June 7, 2021

Head Writer

When I logged in to this blog for the first time in over a year, I read through a couple of posts and thought, wow, I used to write regularly. What happened to this satisfying habit of mine? The answer is a bit of a saga, and potentially a boring one depending on your perspective. Some people simply do not want to know about other people's health issues. If that's your perspective, that's okay, go back to whatever you were doing before. I get it. 

 If you do want to hear my saga, read on. I'll try to keep it brief and to the point.

I had kept up this blog for nine years when I ran out of steam. I had told all my stories worth telling, and although some notable stuff still happened in my life I didn't yet have enough perspective to write about it properly. I was also busy working, and keeping fit enough to keep working, at my physically demanding job as a baker. My daughter had major spinal surgery late in 2019 and the lead up to it, and the recovery from it, took a lot of energy, physically, mentally, and emotionally from her, but also from me as her mother, advocate, and caregiver post-surgery. She was starting to recover well by February, 2020 and had begun to be able to socialize with friends. She was even able to help with a theatre production doing the lighting cues from the booth. Life was starting to feel normal again. Maybe I would find some brain space to write and post on here, or perhaps even in a new format.  And then, the pandemic hit. 

I was laid off from my job March 19. I slept hard for a month, my body taking a much needed break. My mind, too, I suppose. I felt anxious much of the time with no job to focus on, so I came up with a schedule for my day. Part of the schedule including writing out my anxiety about the pandemic in a journal most mornings, followed by a walk or run. I began to do solo creative projects, drawing and collage, which I had not done in years. Life settled into a bearable pattern while I tried to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

On May 21, 2020 I drove to my massage therapist's house for my monthly appointment. I have struggled with back and neck pain for many years, due to minor scoliosis, a skiing accident and a fairly serious car accident. On the way home I decided to stop at my aunt's new house. I was not going to go in. I simply wanted to say hi and drop something off for her. I'm always a little foggy after a massage, and it would have been better to head straight home, but I wanted to see my aunt. She asked me inside and I thought, okay, I will sit at her table for a few minutes, have a glass of water and go home. She showed me around the new house, pointing out things she and my uncle would improve and change. I spotted a nice-looking back deck off the kitchen, so I walked out to it to see the back yard. I didn't realize the plate glass patio door was closed because it was crystal clear. I smacked, nose and forehead first, right into the glass and bounced off of it. I felt a bit dazed. My aunt felt terrible. I sat down for a few minutes until I felt okay enough to drive home. 

Over the next couple of days I developed a dull headache in the area where I had smacked my forehead. I thought the pain not serious enough to call the doctor about, so I took it easy until it subsided and  carried on as normal. The morning of June 10th I awoke with a low-grade fever and a pain under my left eye. I called my doctor, wondering if I had Covid19, of course. He diagnosed me with sinusitis over the phone and suggested Tylenol and rest. After four days I started to feel better. On the evening of  June 14th the fire alarm went off in our building. My daughter and I went outside, me clutching a cup of tea, and sat under a tree, chatting with a neighbour until the fire department cleared the building for re-entry. As we walked back into the building I stopped to talk with another neighbour. I felt something strange, like a light 'clunk' in the back of my head. The next morning I awoke with the worst headache I had ever had in my life. Pain and pressure pulsated relentlessly. I woke my daughter and asked her to take me to the hospital. Because I could not have anyone in the ER with me due to Covid, I struggled to explain my pain to the doctor. He examined me, confirmed sinusitis and prescribed antibiotics and a nasal spray. The only symptom of sinusitis I had was the headache and some facial pain. I had no excessive mucus, no issues breathing through my nose, just a terrible headache twenty four hours a day. the next weekend I was back in the ER. The doctor there changed my antibiotic. Still, the pain did not subside. I tried everything. I stuffed so many pills down my throat hoping something/anything would take away the feeling of a bear trying to chew the top of my head off. My husband took me to the ER again. The doctor was baffled. The intravenous migraine treatment just made my nose ache excruciatingly. He ordered a CT Scan. The CT Scan confirmed sinusitis, but everything else looked normal. The pain carried on, and on, and the doctors could not figure out why. I think I visited the ER six times in total, just begging for help with the pain. I silently hoped they would admit me and deal with whatever this horror was, but no. The doctors were kind, but I think some of the nurses wondered if I was a drug addict. Some of them definitely thought I was a drama queen. After four weeks I was sent to an Ear Nose and Throat doctor who prescribed a more specific antibiotic, even though he said my case of sinusitis was minor and he was also baffled by the severity of the headache. He ordered another CT Scan which, two weeks later, showed the sinusitis had cleared up completely. When we went for the consultation he looked at miserable, exhausted me and called the hospital. He got me in that afternoon to see an Internal Medicine Specialist.  

I had been in contact with an old friend, Dawn, whom I had not seen in nearly thirty years. I had sent her a message when I heard her mother had passed away after a battle with cancer. Dawn had heard I was dealing my own health issue and kindly asked me about it. When I described my symptoms she told me about a friend of hers who had a sudden onset of similarly debilitating symptoms, and suggested I find someone who could assess me for a similar diagnosis because her friend was doing so much better after being treated by a sports medicine doctor for concussion. I was glad the hospital let my husband come in to the appointment with the Internal Medicine Specialist. We waited three hours in her waiting room and I literally leaned on him for support. My husband and I had been discussing the possibility of the smack into my aunt's door being the root cause of my trouble. My wonderful daughter and main caregiver (my husband was dealing with the stress of running a busy resort during Covid and a Province-wide travel allowance) had written down the details and timeline of my case for the specialist, which was incredibly helpful. The IMS diagnosed me with probable concussion and ordered two weeks complete rest in a dark room (and also blood tests for everything from AIDS to vitamin deficiency). What a miserable time that was, but I endured it in hopes of recovery. Reading was a no-go, and I was ultra-sensitive to noise. After the two weeks in a dark room the pain had not subsided, and I was still barely sleeping, even with a sedative. I felt like I was in a rocking boat all of the time. My GP referred me to a neurologist and I finally got help for the pain. By way of a diagnosis which he took some time to reach (He ordered an angiogram in the meantime, which showed nothing abnormal), the neurologist decided I had a neck and shoulder soft-tissue injury probably caused by the head smack, which was causing nerve pain in my head. He prescribed physiotherapy, including IMS needling which is similar to acupuncture, massage therapy, and allowed for the continuation of my chiropractic treatments as long as they were gentle. The IMS needling physio decided I had whiplash. My massage therapist had additional thoughts on my injuries and treated my whole person. On Dawn's advice, as well as my sister's, I sought out and found a physiotherapist in our city who specializes in concussion and vestibular issues. After our first consult on September 25th, she said I had enough symptoms to be treated with concussion therapy. She gave me tasks and exercises to do that had nothing to do with lying down in a dark room. I soon saw big improvements and gained the confidence to keep pushing myself. The idea was this: "Neurons that fire together, wire together." She had me walking around the block, reading a little bit, doing word searches and colour-by-number pages within a month. Without her and without my three other therapists (and of course my amazingly patient family) I would not be typing this today. It has taken a village and a lot of discipline to get me this far. I still have a few miles to go, but I was able to go off the medication earlier this spring. I continue to have pressure in my head and stiffness in my neck, but much, much less pain. I still have to watch my screen time. I can't listen to music for hours like I used to. I need lots of quiet breaks between social visits. Driving is tiring, but I can drive. Grocery shopping is tiring, but I can do it. I still cry when overwhelmed emotionally. Sometimes I forget things I should remember. But, I am 'getting there'. I am mobile and operative, and incredibly grateful. 

After meeting my concussion physiotherapist and starting her exercises, as soon as I could manage to pick up a pen and focus on the page I started writing down to-do lists and schedules at the beginning of each day. The reward of this daily effort was to track my progress, but I also admit to a slight obsession with documenting events in my life. Recently, when I realized I could write a decently long email I decided to try a blog post. I believe writing is great brain work, too. This post has taken several days to compose and edit, and it's probably still full of mistakes, but it's a start. The purpose of publishing this post is to share my story in hopes of helping someone else - like Dawn helped me by telling me her friend's story. I know this sounds trite, but if I can spare even one person the pain and suffering I went through for the length of time I endured it, my post will have been worth it.

April 14, 2019

On the Van Fleet Bandwagon

I have been having a bit of a laugh at myself lately. Here I am, nearly fifty years old and I am regularly rocking out to a band of four kids in their early twenties. By rocking out I mean downloading their music on Spotify and listening to it when I go for evening or afternoon walks, playing it on the TV through Chrome casting from my phone while I cook supper, hoping I am not bothering the neighbours. While they are not the only music I am listening to these days, I am fascinated with my fascination with this new band. I've been watching interviews online with them, reading reviews about them, both the favourable and the unfavourable, which I probably should do less of since other people's negative opinions about things usually worm their way into my heart and threaten to taint my opinion of something I was previously enjoying without reservation. The band in question rarely reads the press about themselves. They say doing so will affect their artistic process, so they purposely avoid reading the widely varying opinions about their music. I applaud that approach, especially for this young band which is attracting a huge fan base from all over the world, and have been touted as both 'the saviours of rock' and 'derivative and boring'. In just two years Greta Van Fleet has gone from playing for bikers in the bars and basement venues of their small hometown of Frankenmuth, Michigan to arenas and sold out shows at festivals like Coachella and Lolapalooza. They have two EP's, one album, and a Grammy under their belt.

I have read that a lot of people my age are into Greta Van Fleet because they write the kind of pure, guitar-driven progressive rock and roll songs we grew up on. The comparisons of front man Josh to Robert Plant and their music to Led Zeppelin are everywhere and obvious when one listens to their hit songs 'Highway Tune' and 'Safari Song'. They draw upon their upbringing (Three of the band mates are brothers: Josh and Jake are twins, and Sam is the little brother they had to drag away from his homework after school to play bass for them. The drummer is a family friend, Dan.) in a musical and intellectual household for inspiration, and cite blues, jazz and world music as influences. Oddly enough, I was not a big Zeppelin fan. Their heyday was a bit before my time, and, thanks to my brother and his massive record collection, I really only tuned in to Robert Plant's voice during his Honeydrippers project. Along with most kids in my junior high school I was listening to a lot of Van Halen, Judas Priest, and The Scorpions in Grade 8, but quickly moved on to more alternative types of music along with the ever-present catchy New Wave of video-promoted pop music of the 80's, so I am wondering what it is about Greta Van Fleet that I find so attractive now.

If I were to critique them I would say I don't think Josh, the lead singer, does everything right. He has some weird vocal techniques honed in the days when the band used to practice in a barn on their family's property and he had to find a way to be heard above the amplifiers, but I don't really care because there is no denying this kid's huge talent. I know he will grow and evolve like every artist before him. I think what I appreciate about these guys is their energy, their youthful purity of intention, and their sheer willingness, in the words of The Magic School Bus' teacher Ms Frizzle, to 'take chances, make mistakes, and get messy' together in order to serve the music they feel compelled to offer the world. Their music feels honest to me, and although their lyrics aren't particularly deep, they reflect their age and experiences thus far. They aren't trying to be something they're not. They're just doing what they think is right and they carry the idealistic notion that a rock band can promote Peace and Love through their music. I don't expect anyone else I know to like them or appreciate what they are trying to do. Music hits us all in such different ways. I simply wish to give them a shout out for giving some of us older music-loving folks hope for the future.

In closing I will share a little conversation I had with my seventeen year old daughter, also, like two of her three siblings, a performer who happens to share many of the character traits I appreciate about the band:

Me: I just watched this interview with Greta Van Fleet. I just loved their answers to the questions asked of them. They are so young, but so smart. I hope they can stay the course.

Daughter: You should go see them live and meet them.

Me: Yeah, and then I will put them in my pocket, take them home and feed them supper.

Daughter: You want to be their mom.

Me: No, they have a mom already and she wouldn't like that. I will settle for a kind of adopted aunt role.

Hey, Josh, Jake, Sam and Dan, the invitation stands.

Highway Tune, live in Toronto

January 6, 2019

Running on Twenty

When my third child turned twenty-two this past November I realized that my adult relationship with running had reached the twenty year mark.

Emma was thirteen months when we moved from a roomy four bedroom home a few blocks from our city's downtown to an outdoor education center in the mountains of central Vancouver Island. The Lodge was a forty minute drive to the nearest grocery store/school/movie theater/Starbucks/mall/anyone I knew, and while I had always wanted to try living in a cabin by a lake in the woods, I also felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under my comfortable, convenient life and said, 'Here, deal with this!' The fact that I was under thirty and a mother of three only complicated the situation. A community of sorts lived year round at the Lodge. Anyone near my age had no children. The people with children were older than me and much wiser, and I was admittedly, a little intimidated. Fortunately, I made friends fairly easily and soon found companions to walk and hike with. Walking and hiking did not prove quite enough to ease my hemmed-in feeling and so I decided to start running again - something I had done as a child and young teenager in school. In a relatively short period of time - Keep in mind I was under thirty - I was running two and a half kilometers out the highway and turning around to run most of the way back. The way was rolling and the shoulder was decently wide, so I felt safe and challenged enough. I loved that I could cover a lot of ground in a short period of time, and so began my love affair with running. 

We lived at the Lodge for just over five years. In that time, I grew in confidence and fitness. My husband was proud to be able to think of his wife as something of an athlete for the first time ever. He bought me a subscription to Runner's World magazine. He came home for lunch every day, so often I would make lunch, say hello to him and leave immediately to go running. When my runs got longer I made supper, greeted my husband after work and ran while he and the kids ate and did the dishes. I ran every second day with a long run once a week. In my third year of running my friend Bridged who ran with a group of marathoners invited me to a group trail run. We did over sixteen kilometers that day and I knew I was well on my way to a half marathon at least. Part way through the run, however, I became exceedingly hungry. One of the women gave me an energy bar and I finished the run strong. The women in the group invited me to the next run. I was in! 

A couple of weeks later I discovered I was pregnant. 

I ran for the first few weeks of my pregnancy, and then I had to stop due to my usual morning sickness. Katie was born the following October, and within seven weeks I was running again, but not quite the same distances as before. She used to cry when I left to go anywhere, but eventually even she became used to my running and would sit on the stairs while I put on my shoes and say, "Goin' for a wun, mummy?" Running was my stress reliever, my fitness tracker, my way to get out and away from my busy household only to return fresh and energized. We moved to the Lower Mainland and I enjoyed discovering new running routes.

I have entered a few fun runs, run the annual Terry Fox run with my children's elementary school many times, but I have yet to enter one of the big runs - the Sun Run, or the Vancouver Marathon, or any of those. I am waiting until I have the time and brain space to train properly for a half marathon. I plan to celebrate my fiftieth year with a long run, whether it's alone or with other people doesn't matter. I have run by myself for most of my running career. I don't listen to music when I run. The silence and my footfall is enough music for me. My favourite times are when I get into what the running gurus call The Zone - when my run becomes rhythmic and seemingly effortless, and I just go as if carried by wings. A lot of my best thinking happens on my runs. 

These days I run often with my sister. We talk about our kids and our jobs and our aging mother who has dementia now. I enjoy these times very much. Other times, like this morning, I run alone. Once upon a time when I was younger and I didn't happen to feel like running that day it took me about ten minutes to get into a groove. I would tell myself, just get dressed, get out, and if in ten minutes you don't feel good turn around. I never turned around. These days it can take me up to thirty minutes to get into a groove, but that is okay. I recognize that my age is a factor, and if I want to keep running for many more years, which I do, I have to keep adapting and adjusting to what my body tells me. I have always stretched for about twenty minutes after a run. I am not a person who could go for a long run and then immediately go for coffee or a beer. My body would hate me. At the local Terry Fox run a couple of years ago I found a corner of the gym afterwards and stretched. A few people looked strangely at me, but I just had to do it. Stretching prevents injury and helps me work out the tightness in my muscles and in my back. I also credit my chiropractor, massage therapist, and whoever it was that invented yoga for helping keep me mobile and moving forward. 

Getting outside and putting one foot in front of the other is in my DNA. My family are all great walkers. I just happen to find it also enjoyable - sometimes more so - to run, and so I will keep on as long as I can. Several years ago my family bought me a t-shirt with the slogan, "Gotta run". It's true. I gotta. 

July 3, 2018

The Social Media Frenzy

I am writing this post from our little mountain home surrounded by trees and near-silence. There is nothing like the peace of this place and the mental clarity after a few good sleeps in a row to provide perspective and encourage me to write something. We do have WiFi and Satellite up here so fortunately or unfortunately, depending how you see it, we are connected to the outside world, although I tend to use this physical distance as a reason to keep my connectivity to a minimum. Cell service is not yet available here, so that is one form of communication banned to me in any case. I find these mini retreats in the mountains to be excellent for my mental health. I tend to become a little bogged down when I spend too much time online getting bombarded by all the headlines, and the wildly varying opinions (withering scorn is definitely in fashion) on those headlines. I tend not to sleep all that well during my work week, which makes me more vulnerable and emotional and ill-equipped to manage the bombardment and put it in its proper place. While I am all for technology and the improvements it has made to my life I am also well aware of the need to take regular breaks from Social Media.

As a person who grew up without Social Media I often think about how it affects my life and the lives of those around me. Like millions of others I participate almost daily in the digital communities of Facebook and Instagram. I enjoy viewing photos and videos from friends and family members and living vicariously through their travel photos and postings. I add occasional quips and comments on various media sites, and generally enjoy the entertainment value my little online world supplies. I opened a Twitter account for a short time but gained very little from time spent there. I found Twitter a somewhat cold and calculated form of interaction. I decided to leave it to the journalists, politicians and film stars. Social Media is how I keep track of the activities of my widespread large extended family, keep abreast of events in my community, and communicate with many loved ones and acquaintances. I post often but try not to engage in anything overly negative or emotionally draining. At one time I did venture down those uncertain paths and nearly always ended up more upset and with nothing to show for my time and effort. I know many people use Social Media to promote causes, and that is wonderful (mostly). I have donated to some worthy campaigns because I read about them on Social Media, but I am rarely politically influenced by what I read online. Before I support or oppose a cause I listen to the radio, read a newspaper or watch the news to see what is really happening out there in the world from a trained journalistic standpoint. Sometimes Social Media only gives us the sound bites, and I need a bit more than click bait to be truly informed about local and global situations. Call me old fashioned.

I remember telling my kids they could only join Facebook if I was included in their Facebook circle. I was unsure of the impact Social Media would have on them and wanted to be part of their online lives. Turns out they were generally smarter than I was at managing online. While I, new to Social Media, put far too much stock into what was promoted there, my children took it all with a grain of salt, unfriending people willy-nilly if they were fed up with their posts. My kids share occasional photos and music but mostly they just tag each other in memes and silly bird videos. The online world was a language they grew up with and they seemed to know how to manage it instinctively. I do not think all kids do, however. I limited screen time for my kids from an early age and they developed plenty of other interests. We also enjoyed a lot of family time. We suffered some bumps along the road - we were all learning how to navigate this strange new world - but overall they learned how to use this new power for good. I think it is the kids who grow up with a screen as babysitter who might have the most difficulty. For various reasons, their parents are not monitoring their activity online and it takes an aware and wise child to, alone and without any guidance, field all the dangers and temptations presented to them.

One thing which also worries me about Social Media is how addicted we are to it as a way to present ourselves and put ourselves out there. While I was at work the other day I had a thought. If actions speak louder than words, how effectively does our presence on Social Media show our true selves? When we communicate with others online we can orchestrate everything. We can choose only the best photographic versions of ourselves to share. We can begin typing something and then erase it before it is sent. We don't have to be vulnerable in front of an actual person and learn from our mistakes. Is this bringing up an entire generation of people afraid to make eye contact and relate human to human? Or more than afraid, unable? I know I am less socially inclined than I used to be, and I wonder how much this has been the result of engaging almost daily on Social Media.

Engaging in Social Media can be isolating, too. I know when a certain feeling comes over me it is time to put the phone down, get up and do something productive. I admit to learning the hard way. I am not very good at multi-tasking. When I am online and my kid asks me something it often takes her yelling Mom! at me to get me to break my focus. I like my own company but I know when I need to be with a real person, to sense the nuances in our conversations, to feel their energy, their warmth and their interest. The digital community can make me think, make me laugh and cry, but it can never supply me with human interaction and love, two things I need. Don't we all? We have to remind each other to limit our digital communication and expand our person-to-person interaction. We have to look into each others eyes when we talk, and nag our kids to do it, too. We are using our phones and computers as guards against vulnerability, and perhaps even accountability. Social Media is a powerful tool, and awareness of its power is the first step toward managing it properly, so it doesn't, in turn, end up managing us.

May 15, 2018

A Question of Marriage

Last week in my Facebook feed there appeared a handful of articles on the subject of Canadians' attitudes toward marriage. The articles stated that fifty-three percent of people surveyed believed marriage to be unnecessary, and one-sixth said they are not interested in the milestone at all. One of the major factors in people's hesitation to tie the knot was the expense and stress of having a wedding. In fact, these factors caused young people to put off marriage until their late twenties, if they planned to get married at all. Many of those surveyed believed marriage was not important even when children were in the picture. The reason for this lackluster feeling towards marriage just might have something to do with changing attitudes in this country. Couples more commonly live together before marriage and fewer people look down upon them for doing so. Shacking up is socially acceptable, which wasn't the case a generation ago. I read these articles with interest, and a bit of sadness because I, myself am married and wouldn't have it any other way. Let me explain:

My husband and I are about to celebrate our twenty-sixth wedding anniversary, so I suppose it's safe to say I believe in marriage. I definitely believe in my marriage. We were married when I was twenty- two and my husband was twenty-eight. Even back in 1992 I felt pressure from some friends and acquaintances to put off marriage. Many people looked at me strangely, like I was an idiot for marrying so young. Perhaps I was, but I did it anyway. We got married in my hometown cathedral. The ceremony was ancient, solemn and beautiful. I remember saying my vows clearly and with conviction. I did promise to have and hold from that day forward, in sickness and in health, and I have kept that promise, for the most part. Most of us who have been married for a long time would admit to a few bumps along the road. The thing is, I was young. I really was. I was immature, silly in many ways, but I knew love when it hit me. And when someone comes along who loves you despite all your faults, all your insecurities and your crazy family, and loves you enough to ask you to spend the rest of your life with them, you grab that person and you hold on for dear life. I am not saying people can't do that without getting married officially. I know lots of people do. Perhaps they are stronger than I am, more sure of life, more confident in keeping things informal. But I was not that person. I knew standing up in front of all my family and friends, not to mention a God whom I believed had brought my husband and I together in the first place, and proclaiming my love and devotion and intense friendship with my husband, was integral to my happiness. Our wedding cost us very little money, but then, we had rather curbed expectations of grandeur. As for stress, yes, it was a busy time getting ready for it, but event planning was something I did as a job at that time in my life, so I found planning a wedding came somewhat naturally. My large family and several friends took care of various aspects of the event and made my job easier. My husband was unable to join me until about two weeks before our wedding. When he arrived he filled in the gaps and everything came together. In my experience, most things worth doing involve a bit of stress.

Over our twenty-six years together, my husband and I have been a team. We added four members to that team and formed an unbreakable bond - our family - which I find a great deal of comfort and joy in. Despite a bit of an age gap, which showed in our early years, we have evened out and become great equals. At a few points in those early years I questioned our marriage. I believe every couple goes through times of questioning, or at least the prone-to-navel-gazing partner does. When I felt some discontentment or frustration (I married a bit of an A type personality workaholic) I would haul out our wedding album and remember why we said our vows and made those promises in the first place. I would look at our extremely happy faces and come back to the source of our love. Those vows gave us a benchmark from which to work. Because marriage is work. Anyone who says it should be all deep gazes and roses is a big fat liar. Mind you, those deep gazes and roses do happen from time to time, and when they do, they are like a bit of beautiful embroidery on the fabric of our lives together.

I got lucky. My husband says he's the lucky one. That's what makes us work, and keep on working for and with each other. It's easy now, after twenty-six years, and it's great.



April 16, 2018

A Touch of Spring Fever

Ah, Spring. The time of renewal. The time to realize you've put on a few pounds over the winter thanks to your forgiving clothes and all that comfort food in front of the TV. I saw a couple of pictures of myself recently, ones taken candidly and without me posing/sucking in my gut and standing tall. I thought I was a bit past caring how I look but no. I was up in the middle of that night with those images circulating technicolour-style in my brain. I passed a cringe-full night and woke up the next morning thinking about the best way to lose fifteen pounds. Food is my work these days, food is my hobby, food is almost my first love. As I slide down the hill towards 50 I know that something must be done. Either I break up with food or I fall in love with Cross-fit. Nah, not going to happen. What I probably need is a couple of running partners - for motivation more than anything. I've always wanted to run a half marathon. I could have in my thirties, no problem, but going out for a slogging 5 km jog once a week, which is all I'm managing these days, is not going to do it.

My body is not the only thing morphing into shapelessness. My psyche could also use a tune-up. Like I said. I'm approaching 50 and I think I need to bring my life into focus. My kids are virtually independent, and my last one at home is going to gain it quickly. At the moment I have no idea what I am going to do when she leaves home. At the moment I am savouring all our time together. We are two peas in a pod, and The Three Musketeers when we get to be with her dad. Her presence in our home gives me a title, a focus, a plan. The time will come, all too quickly, when I will need to fill her absence. My husband thinks I need to do more things I enjoy doing. It's all too easy for me to be that mom/servant role and give all my energy to other people. I don't really mind being a supporter, and I'm fairly good at it (my husband got a promotion recently) but there is a growing dissatisfaction in the pit of my stomach. I can't define it exactly, but I believe it has something to do with formlessness, or blurred lines around my sense of self. Am I having a mid-life crisis? Maybe, but crisis implies a great deal of energy directed at finding out the meaning of one's own life. I'm not about to start out on some kind of massive quest or anything. Although a trip to Europe would be nice.

I wish I knew what I was supposed to do. I'm sure it will come to me eventually. In general I'm a cheerful sort, but I can't help thinking I lack the essential quality I value most - discipline. I know darn well I won't get anywhere without discipline. Leo Baubata, the author of the famous blog Zen Habits, says this: Much of the stress that people feel doesn't come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they've started. That's the great thing about cooking. I always finish what I started, with a little help from the oven. As the Little Mermaid sang, however, I want more. Yesterday, while talking with my sister, I heard myself say that I lacked intellectual stimulation - I'm not using my brain much. I'm using my heart and hands an awful lot, and that's fine and good for the most part, but my brain is getting a little mushy. My sister thinks I should go back to school and finish my degree, teach ESL or adult education. Maybe. There's no point thinking about this until my daughter leaves home. In the meantime, what to do? Like I said, it will come to me eventually. Maybe it will come to me while running. Good ideas usually do. Yes, let's start with that.

Happy Spring!

March 4, 2018

Snow White Fear

I was commuting to college with my brother-in-law. He was used to Manitoba snow, not necessarily the messy, wheel-sucking sludge that afflicts British Columbia roads. He steered one way and the car slid another. He attempted to correct the sliding and we got turned around and started going backwards over the edge. I was screaming my head off, convinced we were going to die. The car bumped down the embankment, and stopped. We looked at each other. We decided to risk opening the doors and climbing out. It appeared the car had been hung up an a sharp rock which had punctured the undercarriage, bringing us to a halt.Thank God!We climbed up the embankment and hitchhiked back to Nelson where I lived with my parents and he lived with my pregnant sister and their little girl. It was the first car accident I had ever been involved in. My brother loaned us his car until my brother-in-law's insurance got sorted out and they bought a new one. I did a fair bit of the driving to college for the next while.

A couple of years after the accident with my brother-in-law I was going on a ski trip to Banff with a boyfriend. He had been up for 24 hours for his shift at the hospital and was exhausted. We never should have left that night. I think I pushed him to leave, saying I would help keep him awake. By Kootenay Pass he was too tired to drive, and said I would have to. I didn't have much experience driving a standard, but I was willing to try. I wanted to get to Banff and start our week of skiing. The night was cold and clear and gleaming with stars. We climbed the pass at midnight and began the descent down the other side. We hit black ice. The truck did a 180 and hit the guard rail, which sent it spinning in the other direction. Fortunately, we hit the guard rail again and the bumper hooked onto it, stopping us completely. The bumpers were destroyed. My boyfriend was awake enough to take over the driving from there while I sat quaking and apologizing. I think I remember checking in at the police station where he reported the accident.  Our relationship was never the same after that night. I felt our age difference keenly as he took a tone with me that pointed out my immaturity. I confess to having a bit of a wild streak back then, and somewhat of a fearless mentality when it came to risk. I think the proper term for it is youthful stupidity.

They say as we age that we lose our risk-taking tendency. We know the consequences of injury and loss of wages too well to gamble them for an adrenaline rush. I, for one, have taken this theory a bit further when it comes to winter driving. For years now I have found the combination of being a passenger and an unwilling driver on snowy roads terrifying and anxiety-inducing. Oddly enough, I had no difficulty driving snowy roads when I was in my thirties. We always had four-wheel drive and lived in mountainous areas. If I wasn't comfortable driving my husband would and he is an excellent driver - I was, and continue to be, always in good hands. I know the memory of the winter accidents described above haunts me somewhat, but my irrational fear cannot be completely related to those incidents of long ago. There must be some other explanation.

My intense fear seems to have originated from our move to the Lower Mainland. I think moving here made driving a much more intense experience than when we lived on the Island or in the Kootenays. I have been driving since I was nineteen, but I still consider myself a relative novice when it comes to Freeway and city driving. I wonder if I'll ever be completely comfortable moving along at 110 kilometerss an hour with hundreds of cars, semis, and motorcycles jockeying for position all around me on the Freeway. And the addition of snow merely intensifies this discomfort. If I can go slowly and carefully, I am alright, but it seems no one else has time for that. So, I would rather not drive. One would think I would be content enough with my husband doing the driving, but I am not thrilled with that scenario either because I have no direct control over the vehicle. I have taken to breathing slowly and deliberately like a yogi while we drive to and from the mountain resort where he works (and which is our second home) in order to calm my anxiety. To be honest, I am getting pretty sick and tired of this crazy fear of mine.

Last weekend was a particularly snowy one. My husband was coming down in the 4X4 on Friday night to pick up my daughter and me, my sister and her daughter. My little car is not equipped for the snowy mountain roads and I would never attempt the trip at night in any case. I had expressed my fear the night before in a phone call with my husband and he had calmed me with some well chosen and often heard words. I decided the next morning I would change my approach to the drive. My mantra for the day was going to be, "He is an excellent driver who knows the road. I am in good hands." I know it sounds crazy, but it worked for me. I had decided to stop being so afraid. It snowed all day down here as well, and I drove my twelve minute commute to work, both ways, without incident and without fear. That night, he arrived about 7:30. We packed up the truck and picked up my sister and her daughter from their house. The snow fell heavily until about ten kilometers before the resort, but I remained calm, chatting happily with my sister and our daughters. My husband was an excellent driver who knew the road. I was in good hands. When we arrived at the resort I said to my husband, "I did pretty well, didn't I?" He just grinned.

Will I be fearless on the snowy roads from now on? I highly doubt it. My soul is too well acquainted with fear to merely flip the record over and change its tune. I like to think I am developing some coping mechanisms, however, which will hopefully make me stronger than my fears in the future. My life involves a lot of snow now, so I may as well become friends with it again. Returning to skiing is helping me reacquaint myself with the ways of the white stuff, too, and I am loving it. At the end of a day on the slopes or the tracks, I am too content and tired to worry so much anyway.