This morning my car smelled like apples. This is because last night when I got home I left an apple core in the cup holder.
And thus begins my realization of just how much like my father I am.
I have known, I think, my whole life. Uncomfortably so. But I’m starting to think the secret is accepting this fact and just bloody well going with it.
There are things about my father that were obviously strengths and I have to remove my discomfort from sharing those traits. I have to embrace it.
There is strength there, and smarts, and wit. Well… puns.
I am stubborn, this I know, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I am often direct. I can be exacting.
All of these things I can put to good use. But may my car never been the storage container he drove around.
You know what I have been appreciating more than ever before lately? Silence.
Usually I am the type of person who likes to have some background noise. I throw on some music or re-watch a TV show while I’m getting things done. I play the radio or podcasts in my car. I walk with earphones.
But now I’ve gone to work in a communal office space. It’s great, there are a lot of advantages and when you need to put on headphones to drown everyone else out no one cares.
But then I get home and my kid has five hundred million things she has to tell me all at once.
She’s got language skills, this kid, and she knows how to use them.
And some nights when Joe is out or has something else to do – nights when I would normally put on a show he would never watch – I find myself just sitting in silence.
It’s nice. It’s calm. It allows me to collect my thoughts and piece things together. It’s a new thing for me – me who hates the general idea of meditation.
It gives me a chance to breathe deeply.
It’s been almost a month since I started back at work and I’m still tired, my face is breaking out, the commute is still rough, and every day, at least once a day, I feel like a complete idiot.
But last week I did the Army Run 5k. I wasn’t sure how it would go, and the first kilometre or so I thought I was going to have to quit. And then I didn’t. And the end was fantastic. Because I finished, I even jogged over the finish line. And it makes me feel really good about the next 5k I’m doing in 9 days.
I believe that if I hadn’t started working, walking a few blocks every morning and again every evening, walking up four flights of stairs to get to the street from my car and up three flights every time I go up to my office, then I wouldn’t have managed that 5k as well as I did.
My feeling like an idiot is made slightly better by the fact that my daughter is being taken care of. She loves school, still, and my husband and I our managing outside school hours with the help of a neighbour mom who has opened her home for us. It is made better by the people I now have the chance to work with and their reassurance that simple mistakes and learning do not make me an idiot.
This has been a hard transition made easier by the community around me. Make harder by my own self-doubt and nasty inner workings.
The first kilometre is rough, and the next one will be a bit better and when I cross the finish line it will feel so good that I’ll be ready for the next one.
The other day at the park, after her first day back at school, the kid was fly around the monkey bars and talking a mile a minute. She was showing me her tricks and demonstrating her strength and also telling me how good she is and how she taught one of her friends a better way to do the monkey bars too.
And I had this instinct. This unfortunate instinct that I squashed down.
I almost told her not to be so cocky. I almost suggested that her friends won’t like it if she’s so confident.
What a stupid thing to think.
This kid is strong. She’s strong and she’s been practicing for years. She’s been doing gymnastics and working hard at it since before she could walk. She practiced the monkey bars over and over again until the day she finally got all the way around. I remember that day and her smile was so big I almost cried, as she ran towards me telling me “I did it!”
She’s worked hard and practiced and why would I take that away from her, ever? Why shouldn’t she be confident about something she can do well?
And if she were a boy, would I have had this whole conversation in my head? No, probably not.
This kid is an athlete. She loves to exercise, she loves to run and stretch and bounce and play. When Daddy asked her if she did anything fun at gymnastics today she declared her love of burpies. Nobody loves burpies.
She’s an athlete and for the rest of her life people will tell her she’s too confident, they’ll place her behind the men in her sport, they’ll say she’s not dedicated because she likes fashion.
I will not be one of those people.
The kid has started Grade 1…
This seems big and important to me not only because it’s an actual numbered grade, but also because I remember Grade 1. I remember a lot about Grade 1, while I only remember snippets of kindergarten – like the little red-headed boy who threw up in front of the playhouse and the janitor had to come and clean it up.
(Sidebar – the playhouse that I had in my kindergarten classroom? My Gramps built it the year my sister was in SK. He built it for the school. Just because. And it was still there years later when I went to pick up a kid I was supposed to babysit).
I remember that we knew my teacher’s name before I started school, but she was knew so my mom didn’t know anything about her. Her name was Mme. Piché and she had short, very dark hair and big glasses. I remember that she always always spoke to us in French unless there was something very important that she needed us to understand, and then she would tell us in English, and we knew that it was important because she was telling us in English.
I remember that I sat next to a little boy with a rat tail, but I don’t remember his actually name.
I remember that we wrote get well cards for my friend Molly when she went away for an operation. I remember that Molly was kind and gentle and friendly and that I wasn’t surprised at all when we reconnected on Facebook and I found out that she’s a nurse.
I remember M. Leduc came in to teach us gym. I remember this vividly even though my sister says it can’t be true because she had M. Leduc later for French and he was in no way a gym teacher. And I remember Mr. Louks, who I still think might have been the best principal ever. Though Mr. Dagenais would be a close second.
I remember my math workbook – an actual book that you wrote in that the school gave us – had a polar bear and a light blue cover. I have no idea why that detail has stuck with me for so long. I started Grade 1 almost 30 years ago.
I know that I loved Grade 1. I think it’s probably because in junior kindergarten I was new to school, and in senior kindergarten I was new to French, but in Grade 1 I could start just being in school. And I had my own teacher, not one that had taught my sister before me. Mme. Piché. I picture her with her short dark hair and her great big glasses and she’s always kind and smiling, and she’s always wearing a white jacket and a bright blue shirt.
They say you can never go back. I can but it won’t be the same since the renovated the entire school after I graduated Grade 8. But every time I’m in the neighbourhood I see parents of people I went to school with, though none of my teachers are at the school any more. And Mme. Piché? I think she was just there for that one year with us. But I remember her.
Sometime last year I noticed a shining white hair among my usual brown. I was excited because I have felt like a kid for so long, it felt like real proof that I was growing up.
Over the summer my head became, rather suddenly, much more populated by this white hairs. Mostly on the left side. It’s becoming rather alarming.
I mean, I’ve lived a lot of life in the past 10 years. Hell, I’ve lived a lot of life in the past two years, but I don’t mind when I tell people my actually age and their reaction is “No, really?”
I have loved my 30s, they’ve been a great time of fun and hard work and discovery. But the fact is that I still feel like I’m 17 and I’m waiting for the adult-ness to hit.
I mean, I have a 6-year-old who started Grade 1. I’m about to graduate with my Masters degree. We celebrate our 10th year married next year.
But I’m still not entirely convinced the first part of the 2000s happened. I mean, I know I did things in each of those years – graduated high school, worked, started and finished college, started and finished university got a dog, got married, got a job, and was pregnant. Pregnant for a LONG FREAKING TIME.
And on another note – I’m getting grey hairs, I assume I’m getting wrinkles as well, so why in the hell do I still have blackheads? Not okay universe.
Dear 16-year-old me,
Hi there. You’re going through a hard time right now, I know. Even though you’re really good at hiding it. You’re considering some drastic things like dropping out of school and even suicide.
You have no idea that 20 years from now you’ll be in a much better place. You have no idea what awaits the other side of the dark place you’re in.
It doesn’t end there. You’re going to keep struggling with depression but you’re going to get better at it. You’ll learn a lot about yourself
Right now you’re not sure you want to finish high school but in 20 years you’ll be graduating with a Master’s degree.
You’ll have a daughter who is awesome and she will make you a better version of yourself. You’ll have a husband who will do his damnedest to make you feel better about yourself. The unexpected family.
And you’ll worry, often, that you’re going to manage to ruin it all. Sometimes you’ll wonder if you’re doing it on purpose. And you’ll be frustrated that your brain chemicals are still screwing with you so many years later, but the days when you don’t think you suck will start to outnumber the days when you wish the world would swallow you whole.
Every day that little girl throws all of her love your way will build you up. Every day that you can help her work through something that’s bothering her. Every hug she gives you will fill your soul.
And somewhere along the way you will realize that everything you have been through has made you into a the person you are, and she’s stronger than you ever thought she could be.
Just keep going.
I am one week in to my new job, and I haven’t cried once, but on Friday it was a very close call. So much has been thrown at me in such a very short time.
Of course, that includes the fact that I got the job, bought a car and started within about a week.
I haven’t worked in an office in more than four years and now I am again. And I’m commuting, and my daughter has daycare.
All of a sudden.
And it strikes me as funny that I’m overwhelmed right now after all of the things I’ve been through over the past two years. I have done a lot over the past two years, but all of that had an end date. A day I could point to and say yes, this is hard, but here is the day it will be done.
Now I’m in a new world where I have some pieces and I have to make them all fit. It has to work, and I have to make it. I have to figure out what I can do to take care of myself, take care of my kid, take care of my relationships, my house, keep our budget rolling and also transform my health.
The excellent news is that I now get to chat with great people everyday about all of it. Every morning I get to start my day alone in the office with Allyson, who has accomplished so much and is so open to helping guide me.
I feel lucky that I’ve ended up here. I just need to feel my way around a little bit.
Routine starts tomorrow, let’s get to it. In the meantime – happy puppy.