My entire extended family was around the dining room table at the cottage, after one of those perfect days where everyone got along and no one ended up at Emerg. The laughing, singing and eating were dramatically interrupted when my then 8 year old said “Mommy, I know the “c” word”. I am no church mouse but the ‘c’ word has always reduced me and sent a shiver up my back. As we had been on an eight year sabbatical from all good and raw swear words above “stupid” (parenting does this to you), I asked my cherub to whisper the word in my ear. She was flushed with responsibility, thinking maybe she would be the first to introduce me to the word. She carefully, quietly whispered in my ear, “crap”. I somehow was able to pretend that it was the big one I thought it was and told her, “now, my darling, you have in your vocabulary the word you will use when you slam the door on your finger.”
These days , as a single parent doing everything for myself and my girls in a very busy time in a house built almost a century ago, I find I swear like a seasoned truck driver. There was the flash flood in my basement, the tree branch that fell on my car, the leak in the shower that came through to the kitchen, a Mercedes SUV that took off my side view mirror and did not stop, as I sat parked on Yonge street, and extreme volume of other nasty stuff that, if I listed it here, would make me revisit it bitterly. Suffice to say my swearing has made its way through the entire alphabet but still the only”c’ word I use is the one Charlotte taught me. Every truck driver has to have her boundaries.
In the overwhelming early days, I took all the areas of my life and divided them up into categories and then thought of what I needed to do in all of those areas to be better than fine. Next I thought of who and what would help me get there. I assigned at least two people to each area (they likely did not know this- it was a subtle paying attention to them and seeking out their advice). It was hard for me but my mom told me it is generous to accept or even ask for help. It is a way of letting your people in, letting them be important and to play a role in getting us back on track.
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physical- I decided I wanted to change my adjectives. I did not want to be of average build anymore; I wanted to be strong and fit. I wanted to be able to carry the load I had been dealt. Gym membership must be used and my workout had to be more difficult than it had been. Discipline had been lacking-so when my beautiful friend Barb came to pick me up at 6am 4 times a week with the seat warmer on in the passenger seat, I knew I had to get my jiggly butt out of bed. Interestingly, the days that I would go to a hard spin class, were also the days I could take on anything. I have come to believe that emotional strength and physical strength feed voraciously off of one another.
Spiritual At times it would seem like the praying I was doing more resembled begging. I wondered if God might be pissed off at me for only coming to him in my darkest hours. My dreams were vivid and poetic; pointing to solutions, showing the direction I needed to take, all rich like low budget Indy films. Magic filled the hardest days-every solution I needed fell from the sky and each day was jammed with coincidence and possibility. These days my addiction for daily magic was started. Flat and static days no longer did it for me. I needed the crack cocaine of miracles-so I had to keep feeding it and remain ever open to it. My serious habit required full energy, involvement and belief in possibilities.
Legal This is a boring but heavy topic which is too expensive to talk about. Suffice to say, I pushed forward and a small, unremarkable white envelope popped through my mailbox on February 9th 2009, saying I was divorced.
Romantic Laura took me to the cliffs in Muskoka to jump-I am afraid of heights and passing jagged rocks at high speeds, so I did not participate. She cut me a deal. If I wasn’t going to jump I was going to have to start dating. As she says, do something that scares you everyday. The cliffs suddenly looked like a cakewalk.
Financial Debt from my marriage sat on me like a rock.It was hard to be productive with such a burden. I borrowed the money from a family member to kill the debt and its terrifying interest. A weight was lifted immediately. I felt I could get somewhere. I changed nothing for a year- I would not sell the house, my eldest would stay in her beloved school and I would work my butt off to see what I could do. 15 months later I repaid the loan with interest, in the presence of my bank manager who cried, saying she was so impressed with my story and tenacity. In reality, I knew that she seriously doubted that I could do it all. Her doubts made me work harder.
Work I had work that I loved but it was part time and the earnings were not sufficient to carry myself and my family. I wondered about the stress that a new full time job would put on me and my children during these difficult days. My best friend, a wise and logical businessperson with an MBA and loads of common sense, met with me every Wednesday night to discuss my options. She looked at my present business and told me that it was poised to grow and could do so quickly. She was right. I was able to continue doing what I loved and work from home. I highly recommend doing what you love -it always gives you everything you need.
I had surgery on a Monday morning in September and by the afternoon I was in a sun filled room on the 6th floor of Women’s College Hospital. Stoned on painkillers, I slept lightly but vividly, aware of all the good things I have in the outside world. People who love me, support me and rely on me. Work I love and a life that is always changing and surprising me. I love the way these hard moments reveal the best bits.
Around 6, a new stretcher arrived- a woman about my age, fit, happy and active with two daughters of similar ages to mine. Her husband sat by her side for hours softly speaking with her, reaching out to touch her gently, persistently reminding the nurses that they had asked for a private room. I loved listening to their whispers and the way they mutually protected each other-him acting strong for her although clearly very concerned and scared-and her acting brave for him, voice like an angel, although clearly in as much pain and discomfort as me.
With all my people and love and good life, I don’t have that. That is missing and in these big life moments it is heartbreaking.
However, when the next dose of morphine arrived, my glass was half full again. I may not have it now but I get to fall in love again. And that is nothing short of thrilling. Gotta love a good shot of morphine.