often joke that I’m “Jew-ish”). So I’m going to try to meditate and journal for the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

So this is a meditation on fear. (Those who come here just to read about the sex might want to move on.) What exactly am I afraid of? The same things as everyone else: death, endings, making wrong decisions, getting sick, missing out. But what fear and anxiety have always robbed from me is the ability to live fully. Now, I’m getting better at living fully, for sure. But every time I think I’ve got it, fear creeps in to remind me that it’s going to take more than an eviction notice to get him to move out permanently.


Saturday was an evening where I was crushed by epic grief. My daughter asked if I could host her birthday party at my home, even though it was her weekend with her dad. We all agreed that it could work, but as parents we were mindful that the transition back to his place after the party could be tough.

Theo and I collaborated on the party, though of course I did most of the planning as I am the planner. I gave him things to do and he did a lot to help out. And after the guests all left, the four of us hung out for a bit. I hugged Theo a beat too long as we congratulated each other on a job well done. Suddenly my men were dancing in my dining room, the way they used to when my son was small, and I felt the fissure in my heart (that I could swear was healed) erupt. I was overcome by a desire to have them all stay.  This was exacerbated by our daughter quite vocally announcing that she couldn’t bear to leave her home to go to his place. It was painful. But then I remembered she’d been given new books and used those as a way to get her excited about going to dad’s. They said goodbye, I closed the door and I wept.

There was a knock on my door. My mom! She’d missed the party (because they are terrible at timing), but showed up right when I needed her. I hugged her and revealed my sadness. I don’t like putting that burden on a woman in her late 70s, but I needed to and she was there, just enough, short and sweet before her comfort turned to unsolicited advice. But then she left and there were Anxiety and Fear, best buds, hanging out in my head.

The thing is, they are so damn convincing, that I believe I am at death’s door. It’s always been this way. But because I don’t actually trust myself to make a true judgment call on a health issue, I don’t do anything about the ideas they are presenting, except wallow in the fear. Conceptually, I know that my ego wants to make me feel so important, that my fear around death is that I’ll miss out on important stuff and that everyone who loves me will be so terribly sad, especially my kids who may never recover. Isn’t that really what everyone fears about death? Missing out on stuff, being missed yourself and being forgotten over time?

Conceptually, I know that there is no future, only the now, and that there is no death, that dying means only the death of the human form and that the spirit returns to the ocean, the master spirit, the life force and so I should not fear it. But try explaining that to a brain that’s irrationally afraid in that moment! Hoo! Good luck! I know it, but I don’t know shit. And that’s the practice, my friends: remembering that you don’t know shit about shit, but that you can get there with plenty of curiosity, a clear head and an open heart. That’s what the Buddhists call Samsara, I think. (But as I don’t know shit about shit, don’t quote me on that.)

So, my curious mind now wants to know why I’m so afraid of dying. But also, why am I so unable to accept joy in the moment it’s offered? Finally, the clincher, why can’t I just stay in my discomfort? Why can’t I watch it, without judgment and just wait for it to pass? Not always, but often, in my quiet moments, I take something that’s mostly good and THINK IT TO DEATH. Kinda ironic.


On Sunday, I ended up scheduling a yoga date with a girlfriend. I knew I needed yoga to set me right (in addition to a homeopathic remedy to support), but I knew myself enough to know I needed the buddy system to get me there. The yogi spoke of the new moon and of deciding what we wanted to invite in. I asked for Peace, Confidence, Serenity and Love. I started to feel greedy as my list expanded, but then she asked us to move to our right/masculine side and talked about how our masculine energy supports and defends our feminine energy. I realized that I am afraid of men and masculine energy, and that comes from a mix of childhood physical and mental abuse, and the sexual assaults I’ve written about in the past. There is so much to explore in this one little fear nugget, but it’s getting late and I’ve committed to sleeping better in order to get my anxiety back in check.

The yogi then asked us to move into fetal position on our left sides. “Your feminine side is your receiving side,” she noted. “Women are often taught that they are the givers, but giving is actually masculine energy.” In order to support our natural nurturing tendencies, we need strong masculine energy (not necessarily in the form of a man) to offer strength and support, so that our feminine side can receive love. It was interesting to consider receiving as nurturing, as loving, as a gift. So often we don’t think of ourselves as worthy of receiving, because of messages we’ve received from childhood to present day, but we must remember that these are just stories that have hardened, and they can be worked out like a kink in one’s back—with gentle perseverance.

At the namaste bit, the yogi remarked on the power of the new moon, of the unknowns in the complete dark of a new moon sky. We should be curious about all dark matter, I thought, it’s the majority of our universe and it’s expanding (which is the only thing we really know about it, because we don’t know shit about shit). We should be curious about the eternal dark and the darkness within, because it’s all connected, and I’ll bet if you followed it through it would lead you to divine light. And that’s not a bad thing. I piped up and reminded them all that it was Rosh Hashanah, also. A Jewish New Year new moon was surely extra powerful. It was for me.


On that mat I realized that in the times in between seeing Mr. SN, I freak out because I’m trying to control something. And that surrendering control is still something I’m working on. He’s driving it with his distance, or by just being a guy who is giving what he is able to at the moment and me being a woman who wants more, but can’t articulate it, because the truth is she doesn’t want to turn her whole life upside down to make time for more. Not yet.

I realized I’m looking for a Swiss Army knife, and missing the value of a tool that does one or two things really well. I have a full tool box of friends and loved ones. Why can’t I savour the orgasm tool? Why do we expect one person to be all the things to us? How unromantic and not-sexy does that become over time? I don’t have these answers yet, friends, but they are coming, in small increments. But what do I know? My desire to push him away and out of my life completely, my desire to retreat into myself because it’s nearly fall, that all comes from fear. Retreating into myself is about protection and control. It’s not necessarily out of love for myself.

In TCM, the seven ruling emotions are: Joy, Anger, Anxiety, Pensiveness, Grief, Fear, Fright. There is only one happy emotion here, people. The other six are unpleasant ones. So it’s safe to say that the majority of human life is spent in one of the bad places. Joy is not a given or a constant. Instead it’s a gift we must receive and when we lose it, we must remember that it will appear again. Often, if we stay with the uncomfortable feelings and watch/observe them rather than judge them, joy appears as the reward.

Too much joy can also cause problems, and in TCM overdoing joy can affect the heart. Overstimulation, insomnia and such, can come from too much joy.

So how to find balance? I welcome your comments.

Smashed, sex, skunk, smashed, serenity

I should have known when my horoscope suggested the hell that would erupt from three planets being in retrograde. But what does one do when they only kinda-sorta believe in astrology? Stay in bed for a month? Not an option.

It has been A WEEK! What happened to me was enough to put most people in hospital. I’m shaking my head trying to understand why I am still standing—with a smile on my face, no less. I have truly, never felt more grateful to be alive, healthy, with most of my mental health in tact.

A day after dancing to Stevie Wonder in a field under the super powerful Blood Moon, I had a fairly busy day. I picked up the adorable dog of Zofia and Lars (of the Peaches), whom I had offered to watch for a week while they travelled around Europe. Saw the movie Eighth Grade with my “cinema gay,” a dear friend for almost two decades whom I love going to see art house films with. Then ended up going to see a Chicago House DJ I was a big fan of…

The women I went with (my Witches crew) were all doing E or M or whatever the kids call it these days, because the late night house music scene does pair nicely with a lick. I have not touched the stuff since 2003, and with all the fentanyl-laced horror stories I’d heard of the current stuff going around, I decided not to chance it 15 years later. Also, I’m a 40-something mom, and given I’m already playing in enough spaces that would make my children shudder, I decided to pass. Instead I got stupidly, embarrassingly drunk; the kind of drunk where you don’t realize you’re drunk or how much you’ve been drinking so you keep going because you’re in a social situation that makes you feel a bit out of your element.

I was so drunk that I picked up a HUGE Georgian man with a thick accent, but not so drunk that I gave him my real name and number. But drunk enough that I left before the Chicago DJ came on, because I’d puked in the bathroom and had the spins.


The following day, I convalesced in my “convalescing chair” (AKA a zero-gravity chair). I knew I had to pull it together eventually, because I’d offered to make Mr. Saturday Night dinner. I am getting used to the parameters of this relationship: We meet, we have a toast and share stories over food, and it’s often book-ended by seriously hot sex.  Every. Other. Week. There is some sporadic texting in between, which we’ve established is not his A-game.

BUT HELLO! I have an attentive lover with a cool job and an incredible mind. He is gorgeous and makes me laugh and literally asks nothing of me. He still doesn’t hold my hand, but to be honest, we’re not walking down the street so much these days. I can’t recall what it was that I asked him a few weeks ago, but something along the lines of, “How come we haven’t gone to X together?” And he replied, simply, “Because we are doing this at the moment,” and then proceeded to make me have an orgasm that shot out the top of my head.

I AM HAVING HOT SEX.

And yet I am not able to stay there, in the “I am having hot sex” zone. I’m constantly wondering if we’re veering into a relationship, or what that looks like, and what my people would think of him, and, and, and. Why? We’ve already established that this current affair is all I have space for at the moment. Are we so programmed by society to try to turn every encounter into a “RELATIONSHIP”? I am truly trying to be mindful of this and reprogram myself. This is so good right now. Enjoy it, Maria.

I will blame my hangover on the stupid decisions I made that night. We were in the midst of insanely hot sex, in between sex courses, if you will. And so it wasn’t a “condom on” moment and somehow he slipped inside me. And I didn’t immediately jump off. Instead I had a beautiful, shuddering orgasm with him unsheathed and inside of me.

We had had a discussion about birth control, namely that I feel like I spent too long taking synthetic hormones and didn’t want to do that again. I have done my duty for procreation and avoiding it, and I don’t want it to be mostly my responsibility anymore. Also, everybody is fucking everybody in this brave new world and I don’t want a disease. And yet, it happened. And I didn’t stop it.

Condoms protect you against pregnancy and disease, but what I didn’t account for was that condoms also protect you against FEELS. Everything about the experience felt so intimate. I suppose firsts always are. But this subtle act, whose impact could be HUGELY disruptive (or even deadly), changed the nature of “us,” leaving me so vulnerable and tender, that when he left I could feel myself falling.

AND I FREAKED THE FUCK OUT.

If I was falling, was he falling too? Should I allow myself to fall? Should I, instead, consider dating other people to prevent myself from falling? I made a panicked call to Dr. X the next morning, who reminded me that I’m an adult, who is smart and— when grounded—is not going around subconsciously choose another version of my ex. “Give yourself a break!” she admonished. And she’s right, I’m too hard on myself, and my childhood patterns of being made to feel like I shouldn’t trust myself, my own gut, because I’m too sensitive, too romantic, too trusting rear their ugly inner voice. A lifetime of being gaslighted. I second guess myself. I forget that no one can know me like I know myself. I forget that I, too, am trying to choose what is best for me, what will protect me from getting hurt again.


Later that week, reading out on the back deck, adorable dog at my feet, I caught the faintest whiff of skunk musk and decided we should come in. I tried to coax my sweet charge in. He made it to the threshold, looked into my eyes and was suddenly off like a shot. It took a moment to understand what he’d caught by the neck in the back bushes, until the overwhelming stench took over. This sweet little, maybe 18-pound dog had just viciously murdered a skunk. What. The. Fuck. Was. I. Supposed. To. Do. Next?

I have little experience with dogs, and frankly dogsitting was an attempt to see if we could manage adding a canine love to our family. But now I was in over my head. What do I do? Tomato juice? No that’s a myth, I think. Uh, uhhhh, uh… I called Theo. Out of habit. He was just about to go to bed and offered to Google it for me. Um, thanks?

I hung up and called my pal Blanche from up the street, who has lots of experience with dogs. She had all the stuff and drove over, helping me to bathe a dog for the first time, one who was covered in skunk musk, no less. I bathed him again the next morning and decided that if I’ve experienced one of the worst things a dog owner can live through, then maybe I could hack being a dog owner after all.

(I made Theo come over to deal with the skunk carcass and bought him dinner as thanks.)


I put the rotting skunk in several plastic bags and out on the curb for the city to pick up. Then I passed it, stinking in the flaming hot sun, while I packed the car for a week away at the beach with the kids. I was so proud of myself, covered in bike grease, tits sweating, for doing it all by myself.

On the way up, I decided at some point to stop using GPS navigation and to teach my kid how to use a map instead. But GPS had rerouted us to avoid traffic and we were on unfamiliar roads. My kid got distracted and we missed a turn onto another highway. I was so eager to get up there and to start the holiday (especially after the week I’d had), that I turned into a farm house driveway to get back to the missed highway. I perceived a break in traffic and proceeded.

BAM!

An SUV was approaching and I’d somehow failed to see it, as had my co-pilot. In milliseconds, the front of our car was shaved clean off. My children were beside themselves with fear and panic. I felt beyond terrible. What had I done?

Fortunately, by a complete miracle, no one was hurt. The tow truck driver said that even a second difference in the collision, our car would have flipped. The officer was incredibly kind and compassionate. (And hella handsome. In fact, I considered trying to find him after to ask him out.) We were a short drive from a key landmark by the cottage we were staying at, so the tow truck driver took us there, where family members met us to help us take our things to the house, before our car was towed away. We are incredibly lucky. We were on the beach two hours after the incident. I had to check if I had a horseshoe shoved up my arse. I have never been more incredibly grateful to be alive.

I wasn’t distracted by a device, but my mind was so focused on the future, on the destination, that I completely missed the present moment of the journey.

BAM! Life has a way of teaching you the lesson you need to learn.

I am on a journey with Mr. SN. He is a gift, a miracle of sorts. He is building me up sexually and in some ways spiritually. Whether by what he does, or what he doesn’t do, he is teaching me about boundaries, about choices and decisions and consequences. He is teaching me that some things that I’ve prioritized in the laundry list of things a man should bring to the picnic matter less than I once would have thought, and that other things—ones I hadn’t even considered—matter more.

The universe does not give us what we want. The universe gives us what we need. I clearly wasn’t paying attention to that, and BAM! If you’re reading, I hope this is a reminder to be gentle with yourselves and to be mindful as you go about your day to day.

I have to stop focusing on the destination. I have no spot on a map that I’m trying to get to at the moment, and even if I was, it would be irrelevant, because the future does not exist, except in our minds. By the time we experience “the future,” it is the present. Be present. Be careful. Look both ways, multiple times, before crossing the street. Enjoy the ride. Don’t become obsessed with the seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months where you have to wait before proceeding. Proceed when the time is right. Proceed when it’s safe to do so. You will get there eventually, even if you don’t know where “there” is quite yet. In a mindful life, it’s the road shows you where you need to be.

Year one, done

It’s been a year since the worst day of my life. The day I had to break the hearts of the two humans that I love the most. The day I had to tell them that their father and I would no longer be a couple.

It had been two months of harbouring the secret, to get through Christmas, to work out the plan, to talk to social workers to understand how best to tell them. I wanted to do it right, if there’s such a thing. I’m still trying. It’s a constant pull between my hurt feelings wanting to lash out at their dad and realizing that doing so would jeopardize a relationship that was always held together by a string, strong as hemp rope on one end, but thinned out to the most fragile of threads at the other.

Our favourite social worker, the one our family still sees, suggested we present the information as a unified front. Under no circumstances were we supposed to give any hints or suggestions that we may get back together. It was over, we needed to stick to the storyline, because any window of wavering would be a forever open door for kids who just want their parents back together.

We ordered sushi, a family favourite, and talked happily during dinner. People always ask if the kids suspected. I will say that while they felt weird energy in the house during those two months, and caught me crying a bunch of times, they really didn’t see it coming. I never ever wanted to do this to them, as a kid who had suffered a (temporary) parental break-up herself. And I told my now-ex that once we broke their hearts there was no turning back.


He waffled over those two months, but whenever he’d say, “Why are we doing this?” I would ask him why he felt we should stay together. The answer was always (and is to this day), “Because it’s harder than I imagined.” Not, “I realized how much I love you and what you mean to me, and I can’t believe I put you through all that shit all these years.” Nope. Not, “I realize I can’t live without you.” Nope. Repeat: He does not love you the way you need to be loved, Maria. Breathe.

For years, during many late night discussions about the state of our relationship, I warned him about how this would affect the kids, how they would struggle in life while all their peers had (happily or unhappily) married parents. I knew first-hand what it was like, while he, with parents unhappily married for 50 years, only saw that relationship as a trap. His story, his narrative, always won out. He would dig in his heels and say, “The kids will be alright because it’s us. We’re not going to do it in a way that makes us enemies.” It turns out we were both right.

The kids are alright, but they have moments of deep sadness, or fear, anxiety, frustration. They are stuck on the why, but the why no longer matters. It just IS. We must accept it and move on. Theo was right, we would do it differently. I did a bit of mudslinging in early days, but through meditation, yoga, therapy and the buddhist practise of accepting impermanence, I have learned to let go of my anger and my sadness. Sure, they creep in sometimes, but I know to breathe through it, turn it into a joke and to resist sending that angry text.


This morning’s angry text was going to be, “Who the FUCK is that woman on your Facebook feed saying what an awesome family you have? Just because you made a fire on the beach, as if making a bonfire earns you Parent of the Year! Stop using your fatherhood to get laid, you piece of shit!” But instead, I went to yoga and thought my hamstrings were going to snap like elastic bands pulled too far. The kids joke that I’m becoming a Zen master, but maybe I’m just becoming an asshole who buys too many Buddha statues and is getting mature enough not to fire off texts before I’ve thought through the repercussions.

When the kids do express their sadness, we sit with it. I have, in some ways, become a better mother through this process. I’m not anxious about their fears and pains like I used to be. Or rather, I notice the anxiety and guilt rising up within me, and I take a breath and pivot to Supermom. Dad is Fun Dad, and there’s something good in accepting that. I can be too serious, talking them through mega heavy life topics, like drugs and abortion. Dad is just Fun Dad. He gets them outdoors. He pushes their physical selves into the physical world, taking them for hikes on the beach and then returning to his sad dad cosy basement apartment to watch a movie and eat something warm that he’s made for them. I am the keeper of their minds and their souls, he is the keeper of their bodies and their place in the outside world. We both approach their anxieties differently, and both are good.

When I think of us like that, it does make me wistful. It does make me want to get back together, but then I never ever saw our relationship as “that bad” until I got out of it. Sure I was unhappy, but wasn’t everybody? But then I remember that, regardless of whether I agree with the thinking, for him every fight was Hiroshima, every argument symbolizing the end of days. I love him, but I’ve come to realize that he’s a narcissist. He can only really care for himself. But maybe, just maybe, through divorce he is learning how to take care of the kids, too. I hope so for their sakes.


That night, after sushi, we told them. Or rather, I told them. Because he was frozen in inaction, wearing a suit of cowardice, of his own making. We told them he was moving out in a week (which was the timing prescribed by the social worker). And the girl one laughed at first, because she thought it was a joke. Surely her parents who claimed they loved her wouldn’t do this to them! I’d promised her once, and she’s always reminding me, that her parents were never ever getting divorced, because I swore to her that I would do everything in my power to avoid that outcome. And I did. I did do everything possible, from therapy to allowing him to move away to another city for six months, to considering the open marriage he was asking for. But it wasn’t enough. I was never enough.

Why? They asked over and over again. I wish I could tell them. I barely understood it myself, but I HAD to secure my freedom. I could never tell them of the years of mental and emotional abuse. I’m sure their dad would probably say the same about me. How do you tell kids, “Your dad wasn’t strong enough to be my man”? He couldn’t handle that I was smart and funny and pretty and successful and well-liked by so many people, while he couldn’t seem to find his footing as an adult. He was a shrinking violet, scared to share his experience of the world around him, and he felt my strength was drawn by making him weak. I can’t say if that’s true, but it was certainly true for him. I’ve come to accept that, too.


I didn’t kill him when he stupidly said, “We don’t know. There’s a chance we might get back together.” But I did give him a death stare and a strong kick under the table. “That is not true,” I said stoically, trying to close a door that he was trying to keep open a wedge out of weakness, “Dad and I are over. We are never getting back together.” We all cried, and I can never forget the pain of causing my children such agony. I’m still trying to forgive myself.

Then I presented rose quartz necklaces that I’d had made for us all, to keep our hearts close. Then we played a board game. Everything is rather hazy from that time, like when that bad thing happened to you as a teenager and you just walked around with that sick feeling in your stomach for days, wishing it wasn’t true. I don’t know how we got through that week, but somehow we did. And what followed was a time of mourning, change and open hearts, a love bigger than I knew I was capable of giving or receiving.

A week from now will be the anniversary of the day he moved out. I’ll be back next Sunday to reflect on my memories of that story. Thanks for reading.

Stepping into Maria

I haven’t published any writing in weeks. Over a month, I think. And I’m sorry. There have been a few developments and my reasons are sound.

1. I started a writing club with a few friends and having three hours a week to write is glorious. However it means my creative energy flows into that project and the blog gets neglected. I’m working on that though.

2. My ex started working nights, so aside from writing club, I am with the kids every single evening. And truth be told, I don’t mind. I’ve dug myself quite a debt hole, going out to dinner and for drinks, sometimes 3 or 4 times a week when I don’t have the kids. Generally indulging myself when I feel sad. So being home is good because I’m finally having to face my financial reality post-separation. It’s painful but good, and I’m taking steps to fix my mistakes. But I’m not going to lie, it’s also scary as fuck.

Also, my babies (I know I don’t talk about them much here), well I love them. It the purest, most wonderful love I’ve ever experienced. I love making dinner and doing homework. Sure, I’m a control freak and part of that is that I get to quality control stuff. My way is the right way, blah blah blah. (What? You think HE was the ONLY reason we broke up?) But I also love seeing that light come on in their eyes when they really get a concept, or when I coach them to motivation or success or understanding. And the hugs and the love in return… I need it so much right now. Sometimes I worry that I’m too transparent with them, too honest with my emotions, too needy of their affection, and it scares them. But I gotta be me and teach them there’s no shame in that. Teach them that in spite of all the stress and worry, we have a good life together. I want to work hard to be someone they are proud of.

3. My new job (YES! I got THAT job!) is insane. I know it’s par for the course, but seriously, every time I start a new job I think, “Holy shit, you are so unqualified for this job!” And I talk shit to myself, because I’m overwhelmed and as a know-it-all it’s really hard to be in meetings where you don’t know what the fuck is going on. I say shit to myself like, “What do you actually do? What do you actually deliver? You can barely pay attention in meetings because you’re like a fucking grieving ghost. Where is your fucking brain? They are all gonna eat you alive.” So by the time I come home, do all the mom stuff, give my email and Facebook a cursory glance, all I can do is lay on my heating pad and watch This is Us. Fuck.

Anyway, no excuses. You twenty or so lovely people have invested in this story and I owe you an update.


After I snogged the second ex-colleague, the one who has been dating an old friend of mine for a year, I felt like a giant hairy arsehole. My guru and dear friend, Dr. X, messaged me from Spain and told me she was concerned I was going to get VD (or some other hip retro acronym that means “diseases from dicks”). And I had to concede that she was right, I was flirting with disaster and I was feeling terrible about it.

Case in point, one of the last times I saw Ali, right after my vacation, I came home and hastily took razor and scissors to my pubes. He’d already proved he was a bit porny in his 30-something sexual tastes and I didn’t want to go in full bush. Actually, full bush would maybe be ok. The ratty, half-bush situation I was sporting after a trip to the beach for just over a week was just not gonna work for either of us. And when I quickly chopped away with bad, 40-something eyes, I took off a science lab-appropriate piece of my labia. I had to put a bandage on my vajuj to stop the bleeding, and I texted friends wondering if it was wise to have sex with someone as slutty him (whom I now know to be a disgusting predator) with an OPEN WOUND on my lady parts. My inner voice was screaming, “Don’t fucking risk it!” But the other voice, the one that wants me to stop being such a worrisome goody-goody, said, “Go on, girl. Get it!” There’s a lot of things that happen before that condom goes on, ya know? Not smart. *Shudder* But yeah, I went over there and shagged him anyway. Amazing how you can ignore pain during sex.

So I decided to take a break from dudes and dicks and dating apps. Everything was changing (see #2 and #3 above) and I needed to focus. I prioritize for a living (though everyone I work with seems to suggest I’m bad at it — not true, for the record, but very few people I work with realize how fucked up the system I work in is), and the boy thing just got moved out of the roadmap and into the parking lot for now. It became a needless distraction that was sapping my energy from the two things I need to be really good at right now: kids and work.

Right before I decided this, I’d made a date to see Ali. But after TSTSHB (The Snog That Shouldn’t Have Been), I got completely demolished by a cold. And I took that as my body’s way of telling me that I needed to quit the boys cold turkey. No patch, no chewing gum, no elastic band to snap against my wrist to resist the cravings. I put new batteries in my vibrator, made a Soundcloud playlist (I love sex audio. I’m too picky about the visuals in p0rn, plus 19763 other issues I have with p0rn), and decided to cancel my date.

Now, I’d love to make you think that I had some sassy way of ripping off the bandage, but no. I had a wee, stupid relapse and when I messaged him to say that I was too sick for a shag, I responded to his, “Awww, too bad” with the suggestion that if he really wanted to see me, maybe we could catch a movie or something. Not sure how he got out of that one, but he didn’t bite. It was clear he doesn’t want to date me and I knew that I was so done with him. Because — data point! — I don’t JUST want booty calls! I think I’m getting closer to knowing what I want and need right now.

I should have known WAY earlier, obviously, that Ali had no interest in maintaining a friendship with benefits in the same way I did. Like when he lead me on that first night together and then proceeded to ghost me. Or when I fucked him for the first time and he didn’t even message me after. Or the fact that after our last tryst, every time I saw his green light on Facebook Messenger I would pause, because I realized I didn’t have anything to fucking say to him. Because, friends, he couldn’t volley.

Mid-September, I posted a pic or video of myself at a baseball game, during which my home team totally shit the bed. He messaged to flirt; wasn’t I the cutest bad luck charm ever? (They tanked the last game I was at, too, after which I’d gone to his place.) I came back with, “At least last time *I* scored!” And then it died, because he’s never going to be funnier than me. I believe he knows this. So with me not having anything to say and him not wanting to be with someone funnier than him, who is a little bit broken and messy and has a lot of rules around when she can actually go out, well… I can’t even say it fizzled out.

I wanted to wrap it up with something cool, like, “That was a fun summer, but we both know this isn’t going anywhere.” But I lingered on Messenger for days, typing and deleting, wanting to go first and then not wanting to go first, still kind of hanging on to the promise of that first night and wishing he would turn it around. And in my stalling, he got to go first. Or rather, she did.

“Svetlana Sunflower is In a Relationship with Ali Ahmed.” Her profile is that of an old, George Carlin-looking man shrugging. Maybe it’s a joke? I can tell I’m not the only one who is shocked. There are usually 12 other women, with whom the only mutual friend we share is him, who jump all over his posts and today they respond with open-mouthed WOW emojis. I unfollowed his updates weeks earlier, but I can’t resist this daily temptation to check his FB, which is how I see this. He is an enigma, closed and confusing, like your local shop on a statutory holiday. One week he’s buying plants with one woman, and the next he’s “in a relationship” with someone completely different. It’s gross actually.

The suspense killing me, so I go to his Instagram and search his followers for “Svet” and I find her. “Summer goth,” says one photo. Another proves they were together a few weekends earlier. She is so fucking young, with crazy milky skin and perfectly thick eyebrows and a dark sense of humour that isn’t quite jaded yet. White flag. Ugh.

But I didn’t want him anyway, right? Still…

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

The upside of all this is that I learned the lessons quickly. I didn’t spend two decades wondering, “Why isn’t this working? If he would just ______ it could be so great!” Done, and some of that deciding was not up to me, but I think I was catching on. An improvement in the algorithm. I’ll take it.

The other brilliant nugget from all this is that I’m happy now. Well, I’m still working through the feeling that I’m going to be fired every day, but generally, I’m happier. I feel a sense of purpose that I haven’t felt in some time. “You are stepping into Maria,” says Dr. X and she’s right.

After my child had a terrifying illness, major surgery and unexpected complications four years ago, I was fucked up. Really and truly fucked up. For a long time after, I would tell people that I felt like a skeleton wearing a Maria costume. I really don’t know how else to put it. I knew I was supposed to be Maria and say Maria things and shine my damn bright shiny smile on everyone so they’d feel better about the fact that my child almost died and our future was uncertain. But I was running a shitty Turtle program and the world had moved on to JS Node and it just wasn’t cutting it. RT 90; RT 45; Repeat 15. I think I fooled people for a while, but it didn’t last. I had a permanent anger at the world, pissed that I kept getting pissed on. I wasn’t fun to be around anymore. The processor on the Commodore 64 was not fast enough, and there was a constant hamster wheel running behind the angles on the screen.

I’m still working through this anger. It burbled up on the weekend, on a girls’ weekend away where I felt like a bit of an outsider. A perceived injustice, a slight, set me off. It comes when I feel like I’m on the outside, which I have to be careful of at work, too. And then boom, the dark cloud crosses my face and occupies mission control in my mind and there’s no turning back. The consequence is almost always regret. This weekend it was the hurt feelings of the other party, and I suspect that rift is not going to mend anytime soon which is sad because my relationship with offended person has been the longest of my life.

Then there’s the sadness. Some days, I throw a real pity party and rehash all the absolute shite things that have happened to me since I had my first child and I collapse under the weight of “This is just not fucking fair.” It feels so heavy, having to do it all, afford it all, rely only on myself. Some days it’s just too much. I also don’t know when the grief is going to hit. Sometimes it’s just hanging in the background, humming an annoying low buzz. Then, WHAM, I’m sobbing outside a brewery in a small town, because a flight of beers and a Radiohead song made me miss Theo, my ex.

I have a hard time being around couples and women in healthy relationships, too, depending on the day. Some days I can be so happy for the couple, and I thank them for showing me that healthy relationships do exist. Other days, the couples or women are just a searing reminder of what I’ve lost. And this sends me spiralling down the rabbit hole of shit-talking myself.

But I’m “stepping into Maria” and that’s gonna take time. And reflection. And the thing that is not quite happening right now is making time for reflecting. That’s gotta change real soon. In the meantime, I’m touching the rocky bottom here and there and knowing I don’t want to spend much time down so low. But there’s something to touching the scary place with the tip of your big toe and not turning away from the discomfort but sitting with it. I’m trying to do that more, to stay with the uncomfortable feeling, because there are lessons there. We are so used to turning away when things feel icky, and with social media and TV and the internet and phones— it’s just so easy.

I’ve been not occupying Maria fully for so long now. Four years at least. Maybe in my next post I’ll focus on what I’ve learned about her this year. Maybe, if you know me IRL, you could chime in with suggestions in the comments, and I will weigh each of them with a simple meditation of “Is that true?” Asking this question is a good place to start. When you shit-talk yourself, stop and ask, “Is that true?” And then sit with it. Heck, I should re-read this whole post with the “Is that true?” lens.

I did get a glimmer of longing though, this past weekend. A realization that perhaps I don’t want to be alone and self-sufficient forever. That sharing happy and sad moments and experiences with someone who gets you is a good thing. The challenge will be replacing the person who has been that for me for two decades. Because the biggest realization of late has been our co-dependence. I’ve gotta stop enabling Theo, and I’ve gotta stop relying on him or reaching out to him for emotional or other support. And that, my friends, is gonna be the focus of the next few months. I can see true independence in the near future. I’m getting there. Stepping into Maria is like being born again. It’s painful and it’s beautiful, and at the end of the tunnel, there’s life.