Marriage

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About the Cha Cha Cha Changes

Published March 14, 2015 by megdedwards

killer whale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everybody’s change is different.  But change we do; we do change.

Adolescence is the first change. Little children start to morph right before our eyes. Tiny waif like boys fill out, voices dropping, shoulders forming.  Girls grow curves and budding breasts and the chemistry begins.  So we could call the beginning of adolescence, menoprimo, the beginning of change.

Then we go through our reproductive stage. Hormones take charge of the body and drive us through this next section of life. Let’s just call this next stage ‘meno’ and for women that stands for menstruation or non-menstruation, which is also known as ‘pregnancy’. Those are your two choices.

Then the beginning of the end; menopause. Men and women, pause. Change.

The waning of the hormones. The decrease in oestrogen and testosterone can feel pretty intense as the body  bravely tries to adjust. The list of symptoms for menopause covers pretty much anything that feels bad.

Anxiety, asthma, allergies, and arthritis can all be described as possible side effects of menopause. When the happy hormones stop the whole show changes. I gave birth fairly late at forty years and then breast fed for three years, so when the Change began I was in a free fall from happy hormones. It felt like I had returned from the moon.

Men experience the change too. I can see changes in my partner. And that’s cool because we are changing together.  We are not meant to reproduce anymore. And that’s good because we are a lot less energetic than we used to be.

The time of Change can be seen as a positive development, as long as you don’t mind the fact that you are actually getting closer to dying.

The woman’s body can rest from the rigor of monthly cycles and blood letting. She can grow a few chin hairs and have more time to take on the world.  If the man sticks with his wife he can also rest peacefully knowing that his baby making wife has retired from that job. He can mellow out and make cookies.

I did not mind the bleeding or the births. That was all pretty natural and made sense to me. It grounded me and made me feel like I was a part of the animal world in a cathartic and feral way.  Bleeding and birthing were intense bloody experiences.

When I was reaching the end days of the reproductive cycle I had massive blood lettings. The cycle would start with a minimal and discreet sort of blood; dark, scant and without pain. But it would build in intensity until I felt my muscles scraping every bit of blood from my lower body leaving me weak in the knees and pale.

The blood of the last few cycles was bright red as if from a wound. Stop now, I would say to my body, this is not menstrual  blood, you are just trying to kill me. And it stopped. Gradually the cycles slowed down, once every three months, twice a year. Once a year?

I have not heard from my womb in a long time. It is pretty quiet. It is no longer calling out the months, transforming my breasts, engineering my moods.

I am enjoying this Change. I am being transformed into a non-reproductive woman.  I am becoming a hag and a crone, a woman not weighted by sexiness or babies.

I feel strong. like a old bear waking up from a sleep, not about to take any shit from anyone.  Also, as the baby years recede behind me I feel a childish joy in the return of my own personal time.

Time to myself to write! And 50,000 words into a novel, I can honesty say I am writing. To create! Fifteen hooked rugs in the last few years and now I am planning a series of rugs and a show. To dream! I have ideas and concepts for plays, films, radio shows. The more time I have the more plans I have.

The hot flashes still surge through my body during the night. Sometimes my joints feel loose and like my hips could fall out of place. Things are changing and adjusting within me.

But I find that the sweating leaves my skin dewy and refreshed, and I believe that the heat of the flashes acts like a mid life protective fever, cleaning my body of bad chemicals and realigning my hormone levels for the next forty years of stable womanhood.

Like my girl friend the matriarchal Orca, or Killer Whale, I intend to lead the pod with my acquired wisdom.

 

 

 

 

Photo copied from skepchick.org (insights-into-menopause-come-from-killer-whales)  With thanks!

 

I missed you but I was busy thinking

Published December 2, 2013 by megdedwards

portrati of meg by frankI have gone through a quiet stage. I even hesitate to write in my journal.  Sometimes I feel tired just thinking about putting my thoughts into writing.

But I don’t feel bad or sad at all. I am cruising. I am thinking.

I remember talking with an American cousin of mine about whether natural birth changed the character of the person born. Did the painful and intense process of going through the birth channel make the person different compared to those that were born by opening up the belly and emerging directly into air?

She said something about ‘pra sess’ and I did not know what she said at first but then I recognized the American accent and the word ‘process’.  Now whenever I am thinking about the concept of ‘process’ in  psychological  development I say ‘pra sess’ to myself.

I am ‘pra sessing’.

My Mom died last spring on March 1 st.  I am still thinking about that and what it is like to go forward without a mother for the rest of my life. It did not  happen before time, in fact it happened at a natural time. It all happened very naturally.

Of course, I am shot forward in my head to my death and how many years I have left in my ‘back pocket’ as Mom put it to me one day as I sat in the sun on the phone, and waited for the school bus.

I still cry over missing my Dad. He died five years ago on December 15th. I realize now that his death really broke my heart. I was in such pain I actually felt physical pain in my heart and limbs.  I don’t know why it was so much more painful except that it was more sudden. And he had made he me feel less lonely in this world. Always.

During that time of physical exhaustion and mourning, two adolescent  boys, emerging from sort of squalid childhood hidden behind middle class conventions, sexually assaulted my baby child. We fought back, we protected her, we survived the police, social workers and general ignorance around this issue. 

So here I am, five years later, seriously aged but extremely grateful. In this seemingly short span of time my oldest daughter has grown up entirely and my middle child is turning into a man. My baby is no longer a baby. My marriage is stronger than ever. 

After more than a year looking for work I have given up. The final piece of the puzzle was handed to me when my youngest said she wanted to ‘home school’ again. After a day or two to ‘ pra sess’ I jumped in with my full mind and heart.

We are having a blast of full on love and joy every day. We do crafts and cook and clean. We walk and skate and swim. We talk and dream. Math sneaks its way in with no stress or anxiety. We learn as we go. 

I know that I allowed this time with my other children and I see that my life patterns don’t change. Having a baby at 40 meant extending my type of parenting for another 20 years.

I need to adjust, tighten the belt on the budget, and think about writing for money again!

My Mom moves through me. I feel her enjoyment with my domestic bliss. My Dad smiles on me too. They nod at each other, from their distant peaks,  like faulty Greek Gods, united in their pride.

 

East Coast Challenges: Buying Furniture

Published July 2, 2012 by megdedwards

One of the challenges to life in the Maritimes of Canada is furniture purchases.

I have mentioned this to my Upper Canadian friends and they scoff and, by their silence or pursed lips, seem to suggest I am lazy and or dim, which is their general impression of east coasters in any case.

‘Just go to a second hand shop’ they say.  Oh, I go to second hand shops. The Thrift store in our local university town has a constant circulation of stinky old furniture with the occasional sound dresser or desk, and those get SOLD stickers plastered on them as soon as they hit the store floor.

If you are desperate for a dresser you have two other choices, over priced ‘anitique’ shops or the press board shit furniture from Big Box Stores.  Quite honestly I think that antique hunters raid the second hand stores and truck the stuff back to Ontario or into the States. It is hard to find that unexpected gem among the crap.

In our peripatetic life we have left furniture behind in our many moves, never using a truck.  And without generous relatives we have needed to find kitchen tables, couches and beds.

Sometimes we have used the ‘hunting’ approach. Locating the couch or bed, we would circle around it and then drag it home.  In search of a futon couch it was necessary to go Moncton,  accept the inevitable terrible service and buy a full priced item of  questionable value.

In comparison to the big ‘hunt’ style of furniture acquisition is the womanly style of ‘gathering’.  ‘Gathering’ is a necessary strategy out here in the east, a survival technique for the barren grounds of the Maritimes, where the couches no longer roam free.

I prowl and scavenge for furniture. My eye is always peeled. This means that whenever I am out, in any capacity, in any place, I am thinking about lugging home a piece of furniture.  Garage sales? Plant stands? Wooden chairs?

If I am visiting my Mother in Toronto I just have to close my eyes to opportunity as I know I cannot ship it back home. But if I am wandering in the local environment of  Tantramar I will keep an eye out at all times.

It might be an old English armoir obviously created for small rooms, or a wooden desk, or god forbid, a red velvet couch. I am always looking for a red velvet couch. All my life I have been looking for a red, or even better, a dark green velvet couch.

My husband will accuse me of being an impulsive shopper but in this accusation is no understanding of the ‘gathering’ style of hunting.  ‘Gathering’  ebbs and flows and never ends.  ‘Gathering’ involves negotiations and machinations, begging for trucks, shuffling of furniture, and a long term view.

So it is the opposite of impulsive, it is gradual,consistent and thoughtful.

And that is the state of mind I was in when I bought a red velvet antique couch while attending the opening of a museum in a historical house. They wanted to get rid of the couch, they promised delivery. It was a good looking red velvet couch and even ugly couches cost more. So I put the money down.

Complications arose that caused me a sleepless hour or so in the middle of the night; Joe was aghast, there was no where to put the new couch because the new room, where I will shuffle the old futon couch, is not finished.  But my mind held the vision of the red velvet couch sitting in my newly painted study, and I held on to that picture in my mind.

I started my negotiations with the minutiae of life.  If I got rid of the old piano I had bought in a fit of chagrin when my Mom told me I could not have the old family piano, then I could put the couch there until the back of the house was finished.

I put an ad up in kijiji for a free piano and then held my breath a bit and within a week a very nice man drove up to the house and practically singlehandedly shoved the very old, worn and massive piano into his equally massive truck and drove away with a big smile.

I was honest to a point with the man on the age of that piano and how it was good for kids to learn how to play. I had, in fact, had it looked at and it was so old you could only tune it so far.  I know the family piano will make its way out to me some day so I will wait for it while Frank practices on an electric piano (just not the same at all).

One step closer to a new couch.  We are many months away from that couch being in my newly painted study. But it will happen eventually. I know that with sure conviction because I have seen myself make things happen before.

Children have been born and houses have been bought and all on the wings of planning, patience, striking when the iron is hot, and the skillful art of negotiation.  And underneath this ‘gathering’ and nurturing mentality,  I have a a belief in myself and my path before me that makes things happen.

I am swimming in the waters of life, head above the surface, gentle calm breathing, eye on the the shore.  Sometimes I hunt and sometimes I gather. What, was that a rocking chair on the side of road, stop, back up, we are taking that home.

A Cuppa

Published May 17, 2012 by megdedwards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friend looked at me with an expression of dismay, “Well”, she said, “I don’t know what to do now”.  I was at a loss too. Her husband was lying dead on the driveway with my favorite scarf jammed between the ice and his grey hair. He was splayed out in the look of death, absolutely relaxed, feet in odd positions, his snow shovel abandoned beside him.

The First Responders, there with their truck, were neighbors and past students of her husband, as they often are in rural areas where firemen are volunteers.  They stood together quietly.  “Let’s go inside and have a cup of tea”, I said.  My friend was certainly in the first moments of shock, and although teary, she was her usual thoughtful self, getting chairs organized for everyone and finding cups.  The men quietly moved her husband into their truck while we were inside. She gasped though, when she saw her husband’s hat on the back of a chair, saying softly, ‘his hat’ and patting it protectively.

So we made tea, a restorative drink and an important human ritual. First we have to boil the water, and then steep the leaves in the water. All this takes a certain amount of time and cannot be rushed. The water must boil, the tea must steep. It is a calming ritual because we must stop and sit and wait. While having tea we gathered ourselves, and waited for the officials. My friend prepared herself to call her children. We took a moment and talked about her husband, and how well loved a teacher and coach he had been.

A brewed cup of tea or coffee is an offering of friendship, an invitation to sit down and be heard. If someone offers to make you a hot drink that means that they like you, and want to make you feel at ease.  When we offer an upset person a hot drink we are giving them time to gather strength as well as caffeine and sugar to fuel their next move.

I have discovered that I love reading about hot drink rituals as much as partaking in them. My favorite authors use the tea or coffee break as a sensual reflective moment.  I first noticed this with P.D.  James.  I don’t read any murder mystery writers except P.D. James, and my favorite moments in the James novels are when the detective Dalgliesh is on a road trip investigating a crime. The detective loves to get into his car and go on a trip, and he also loves a good cup of coffee.

I bet I could find a lovingly detailed description of a good cup of coffee in every James novel. The aroma of just ground coffee beans rises up from the book.  A feeling of joy in the small comforts of life seeps into your bones as Dalglieish settles in before a fireplace with his fine brewed coffee and a puzzle before him.

I became a ‘red tea’ drinker because of Alexander McCall Smith’s series set in Botswana, the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.  I was addicted to this series during a very stressful period of my life. The books calmed my nerves and lifted my spirits when I was a shattered person, nerves frayed, digestive system shot. When the wonderful Precious and her assistant decide to make a pot of tea it meant the ladies had to stop and think, or give special time to hear a visitor’s story. During the time that I read that series  I went out and bought some Rooibos tea and started to drink it rather than over doing black tea.

When my life had settled down and my body had stopped being on high alert, I moved away from that series and went back in time to a writer I loved as a child, Tove Jansson. We were in the midst of a long dark winter, with snow piling up on the roof and storms burying us every weekend when I found my old Mommintroll books that my Mom read aloud when I was little. By the time I was 11 I would ask for them for presents and I had read them all.

I started to read the Moomintroll series to my seven year old daughter that winter, settling into our cozy bed every night and traveling to that odd world. Here too I found the hot drink ritual. Moominmamma, who clearly resembles me at this point in my life with her big black purse full of useful things and her motherly skills, is always the one to brew a pot of coffee for the family, no matter what the disaster, flood or comet.

Settling into a picnic on an island it is Momminmamma who buries the butter jar in the sand in order to keep it cool and starts a small fire to brew up some coffee.  Her insistence on continuing the small pleasures of life in the face of any other excitement makes her the comforting presence in the books.

When she brews coffee it reminds me of my intense memories of the family cottage. As a child, and as an adult, lying in a bundle of warm blankets with the cool air around your face, opening your eyes to sunshine on the trees and the sound of someone tinkering in the kitchen.  Water is being poured into the old coffee pot, the gas has been put on, and soon the delicious smell of coffee will waft through the air.

I read a short story in a magazine a long time ago in which a few images and an offered cup of tea stayed with me and lingered in my mind. I knew the story was by Rohinton Mistry but I did not know the title so it was hard to track down.  The images of the story stayed with me, and it was by doing some vague searches online that I finally found it.  My first searches turned up nothing at all because I kept including ‘tea’ in my search.  When I remembered to include a red stain on the white garments I found the story. Not everyone has my obsession with the tea ritual.

It was my memory of a red stain of beetle juice on the older gentleman’s white clothing that lead me to right story, Rustomji the Curmudgeon.  I remember a fussy old man and a younger wife. The older man was having  a tiring and troubling day as a day trip to a religious event is unsuccessful and instead he gets involved with some street confusion or uprising, and returns home with his good white clothes stained by red juice from someone’s spit.

In fact, I could not remember all those details at first. My mind was focused on the tea at the end of the story. Mostly I remembered how much I had enjoyed the journey of the story. I could see the red stain in my mind and smell the dust of the streets. And I felt the calm of the orderly home, and the loving offer of a cup of tea.  I wanted to read the story again to study the effect. There was a contemplative circular effect that had struck just the right tone, and the cup of tea at the end of the story had resonated like a note on a bell.

The story made me stop and think about marriage and happiness. Always egocentric in my analysis of literature I may have been looking for an answer to a question in my heart. I thought the offer of the cup of tea was the essence of a good marriage. When she lovingly offers the tea you realize that they do have a better marriage than you would have first thought.  Her offer of tea described or defined her love, and made him seem lovable. She created love, by offering the tea, and hence created her marriage.

I thought about the tea for some time. Marriage is not just about two characters and their compatibility; instead it is about what they create together. It is a third thing, something created by two people working together. A cup of tea offered, is the action and definition of love; it is a necessary tradition in a relationship and in all human relations.

 

Illness onto death, or let’s just not talk about it.

Published January 17, 2012 by megdedwards

Portrait of Phyllis Anderson by Meg Edwards

We happily live in a bubble of health until we are struck down.  It is very hard to live in a constant state of appreciation for your present health without getting maudlin or morbid.

It is probably best not to think about it at all. The people who live best do seem to have a way of pushing death and illness away from their thoughts.

I was sitting at the hairdressers the other day enjoying my splurge. My hairdresser has a way of not only making me look fantastic but feel great too.

And I have been watching; she does this for everyone who walks in the door. She is a miracle worker. I can truly understand why hair stylists don’t get into social media because when they are off work they must long for a less social life.

But my luxury buzz, a cup of green tea and the new Elle magazine handed to me by the delightful Susan as the die sinks into my poor head, was being brought down by the general conversation.

The women were bringing their stories to the chair, and quite a few of them were nasty stories; for example, a friend of someone who had a pain in the elbow that turned out to be cancer and was dead in a few months, another story of a child who went from having pneumonia to palliative care in a few weeks.

With two children on antibiotics at the moment I had a horrible chill when I heard that. The woman telling the story said it made her focus on the happiness of her family.  I understand this reaction but it does not resonate with me. First of all, the point of the epiphany is that shit can happen at any moment. How am I supposed to relax thinking about that!

Illness and death was chilling my innocent giggles over Tabatha Southey and Guy Saddy’s always amusing columns in Elle. People get a little heavy in the cold months.  My theory about life is that I will face each challenge life hands me as bravely as possible, but I will take no unnecessary risks. (I am a Rabbit in Chinese astrology.)

Not for me the bungee jumping that plunges me into an African river. But, if I actually must leap into a river in order to save a child, I will.

A lot of the time I think that I will be brave when the call comes for me to leave this life.  But as I sat in the chair with die sinking into my hair, I realized that I can’t really know. I am pretty sure I will freak out and mourn pretty intensely.  I have a lot of things I want to do and the way I am going, it is going to take me a few more decades to achieve all my dreams – like learn how to dance Samba, finish some dusty stories, play a ukulele in a band, return to India, and maybe even foster children.

I remember thinking about aging when I was young, and picturing a life that was not far off to what I have now.  I thought my husband might be bald, but he isn’t!

But my vision had this very rosy light hearted emotional halo around it that cannot be carried into aging.  I felt light and strong and as if anything was possible, when I was in my twenties and now I carry more weight, figuratively and actually.

I do my best to stay young. I have studied the best role models around me.  I had a good neighbor and friend, Phyllis Anderson (nee Goodwin) who was 100 years old when she finally agreed to move to a home.  Up until that time she crept about her house, put her bed in the study, got meal on wheels and managed just fine.

When I visited her in her house, delivering her mail or bringing her soup she didn’t really like, she was always up for a visit.  She would pull herself out of her armchair where she had passed out while reading the paper or knitting, and make her way to the kitchen. With her back bent over and her hands gnarled with arthritis she would fill the kettle and get ready for a good gab.

I never heard her complain. She once told me, in passing, that she had breast cancer in her sixties and lost one breast. She kept everything in perspective for me. I realized in astonishment that she had spent my entire life being an older woman and widow; the last 40 years of her life made up my entire life.

She had been a nurse in Montreal in the twenties. She had gone to all night parties; she had married late, in her forties, and her husband had not lived much longer. Much of her midlife disappeared into one short line about delivering meals, taking in borders, and being on the Church committee. I have a few of her old journals, she kept them all, and they mostly talk about the weather and what she had achieved that day.

“A fine day, got the laundry on the line. Planted some daffodils and cut lawn. Alice came over for tea”.

Her memories remain in my mind. One time she was being pulled on a sled by her brother and a dog, and the dog took off with her behind it.  When she was about 10 years old she made up her mind to have her long hair cut by the blacksmith into a bob and shocked her family. She got measles one year and lost a year at school and was very annoyed that her friends got ahead of her in their studies.

She went to Fredericton to study in Normal School and became the school teacher at the local one room school house and walked or rode a horse to that school.  Later, she went off to Montreal to study to become a nurse, being called back at one point because her Mom was dying. When her Dad’s second wife became ill later she had to give up on living in her own new house with her husband (the house I live in now) and go live with her parents to care for them.

You can see why I stopped in for coffee at the end of the day. She had a collection of anecdotes that mostly focused on her life as a child and how it always stormed on her father’s birthday in March. And a few stories from Montreal when she lived the high life. I heard the stories over and over, relishing some in particular. When she worked the night shift in Montreal at the Royal Victoria Hospital the nurses would sometimes take their break on a balcony of the hospital. They would pull out a chair and a big blanket, and then just sit and look over the city lights and hear the hum of the city.

She loved company and she seemed to love life. She loved to see my children and would pull out any old cookie she had to feed them.  A visit from a man, whether he was an antique collector, a nephew or my husband to help her with her taxes, always brought out her best and most lively personality.

I have many strong memories of her. Some of my new neighbours implied that I would not have liked her when she was younger as she had a strong Conservative and critical nature. Maybe we would not have got along, I don’t know. But when we met we were friends.  We enjoyed each other’s company.

And to be quite frank, I had more in common with Phyllis than I did with many of the other neighbours who had never left this hamlet. She was an educated and traveled gal.

From a selfish point of view, I liked her because she liked me.  She knew when I was lonely and she knew when I was sad. We would talk and have coffee in the late afternoon, and after a full day of childcare and no friends, I would leave feeling more like myself.

I did cry when she died, and only for myself.  I loved having her there. When she went to the hospital with a sore hip I went to visit her with the kids almost every day. It was a cold bleak spring and I would stop at the Tim Horton’s to get her a small hot chocolate in a ‘roll up the rim’ cup and a buttered bagel.

She lit up when she saw us, and there was nothing more hilarious than her determined strong fingers working that rim. It took about 10 minutes but she would roll the rim! I saw her pleasure in the buttered bagel and the deep chocolate taste.  I have never seen anyone enjoy an afternoon snack more.   I think  it  reminded her of her days as a nurse when she would take the trolley around in the afternoon and offer the patients  tea or hot chocolate and biscuits.

She did not mourn that those days were gone; she did not live in the past. But she did think that the casual outfits of the nurses were very odd. In her day she wore a pristine white dress with starched hat and sleeves. She had one repeated story where she found herself on the back elevator with a bundle of used diapers. An important personage had been invited to use the staff elevator in order to avoid attention and be able to visit his wife. She was mortified because she had folded back her starched sleeves before entering the elevator in order to avoid mussing them with the diapers. So she was puzzled by the present day nurses’ wrinkly pajama style uniforms and the casual look of doctors as well.

When she moved to the local old age home she still fought off the wheel chair. At 101 she had liver cancer and it was, of course, untreatable. I visited her there with my kids and often found her completely absorbed in a game of bowling or bingo. She had a competitive nature and liked to win.  She had been a strong and athletic woman.

The last time I saw her she was lying down, and basically quietly dying.  She tried to sit up and eat a bit of cake, and she dawdled her finger back and forth trying to catch the attention of my baby Maud.  She was still in the present moment. Then she fell asleep. The next time I went to see her they sent the nurse to tell me she had died. Her room was bare. They auctioned everything out of her house.

The house sat empty for a while, and god I wish I had just bought it (I did not have the money but maybe I could have raised it) because the next thing I knew Anglophones from Montreal moved in and cut all the trees down and molested my daughter. I am not kidding about that, it is all true, although presumably the molestation was more important than the tree devastation, but it is just funnier to me to say it that way.

I am laughing because I have a dark sense of humour.  Phyllis would have laughed too, because she knew that what didn’t actually kill you, was just food for conversation.

So, let’s have a tea, and talk about that, have a bit of a gossip, and let’s not talk about illness and dying.

My In Laws

Published December 7, 2011 by megdedwards

After 27 years it is clear that they don’t really like me.

And it is not so much that they don’t like me, as I will always be foreign to them.  It is deep down prejudice, and it often makes me feel sad and strange when I am with them.

As a group, I know that they feel as if they are the ones who are discounted and mocked. But when I am in their house, it is me who is made to feel as if my background is an embarrassment.

It could be that they just don’t like my British reserve, which is a pretty huge part of me and not something I can change. I have sat with them when they mocked Canadians/British. So I know what it is they don’t like.

It is true that I am too sensitive, something that they are keen to point out. And part of me internalizes their criticism. But I guess I always hoped that they would like me for who I was, eventually.

Over the years we have learned something about each other’s cultures.  One, British/Canadian gals like me are a lot tougher than we look. And two, the men in their family are less prejudiced than the women. This discovery was hard for me to admit; naturally feminist and not competitive in nature, I like to connect with other women.  But it is the women who are the hardest critics in this family, and I have not impressed them.

We have tried to get to know each other, on both sides, and I give them credit for doing their best. But we are not close. I always feel like a stranger. For years I avoided talking about my family with them because of their obvious prejudices against the non-religious traditional WASP culture.

It is likely that Joe and I have influenced each other over the many years; I am considered too blunt in my own family, and he too reticent in his, so the merging of the cultures has taken us a step away from both of our original cultures.

I like the Israeli characteristics in my husband.  My outsider’s view is that Israelis are extremely buoyant, laughing and joking, mocking their enemies and insisting on enjoying life in the face of any difficulties.

I thought I knew the extent of his strength and resilience, but then, 25 years into our time together, I watched Joe pull our family through an incredibly stressful crisis. I saw another level to his strength, powerful resistance and unstoppable buoyancy. This is also an Israeli characteristic: a constant state of cocky ‘fuck you’ that I admire, and a joie de vivre that I love.

He is also more likely to raise his voice in argument than me, more in excitement than anger.  And he is pretty talkative. And he loves all sports. And he believes in the communal spirit of human activity, based on the early idealistic days of Israel when many of the immigrants were intellectuals and lived in communal kibbutz style. In fact, his strong political feelings about Israel‘s behavior as a nation make him all the more Israeli and not less so.

His family knows and loves him even though they argue and argue. And I appreciate the fact that although he is a tough humorous guy that cannot be brought down by anyone, he is has a gentle sentimental British side too.  At times when I puzzle over his troubles with romantic gestures or little niceties, I have to remember that he was not brought up with those things.

As far as I can see from the outside, there is not a lot of emotional support within his family. People are told not to talk about their problems. And they are constantly openly critical; too much salt in this soup, too much weight, bad haircut; you have to have a thick skin to survive.

When I first met Joe’s Mom she said to me, “Why grow your hair long when it is so thin”? I was amazed. It is no surprise that they want me to change; “What! All I am saying is, try ironing your clothes, you’ll look all nice and neat”.  What can you say; it is not said with meanness, just a bit brutal!

And every last one of my Israeli in-laws thinks that they are the best at everything; the best driver, the best cook, the most cool, the smartest, whatever. There is a super ego present that is tiring but impressive.

I have enjoyed their company, laughed and admired their forthright way of expressing themselves, and their easy laughter. I have eaten their good food in their immaculate houses.  I have attended dinners, done dishes, bumped babies on my knee. I have traveled for weddings, played with little children who are now adults, and rubbed some sort of arthritic cream into my mother-in-laws’ arm. We even had a bizarre afternoon in which she tore hair from my legs with hot wax.

We have bonded in our way. But when I call or visit, every time it is as if I am starting all over again. Dispassionate questions about my family, remarks that make me feel somewhat inhuman. “Oh, you have people over to your house”?  Someone saying my last name was Evans.  It makes me feel like a stranger.

My husband argues that their inability to accept me is more about their criticism of him. But in the end it does not matter. We have stuck together, and what drew my husband to me may have been exactly the part of him that his sisters found so annoying.

I loved to see my husband with his family when we were young; the laughter between him and his siblings was great. The suburban life they lived was far from my own, but they were a different culture, a different religion and I did not make any comparisons. And if I did, at first they were positive.

I noted that in my husband’s family the kids could yell at their parents in frustration and it would be quickly forgotten. The parents would just laugh it off. I saw that as an improvement to the WASP style in which kids never get to talk back to their parents, and all battles are buried and more likely to come at you in a passive aggressive attack. I saw the Israeli ability to just say it and get it out more attractive, at first.

Joe and I made our own bed, and we love our life. We have stayed in love and together, much to the surprise of the families, and we have created our own family. We have amazing children created from the far flung mix of genes, and we have a crazy life of rituals and traditions of our own.

We were idealistic when we met, and continue that way.  We believe that the exclusionary powers of religion, cultural identification and nationalism
are barriers to universal peace.

Though created to hold groups of people together and give them a communal bond, the false bonds of religion and culture create a limited and exclusive vision. Too often identifying with ‘your own people’ is just an excuse to feel superior to others, and this can easily be translated into indifference or hatred.

We were an idealistic young couple, and now we are sort of crabby and middle aged, but still carrying on in the spirit of our love.  Our proudest achievement is our children, a combination of the best of both of our cultures.

Oh, who am I? Whine whine.. same as I ever was…

Published November 16, 2011 by megdedwards

I have a running commentary in my head that constantly criticizes me, as most people do, I guess.

I should fix my hair, not just let it fall wherever it may. I should do stuff to make myself look good. I should iron or wear makeup.  Care more about what I look like.

I have wondered whether it is just that I don’t love myself that much, or have a deep hang up about vanity. I have pondered the question.

In school, arbitrary girls would sometimes tighten my scarf or offer tips on what I should wear. I didn’t mind because it was not done maliciously.

I was shy as a kid, and felt that I was very plain. That was part of it, sure, but I also had a natural feminist perspective. I just wanted to be who I was.  I remember noting, at a very young age, possibly Grade 4, that boys could come to school with dirty hair and still be popular.

In high school they could fart in class and still be popular. I didn’t want to be a boy, or fart in class, but I just wanted to be taken as I was. I was jealous that boys were free of a lot of the social expectations that are always controlling girls.

I have not changed much since childhood. And I do appreciate that my parents were not nags and just let me be. I had a cluttered room as a child, but clean. I had clean straight hair and brown glasses. It took me a while to move from stretchy pants to jeans, I think a girl advised me to get some jeans in grade school. Later, in high school, a running mate told me it was time to shave my legs. I took the advice, it had not occurred to me to do it.

I used to think that my modest and uncelebrated self was symbolic of not being loved enough, or neglected in some way. I wondered, anyway. But in my heart I was glad that my parents had never bothered me about who I was, and just let me be. That is great parenting, in its own way.

I have a very feminine personality, I loved having babies. I am a gentle, fairly passive person, nurturing, introverted, cautious, loving, and sacrificing. But in my heart I feel like a man.  And why is that, because I am strong minded, sure and confrontational if I need to be? Because I love to throw on a pair of jeans and a shirt in order to get dressed, and I resent uncomfortable bras?   Because I don’t care that much about makeup or what my house looks like?

Even at my advanced age I can see that men seem to be less hindered by a need for approval. So, as always, I take my cue from men. I won’t be trapped in the superficial and restrictive social expectations lumped on women.

But even now, when I look around my house, I feel the criticism, loud and clear, from my in laws and from some friends. How can I live with such a cluttered house, is it not detrimental to my health? Don’t I want my house to be clean and uncluttered like a hotel room or their houses?

Well, I am here to try to convince you and myself; I like it just the way it is, just the way I like myself just the way I am. And I am, and have been, consistently exactly like this for my whole life.

I don’t throw a lot of things away because I am sentimental.

I don’t clean all the time because I like to write. I cleaned today though:  the bathroom, the cat box (washed the whole mother), the kitchen floor and some vacuuming, that disturbed the cats. Now my hands are all dry and I don’t feel like doing it anymore.

But here I am arguing with invisible critics, who live in my head. See, I clean, I am a good person! We all want approval in the end.

I do make compromises. If I was unmarried you can bet I would cut off my hair and let it be short and gray. The lesbian look would be mine. But that is too much to ask of my devoted husband, so I have taken to going to a lovely hair stylist, Susan Polley in Sackville at her shop, Touch of Class.

Bit by bit she convinced me to cut my long brown and dramatically greying hair. She does an amazing job, dyeing and shaping it, and it looks surprisingly good, considering how little attention I pay to it.

Susan laughed when I told her that I was pleased to see that my hair looked good, if I occasionally looked at myself in the mirror. I told her that my daughter Rose had said that getting my hair done was the least I could do, as I didn’t indulge much personal vanity.

And Susan, my beloved hair dresser, who is a wonderful person said, ‘Oh, you  have your own style, Meg’. And I just felt like hugging her.  

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