I can only describe my current mental state as the calm before the storm. I feel very mellow. It’s almost like I can’t really believe that next week I’m going to be starting a job that’s just about perfect. There is an underlying fear.
There is an underlying fear to almost everything right now. A very ‘what comes next’ attitude. The waiting is the hardest part. Wondering whether I will actually get started making other changes now that I’m getting going on this one part.
I’ve been reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. I thought it was just a parody, but it’s an actually book of advice. The author, Mark Manson, talks about what struggle means, really, and that the things that really matter to you are the things you’re willing to struggle for. And now I’m thinking about the things that I have always wanted and the things I am willing to struggle for.
And I’m not going to let it bother me that those last two sentences both ended with for, which is bad English.
I have also been watching a lot of reality television, and seeing people who are in complete denial about their problems and also about what they have to do to fix them. They are afraid of failure, they are afraid of change and they are afraid of pain.
I can’t be afraid any more. I’m tired of it. There will be failure, there will be change, there will be pain. It’s unavoidable.
And so I shall do my best to dive in and swim.
I got a job. It’s a good job. A job that I wanted very much when I applied for it. A job that allows me to work with some great bosses who will mentor me in great ways. A job that will give me more experience doing the work that I have become quite fond of, and all for a good purpose.
With this job comes more than just career and learning opportunities, the opportunity to effect change in a tangible way. This job comes with the opportunity to work from home, be here for my daughter, somewhat set my own schedule. It allows me to skip the commute and spend that time doing better things for myself. Like get ready for the 10k I’m supposed to be walking later this year. It gives me the opportunity to walk my dog, take my daughter to the park, read great books.
Sometimes I’ll take my laptop out to the balcony and work in the fresh air. Sometimes I’ll get on the treadmill in my office while I try to think something through. Sometimes I’ll take a quick break from work to run downstairs and get dinner going. Sometimes I’ll take my laptop down to the locally-owned coffee shop for a change of scenery.
And sometimes I’ll have to work late while I try to finish an important project, but I’ll be in the house where my daughter can sneak in to say a quick goodnight. I’ll be here when she needs a sick day, and I won’t have to take the day off. Or when the weather is crappy and the buses are cancelled.
I can be here when she needs me. If the school calls in the middle of the day, I’ll be minutes away.
And I’ll still be working, loving my job, being challenged, modelling all of that great stuff for her too.
I’m tentative, because I can hardly believe my luck right now. I also have to remind myself that it’s not luck. I earned this job. I was hard for my strengths. These people chose me, and I chose them back.
I’m watching you in the playground, surrounded by kids. Doing your own thing, enjoying the fresh air and the sunshine. And I’m wondering how we get from this you to that you. The seven-year-old who tells me sometimes she wants to be dead. Who is angry and scared about so many things she never voices. Who told me the other night that you were afraid of the bad guys who might get into the house. Who asks me regularly what your life means and why you are here.
You make friends so easily. You’re fearless and then suddenly you’re not. You’re so kind. Too kind. You’re kind to everyone but yourself and I wonder if I’ve modelled that for you.
Sometimes it feels as though I don’t know how to be more than one thing at once. I can be a mother or a wife, or a student or an employee, or a daughter or a sister. I can’t be all of those things at once. I’m constantly failing at something. I couldn’t even successfully be a daughter to two parents at once.
And amidst all the roles I play, I have lost the ability to take care of myself as well.
Sometimes I wonder if I am only capable of loving one person at a time and you take it all up, wrap it around you. I don’t begrudge the amount of love you take from me, I give it freely. You are everything good.
You are also exhausting. Always talking, asking questions. Always wanting to know more, do more, explore more, find out more.
Sometimes it feels as though I can never be enough for you any more. When you were a baby, I was enough. I could hold you and cuddle you and talk to you. I knew what you needed because your needs were so simple. Food, sleep, diaper changes and love.
Now you need compassion, help with your homework, a shoulder to cry on. You need activity. You need things to do and things to focus on. You need questions answered. And you still need food, sleep and love.
But you can also give now, in so many ways you couldn’t before. You give the most wonderful hugs. You tell me stories. You say that you love me and sometimes that I’m the best mommy in the world. The same kid that yells at me for saying no will come to me when all she needs to hear is that it’s going to be okay.
It is a gift that you can be your absolute self with me, for now, and I have to remind myself what a gift it is.
The kid told me the other day that she thinks I should grow my hair long. I’ve actually been thinking about my hair more than usual lately. Despite a few drastic haircuts in between, I usually have the same style that I have had since high school.
At some point after 1996, when the movie Scream came out, I went to the stylist with a picture of Neve Campbell and asked for hair like that, and my layered bob was born.
There was a point, not too long after the kid was born, that I went really short – though I know some women who would call my usually ear-length really short – and that was the period when I probably felt the least like myself ever.
Even as a chair my hair was usually short, the result of waking up in tangles every morning and screaming bloody murder as my mother tried to fix it. For a while I slept in hairnets in an attempt to solve the problem.
This was, I guess, a result of being a restless sleeper and having a lot of fine hair. It just tangles. The kid has the same problem now. At least once during a brushing I have wondered whether the neighbours will call the police, and considered just shaving her head so that she’ll be old enough to just deal with it herself by the time it grows back. But I get the feeling that my kid is just a long-haired kind of girl, like her Auntie. My sister has always had long hair the same way I’ve always had short.
I have considered growing it out more than once in my adult years. The last time I really made an effort was before my wedding, when I thought having longer hair would give me more options for styling. A few weeks before the wedding I realized, with my mother’s help, that I didn’t look like myself. Why would I want to not look like myself on my wedding day?
The fact is that every time I think about growing my hair I get a distinct image in my head of the one time I had long-ish hair.
I don’t remember what grade I was in, but when I look at my school photo I just see myself drowning in hair. Because, of course, for picture day I wore my hair down. You see, one thing that has kept me from growing my hair (and also one of the reasons I feared having a daughter) was my complete inability to do anything with my hair. It rejects clips. I don’t know what to do with product. If it’s not up in a ponytail it’s down. though I have had occasion to do very simple pigtail braids. Every hairstylist I have ever had has had to come to the realization that I will not buy their products, will not use flat irons or round brushes, will not blow dry my hair.
I wash and go. Some mornings I even forget to comb it. It has never occurred to me to put much time or effort into my hair, except when I had bangs I had had no choice. When you wake up with hair sticking straight up out of your head, you have to come up with some sort of solution.
My go-to layered bob is wash and go too. Even messy it looks okay. Cut short enough (but still long enough to tuck behind my ears) it’s not too hot on my neck, and when it’s long enough to pull back into a ponytail I know that I’m probably ready for my next cut.
This haircut has stuck by me – from high school to my wedding day to the day I gave birth – always suiting me just fine.
My brain has been full lately. Fully engrossed in my own dramas. Wondering what comes next for me, and when it’s going to come. Who will I be when it shows up.
This has all led to thinking a lot about who I have been. This time I can feel change coming like I’ve never felt it before. In the past I have just changed as life came at me.
I’ve thought about the decisions I’ve made to not stay in touch with friends I once had, and the decisions I made to be who I was in high school. I could have been much different, but I wasn’t. I was a girl who had a small group of friends, spent her Friday nights at hockey games (Go 67’s) instead of parties, and spent as much time wondering why no boys liked her as she didn’t being terrified of what would happen if one declared his interest.
I could have come into my own so much earlier. But I didn’t. And still, here she is.
Part of me thinks old friends would be shocked at who I am now, and part of me knows that no one really cared who I was back then so the change wouldn’t affect them one way or another. It’s nice to dream though.
There is a phrase that I once considered getting tattooed on my body – like so many other memories. Non Sum Qualis Eram. I am not what I used to be.
But I am.
I am made up of all the pieces of who I used to be. And I have no idea what that is in Latin.
Who I am now is made up of all the experiences I’ve had, the failures. The things that happened to me that I didn’t even realized where making an imprint at the time. The relationships I’ve had and didn’t have.
The fact that I knew in high school that I was smart and I liked school and I didn’t like makeup or short skirts and all the things that I was combined to make me decidedly not cool, but almost 20 years later I can title a blog post with a later phrase I learned on West Wing and still think that I’m awesome, and know that other people think so too, that is change. That is not what I used to be.
I’ve been thinking about little Amy lately. About her outfits of matching sweatpants and sweatshirts, about her hiding behind her one best friend. Her terrible hair styling choices.
Or lack of hair brushing…
I mean look at her. She’s pretty cute. She looks a lot like this other kid I know, who I happen to think is beautiful.
I also happen to think that this person I’ve become still looks a lot like her. Which is weird for me, because I remember so little about her. I remember her having sleepovers with her best friend, enjoying school, being scared of jumping in during recess skipping sessions. I remember her riding her bike around the neighbourhood and climbing trees. I remember her adopting many Cabbage Patch Kids. I remember her being absolutely certain she was going to marry Joe from New Kids on the Block.
She met a different Joe.
I don’t remember her thinking a lot about what life had ahead. She had many different career goals – writer, teacher, lawyer, archaeologist. I’m probably missing a few.
But what about all the shyness and self doubt and fear.
I know that she felt like if she lost her best friend she wouldn’t have any friends at all. In fact, when she did lose her best friend she latched on to another girl as soon as she could. But that worked out, because that new girl was my maid of honour and continues to be an awesome part of my life. Usually she hung out with her sister and her sister’s friends – in fact I think more of my sister’s friends were invited to my wedding than my own high school friends.
When I graduated high school I wanted to leave all of that behind. I felt like I was boxed in by all of these people who had known me since kindergarten and to those kids I was always little Amy. The shy girl, the invisible girl – the one who faded into the background, had never grown up and figured out how to put herself together. The one who was scared to grow up and experiment in the ways a lot of the other kids were experimenting. Terrified of boys. Terrified of failing at life. Desperate to be smart.
I still have imposter syndrome all the time now, and I think I’m way more awesome than I ever did back then.
And sometimes I sit back and wonder what makes me dwell so much on what people might have thought of me back then. I think part of this stems from the fact that, while I left those people behind and I assume they won’t remember me, I remember them. Every time I encounter someone I remember I try to make a decision about whether to say hello, whether to reach out, what to say. Because I do remember them, I probably remember who they were friends with and what classes we had together. Not only do I remember them, but now that years have past I kind of what to know what they’re doing.
As it turns out, I grew up around a lot of really smart people. I also grew up with a lot of nice people that I’m really glad to see having happy lives and great kids.
And it’s nice because I have a pretty happy life and a really great kid.
I currently have eight tattoos, two of which are cover-ups of previous tattoos – one that needed improvements and one that I had fallen out of love with. And there’s one more I might want to make adjustments to.
I got this little monkey when the kid was a baby. Practically brand new. It was drawn by a friend for her room and I decided to get it permanently on my left wrist to represented this wild creature that had come into my life and stolen my heart.
We did call her monkey.
Now it’s seven years later and this monkey, it’s not quite the representation I thought it would be.
If I had waited until I knew her better I could have done so much more with this tribute to her. Cartwheels and bubbles and smiles. A blur of movement. Bright colours and laughter.
She is nothing that I thought she would be, but everything I could have ever wanted. A monkey, but not that monkey.
I got some good advice from a friend a little while ago – That maybe instead of focusing on how frustrating it is to feel fat and useless, instead focus on the things my body can do and what other women like me can do.
She had some recommendations – great, fit, strong women I can follow on Instagram or Facebook. I’ve been following a few and Annie helped me find a few more. One of those was Louise Green, who has written a book – Big Fit Girl – that I have only started reading and am really, really enjoying.
I have felt rather more at peace lately, realizing that my body is my body and it usually does what I ask it, even if I push. That maybe it’s okay for me to eat what I enjoy and do exercise I enjoy and be healthy without overdoing it or trying to be something I will never be.
The idea that I have about what a fit body has to look like is wrong. I can be me without limits. I can program my brain to believe in myself.
I need to stop thinking that I can’t be something. I need to start reminding myself that I can do anything. No matter what my brain and my biases try to tell me.
Canada’s Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould – the first Indigenous person to hold the position – has been in South Africa. While there, Wilson-Raybould spoke about the 150th anniversary of Canada’s celebration, which we are celebrating this year. She spoke about the fact that it is difficult, as an Indigenous person in Canada to celebrate 150 years of colonialism.
As quoted in the Globe and Mail: “For many Indigenous peoples, celebrating our country’s 150th birthday has its challenges… It is hard to celebrate 150 years of colonialism … What we need to do is make a 180-degree turn, so that our laws and policies are pointing in the direction of the future of reconciliation and transformation – not the past of colonization.”
Lisa Raitt, a former government minister and current candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada took issue with the minister’s remarks.
It, apparently, does not make sense to Ms. Raitt that any Canadian would be unable to celebrate this country and its history (including, as she pointed out in a later tweet, the 100th anniversary of our contributions at Vimy).
Now, Ms. Raitt is a smart woman. She’s been in cabinet leading three different ministries. She’s been an MP for almost a decade. I’m going to give her credit and say she probably knows about the history of Canada – the one that started more than 150 years ago – and the way settlers have treated, and continue to treat those who were here before us.
(I say us because my family, like the settlers, came from Scotland, Ireland and England and I’m white and have all the privilege that comes with that).
Living in third world conditions on reserves, without clean water or proper facilities. Schools in disrepair. Indigenous women missing and murdered at high rates across the country. The effects of residential schools affecting generations of pain, addiction, abuse and torment. Lost cultures, lost languages.
That, Ms. Raitt, is the part of the 150 years that is not worth celebrating.
Oh, and since you mentioned Vimy Ridge, maybe I could also point out that Indigenous veterans who fought for this country came home to find they had lost their status, and with it their homes on reserve.
Part of my pride in this country is that we can take the time to reflect on our history. ALL of it. And maybe spend some time being ashamed without facing wrath from our political leaders.