When I feel down I question every decision I have ever made.
I wonder if one wrong turn has turned into an inescapable life. What if I had made a million mistakes in my life, one after another; I dropped out of grad school, I had children before I had a career set up, I was completely absorbed by my children. I chose to ‘live in the moment’; we never saved for the the future, we lived by the seat of our pants. I did not plan to do it but every choice I made put me outside the norm, home birth, non vaccinating, home schooling….
And what does it add up to? A very close family that lives in rural New Brunswick with very little opportunity for work. We immigrated into an old rural neighbourhood and have slowly adapted. I had to create everything I wanted and expected, like Drop in Centers and Reading Clubs. I did not meet a lot of people like me but carried on.
I worked at UPS in a call center and I wrote for the local rag. We made a go of it. I studied for my Library Certificate and did graduate with high grades, but not a job was to be found. And then they cut my writing gig and I could not find work. Interviews did not go well. I am in my fifties and I tend to have opinions. I wondered f I would ever find work again – not even meaningful work, just any work.
Was I high and dry, unemployable in a small town?
That was what I was thinking about as I cared for my children last winter. Would I be a weight on them in my old age? As my older children planned their escape from this area I had to wonder if we had made a big mistake coming out east. As usual I put my children first. I was doing it at that moment too. I stopped writing my novel and did everything I could for all three so that they were in the best health and going in the best direction.
I was so busy being a mother and a caretaker that I stopped writing, dancing or learning the ukulele. Bit by bit I stopped having time to dream. Too busy, no quiet time, and I lost my sense of self at times and felt lost. I knew deep down that I would rise again out of the waves, and breathe and rest. But I was worried and looked around for ways to calm myself.
Sometimes when we are lost and anxious we contemplate meditation or concepts about ‘being in the present’ or selflessness; going outside of your ‘self’ for peace. These phrase, these notions, I have discovered, are the opposite of what most hard working women need. The notion that we need to be more ‘ selfless’ is comical. Being ‘in the moment’ is the definition of parenting. To be a mother is to be an expert on selflessness. We can lose the sense of self, no problem. Women are excellent at transcending and absolutely disappearing.
These may be a spiritual man’s desires for peace but it seems less than useless to me. I remember reading about Buddhism when I was a curious 13 year old and even with my open uncritical mind I was suspicious of the stories with no apparent meaning, And I could not help but notice that the work of acquiring a state of nothingness, sitting under a tree in a trance for example, would most definitely involve other people tending to your every need.
What I need when I have given all of my self away is to have some of it back. A project, a garden, a poem or a bath by myself. Time to dream. When I have no projects or time of my own I feel like I a shadow. I need some of the self back, I need to be separate from the universe. I need to create and take control of my experience.
Life in this particular body is weighted with ridiculous concerns. To live on earth is to be ridiculous. We cannot avoid that by staying motionless and believing the material world is not real. We have emotions, we get attached, we crave quiet or crowds and never know what is going to happen next. That is living in the moment.
When I am old and my body is withered with age I will still have all the dumb emotions that my life holds now. I will be living in this same weak and silly body. It does not seem likely that I will change very much. And maybe that is good. Maybe the real test is not to grow and change but to remain as purely ‘you’ as possible. We think we crave transformation. We think we can be a better person. It feels like if we could be happier.
I am always trying to control whatever parts of me are annoying everyone and then I find myself no further ahead in ‘self actualizing’. And, as far as I can tell, no further ahead in being less annoying. From my anecdotal observation of aging and death I would have to say that we only every get marginally more smarter or mature. Mostly everyone is about ten years old inside and looking forward to some chocolate or their favorite show.
We die as we have lived, never feeling as if we have got it right. And that feels about right. But as a codicil, if we keep trudging we can get through hard patches. Life is change, and I have learned to not only accept that but welcome it. Even bad experiences have unexpected good results. And sometimes a bistro opens up down your rural road and you get work in a fun busy restaurant. And another job open opens up in your local university town and now you have two jobs.
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!
A little bit of satire from my daughter, Rose Behar!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.
I was thinking about The Vogue – still going strong in 2014! The Neptune Drive In is still running and popular as well as our beloved Sackville Film Society. My daughter and I even made it out to an free evening of short films organized by AFCOOP – two of the beautiful films shown that night were actually projected – a 16 mm and a 35mm. See you at he movies!
It was a Sunday afternoon and I could edit my essay on XML in the Library System or take my kids to a matinee at our local film theater, the Vogue Cinema.
I got my priorities settled fairly quickly and grabbed the kids. A half hour on country roads and we are in quiet little Sackville, a town that is very lucky to have its own independently owned film theater.
This month the kids and I have been to a bunch of children’s films, Puss in Boots (very funny) and Johnny English (OK) and yesterday, Happy Feet Two ( cute but the vision of environmental changes in the north can’t help but be a bit depressing).
We are looking forward to the new Tin Tin movie, the Muppet movie and whatever ‘girl flick’ I get to go to with my 19 year old daughter. We don’t go to any other…
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I have been attempting meditation recently, without discipline or consistency. But I know my ways work for me because I have discovered how to make myself happy.I found a’mantra’, if that is the term, and when I repeat it, it lifts my mind out of my body.
For my first attempts at mediation I listened to a CD and discovered the knack of concentrating on your breath instead of your thoughts.That’s about it. There is no more. If you can do that long enough your brain relaxes.
If you can let your mind rest long enough you are going to relax, gain perspective and lower your shoulders (and probably your heart rate and pressure). That’s it. That’s meditation.
If you are puzzling over something in your life you might come to an answer while meditating. But that is the same thing that happens when you go to sleep and your mind keeps on puzzling.
Let your unconscious have some breathing room and your mind will take a happy break.
Speaking of happy, my own personal mantra came to me the other morning while I was lying in bed. I was day dreaming about a fantastic possibility for my life, and as I pictured my possibility a smile came to my face unbidden!
I made myself smile just thinking about how much fun that would be. And believe me there have been plenty of times when I have made my heart sink down into my body by thinking opposite negative thoughts.
But on this day I felt like a ten year old girl and my heart soared. And because I am not ten years old, I stopped and observed my heart in flight. Huh, I said to myself, I just made myself happy just thinking about a possibility.This is a child like state that I have almost forgotten. Your future can be filled with joy and hope. Just by thinking about fun things you want to do!
I decided there and then that I should think about things that make me happy every day. And I should do things that make me happy. “I can be happy”, sprang into my mind. When I say those words I smile. I know that happiness is under my control. It is in my mind and my mind controls everything.
Maybe that is not meditation – but it is for me. Deep, clear thinking. I know how it works now and obviously I could learn more or achieve a deeper synthesis with the whatnot of the universe but when it comes down to it, how does anyone know what other people’s meditation feels like?
Why are we always torturing ourselves about the better way of doing things that other people are apparently achieving? It is the same for ‘keys to a happy marriage’ or “how to bring up a happy child’. There are no answers and there is no key. As long as you know that, you might be better placed for achieving happiness.
My lovely dentist who keeps my teeth so clean always concludes by saying that I have healthy teeth and gums. One time the hygienist asked me how frequently I used floss. I said ‘a good amount’ and then she asked me how much was a good amount? I said about once a month (and I was exaggerating).
But my answer stands in for all questions regarding how you are supposed to do things, and how I do things. You are supposed to meditate regularly at the same time very day. The best? In the morning before everyone gets up. That’s not going to happen.
How many children should you have, if any? A good amount. How much sex should you have? A good amount. How many times should you wash your hair? A good amount! How long should you write every day? A good amount! How many times a month should you vacuum? A good amount! How much should you exercise? Way more than I do!
I am remembering stressing out about how healthy I should be for my first pregnancy. I should eat more fruit, I chastised myself. And I really don’t like apples! Oh, but you should eat apples every day, I argued. But then I had a break through. What if I eat pears? I like pears. Oh, fine then. Eat pears.
Just find a fun way to do things you ‘ought’ to do and move on. You don’t have to make life a chore. Eat a ‘good amount’ of pears, too.
My mantra is a reminder to myself; I can be happy if I want to be happy. If I am smiling then I am spreading happiness. And in order to smile I need to dream and be as hopeful as a child.
I remember my eldest daughter telling me about a dream when she was only three years old. She was either dreaming or thinking or meditating about a really good birthday party and it made her smile so she told me “Mama, my face is making me happy”.
A good article; knowledgeable and thorough. It is true, we have to keep listening and thinking when people come forward to complain about assaults.I am still listening.
There’s a scandal breaking in Canada. It’s about BDSM. Or is it? I’m not so sure.
Short version: Jian Ghomeshi is a wicked popular CBC host, and the CBC just fired him without disclosing why. He’s retaliating with a $50 million lawsuit (unheard of in non-litigious Canada) and a demand for reinstatement. On Sunday, he made a Facebook post which discloses that he’s kinky and about to be defamed by an unnamed ex-girlfriend and several other past dates she’s recruited, who will insist that his behaviour was non-consensual. A couple hours later, I heard about a semi-recent xoJane article by Carla Ciccone detailing some very creepy behaviour on the part of an unnamed “Canadian C-list celebrity” whom many speculate is Ghomeshi. This article has apparently earned her a serious thrashing by trolls. Later Sunday evening, the Toronto Star posted an article detailing their interviews with four women who are remaining…
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