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Bigger Picture Moment

Yesterday I went and got another tattoo. I went to the same artist that did my last one – the one that represents my marriage. I like her personality, I like her style, I like her lines and colours. I knew as soon as I decided what this tattoo would be and where it would go, I would be going back to her. It’s the first time, as far as I can remember, that I’ve chosen to have the same artist do two of my tattoos.

I have six now, two on my shoulder blade, one on my lower back, one on my ankle, one on my chest and one on my wrist. I’ve been asked, as I think everyone who has tattoos has been, whether I regret any of them. More often the question is framed as ‘I could never get a tattoo because I would be afraid I would end up regretting it.’

While I admit I don’t love each of my 6 as much as I did when they were new, I don’t regret anything. Each one represents a stage of my life, something that led me to where I am today. Each one, when I see it, helps me reflect on the changes I’ve been through and what’s become important. Each one is a step in my life that changed something and led me to this life – my job, my husband and my baby daughter. They are my own personal map.

Someday I imagine my daughter seeing them and asking why, and I can sit down with her and explain each one in turn. The maple leaf is my pride in being born a Canadian – I love this country and I am lucky to not only live here, but to have seen. The Canadian hockey logo – my love of the game led me to journalism, which eventually allowed me to get a job at the student paper while I was in university, where I met my husband, who fell deeper in love with me at the first hockey game we attended together. The Pisces symbol – silly as it is, my zodiac sign has always seemed to define my personality very well. The forget-me-not, the official symbol of Alzheimer’s Disease, which took both my grandmothers from me and may eventually steal my memories too. Bert and Ernie, representing my marriage – we vowed to be the Bert to the other’s Ernie and the Ernie to the other’s Bert, to complete the whole.

And now this last one (though maybe not my last), which represents my baby girl, my love for her and the certainty that she has changed my life completely, leading me on a new path again, where each decision I make is carefully weighed because of the affect it will have on her and the path I am sending her down.

I can also tell her that she was there when I got it, and she was a very good girl.

Maggie the monkey

Today I have a very important phone call to make. The kind of phone call that you think about all day, trying to decide if it’s the right time, or maybe it’s too early, or maybe it’s too close to lunch time…

It’s the kind of phone call I would normally avoid making with every bit of excuse I could come up with. This is a phone call to a very important man, a man who may have had a hand in shaping my life without my ever really thinking about it. I’m scared to talk to him. Something that I wasn’t at all scared of when I met him as a child. I have no reason to be scared, he’s asked me to call, and everyone tells me that he’s a very nice man and I know that he is and we will end up having a lovely conversation.

But this phone call is for my grandfather, and so I have to make sure I do it right.

My grandfather is turning 90 this summer, and it is my job to get in touch with an old friend of his to see if I can get a letter of congratulations. In fact, this old friend has already agreed to write the letter, but has asked that I call him to discuss it and give him the details. This old friend is someone my grandfather admires, and because my grandfather admires him I do too.

You see, my grandfather is one of the most important people in my life. I say one of now, because I have a marriage and a baby, but for most of my life he was the most important person. My mother always said we had a special relationship. He taught me how to build things and how to ride my bike, he taught me how to read and how to do long division, he acted as the main male role model in my life and without him I would have turned out much, much differently.

As a child, I watched my grandparents develop a friendship with Mr. and Mrs. Broadbent. I don’t know that they were much more than acquaintances, but I new my grandfather admired Mr. Broadbent and the work he was doing. And because I knew my grandfather held him in esteem, I did too. And as I grew older, I learned that Mr. Broadbent is a very special kind of politician – a type I happen to think we could use more of – and I admired him for the work that he’s done.

I happen to believe that the degree that hangs on my wall – my BA in Political Science with a concentration in Canadian Politics – and the career I’m building are a direct result of my family teaching me that politics is important and there are politicians who can do great things and who truly care about taking care of all of us.

And at 10 o’clock I will make a phone call to give my grandfather something to smile about on his 90 birthday – a letter from an old friend he can read while his great-granddaughter sits in his lap.

ETA:

I made the phone call and it went better than I ever could have imagined. He told me he remembered my grandfather fondly, he was glad to hear that he is alive and well, and that he was delighted I had tracked him down so that he could write a birthday letter. We talked for longer than I had anticipated and he told me some wonderful stories that I believe will all be included in what he writes. He told me to give my grandfather a big hug and was glad to hear that I will be taking his great-granddaughter out to meet him.

The best thing he told me was that he still has the desk my grandfather made for him – in fact, he’d been working at it the day before – and that the chair he sits in at that desk is the chair he sat in while he worked in the House of Commons. It’s a traditional retirement gift for long-sitting MPs. As I said on Twitter, that is the coolest thing that ever awesomed. I have no other way to describe it. I look forward to seeing my grandfather’s face when he reads his letters, I’m sure it will be well worth the few moments of panic I faced when thinking about dialing the phone.

I went to two roller derby practices. I bought roller skates. I was excited. I felt like I was really pushing myself for the first time in a long time. Maybe ever.

The second practice I went to I didn’t make it through. We did laps and lunges and crunches and various other exercises that pushed me to the brink, but I made it through and got back on my skates. I was surprised at how much better I felt I was doing on the skates after only a few laps around my living room.

And then my ankles started to hurt. And then my back started to hurt. And then my feet started going numb and I just couldn’t keep up with the drills and I couldn’t envision what else they had in store for us and I gave up. I took off my skates and I went home halfway through practice. I was too tired, I had been sick, I missed my baby, I was needed at home, there were so many excuses but I still beat myself up for leaving.

Before I left I handed in a cheque for membership in the league – 3 months of 2 practices a week learning how to skate properly, learning techniques, getting into shape. After I wrote out the cheque I sent Joe a text message telling him to ask my how I felt about it when I saw him later in the evening.

He asked.

And I thought about it for two more days and on the day of the first scheduled practice I emailed the organizer and asked her to rip up my cheque. It was too much to think about. Two practices a week from 8 to 10 pm, getting home after my baby girl was asleep, getting home wired and having to wake up with her at 6:30 or 7 the next morning? Not going to happen. There are priorities I have to set right now and top of that list are taking care of my daughter and taking care of myself.

So I’m not going to be a derby queen… This year.

I’ve got my skates. I’ve been out a few times practicing, though I need someone to teach me how to stop. Right now my goal of fitness still stands and learning to roller skate is on my life list. I still plan to earn my derby name, and every bout I go to makes me want it again.

I’m spending this year at home to help my baby develop. To educate her. To make sure she is set on a good path.

I also want to spend some time learning myself.

Last weekend, Joe and I met an old friend of his for coffee. Kim has undertaken a photography project and we became some of her subjects. While talking to Kim about her work life and the travels she’s taken since she and Joe graduated university together, I felt something that I have felt before. Something that being around my coworkers makes me feel often. I want a Masters degree. I want more education. I want to know more. I’ve always wanted to know more. I want to have answers I need, I want to understand things that are happening around me better because I know the way the system works.

Sadly I don’t have the time, money or – because of my dedication to the job I had while in university – the grades to actually undertake a Masters.

But I do have a library card.

I also have someone that will benefit from being read to.

And so I am going to start studying. Politics, research methods, history, procedure, French. Anything I feel like and anything I think will benefit me along my career path. We’ve already started reading Pride and Prejudice and I have a pile of other classics that I’ve never had the chance to read.

We are taking the opportunity afforded us. I will go back to work better than I am now in more way than one.

One of my greatest flaws as I try to get along in this privileged western society that I live in is that I have a tendency to think about what affect my behaviour has on others.

It makes me unfortunately rare, I find.

I don’t run the yellow light because that forces the car turning left to wait for the red, which mean that all the cars waiting for the green will also be delayed. By running the yellow I would be negatively affecting quite a few people.

I don’t complain when I’m waiting in a long line because I know that everyone else is waiting too and complaining makes is worse for everyone.

I give up my seat on the bus if I see someone who needs it more than I do. It amazed me that when I was visibly pregnant and climbed aboard a crowded bus I would have to ask for a seat. I also got walked into so many times that I started yelling excuse me when the people who had hit me didn’t – which was nine times out of ten.

I have always tried to mindful of others and aware of my surroundings. I don’t like to be perceived as causing anyone harm or distress or inconvenience.

Now I am almost 30 and it’s starting to grate on me that others don’t give me the same thought. It seems as though every day I run in to people who just don’t care about the world around them. They take the elevator that’s supposed to be reserved for wheelchairs and strollers even though the escalator is a few steps away. They tailgate you and drive in the lane that’s ending just to try and get somewhere two minutes faster. They inconvenience me and sometimes endanger my life because somewhere along the way they decided they were more important than other people. At some point they decided that they were better than other people and some of the rules we all have to follow just don’t apply.

Twice this week I watched as a driver came too close to hitting the stroller I was pushing in front of me carrying the most precious cargo I have. One woman decided to ignore the fact that pedestrians had the right of way and started her right turn without looking for us despite the fact that we were standing right beside her. One man decided to cruise over the speed bump and hit pull up past the sidewalk to make his turn out of a parking lot without even thinking to slow down and look for anyone walking down it. Both times I was legitimately scared and angry, both times they noticed me in time and braked hard with a bit of shock and shame on their faces.

It makes me mad. It makes me mad that I have to deal with these people and still try to put my best foot forward. It makes mad that soon I’ll have to start explaining to my daughter why people do what they do, when I don’t really know.

I don’t know how you manage it. You can scream in my face, slap me around, make me wake up in the middle of the night just because you want something. I clean up your poop and your vomit.

You are demanding and you offer few rewards.

You’re very existence has messed up my body and my psyche.

But I love you more than I’ve ever loved anything in my life.

Sometimes all I want is to have someone else take you and deal with you, but there is nothing better than being with you and holding you in my arms or watching you learn and advance.

Sometimes you fight the bottle even though we both know all you need to do is drink until you fall asleep.

I don’t know what magic it is that you weave, but you have me totally entranced.

My name is Amy and I suffer from postpartum depression.

I am not embarrassed and I am aware that it has nothing to do with my baby, whom I love and dote on. My hormones are causing me problems, as they have done for so much of my life.

It’s mostly just frustrating because I can feel myself being irritable and irrational and I know full well that something just isn’t making sense, but I can’t stop it from happening.

I feel lonely. My body is exhausted. I feel as though I need a really good ugly cry. There are times when I am filled with absolute and unending love for my baby girl. There are times when I feel nothing but numb. I think if I were a runner I would have the pounding of my feet on the pavement as an outlet. As it stands, I take daily walk with the stroller in front of me and a dog around my waist, and sometimes it feels good and other times I have to stop multiple times reminding the dog not to pull, not to run in front of the stroller, not to stop to sniff every piece of grass we pass.

Last week it was rainy out, and I was already feeling depressed and frustrated that I wouldn’t get out for my walk, which eats up a good part of my day and makes me feel somewhat accomplished. Then the baby got fussy. She was crying every time I put her down and squirming every time I picked her up. I decided to get out the stroller, leave the dog and home and head somewhere, anywhere but where I was. I don’t know what the feeling was – desperation, maybe – but I needed to leave the house, I needed to get away, and I didn’t like the feeling one bit.

We ended up walking to Chapters, and then to the library because I didn’t feel like going home. All in all we were gone for about four hours, and I got home sweaty with two new blisters on each foot, feeling frustrated again.

It is this frustration – This feeling of an impending explosion- that is driving me slowly insane at the moment. And that is what it feels like – as though I’m going slowly insane, and I’m just waiting for the thing that is bound to set me off.

And sometimes she looks up at me with absolute love and fascination and it erases everything bad.

Last weekend we handed in our PVR and cancelled our cable. They told us we would still be paying for 30 days, which makes me very angry, but we still had basic cable for a few days until they actually sent a worker to flip the switch on us (which I think they should have done after the 30 days we’re still paying for, but I digress).

So as of yesterday we are without any kind of cable. I came downstairs with the baby this morning and didn’t flip on the TV to watch the news or Canada AM. I sat in silence for a few minutes, and then started streaming the radio. I think the most difficult thing for me will be not having the news on at any given time, and not being able to flip to the news when I see on Twitter that something interesting is happening. I am now even more removed from my job – my office has four TVs in it, each one tuned to a different news station, so that there is no point during my day that I don’t know what’s going on.

I am concerned that I will be too far removed from my job by the time I get back now that we don’t have a TV – even though I know that I can find all of these clips and all of the news online.

On the plus side, I knew that I was going to have to turn the TV off at some point because I didn’t want the baby watching all the time, and this will mean that it won’t go on as a reflex. I also think she’ll do better having the radio on as background noise (with CBC and NPR as the main soundtrack to our days) than she would if I continued watching Dr. Phil and Say Yes to the Dress.

Realistically, I know that I’m not going to miss any one the shows I really love. Everything is online these days, and Joe has hooked up cables that allow us to plug in our computers and stream things straight to the TV. (He’s already been watching the Stanley Cup finals this way). Anything that I really, really don’t want to miss (once the seasons start again in the fall) I can download from iTunes and it will be much less expensive than cable.

As Joe says, this is an experiment and it will be good for us. If we don’t like it, we can always get it back. But for someone who has always had TV, someone who, admittedly, has used TV as a crutch, it’s still scary.

That’s why I wanted to do it.

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