Poems and Peacemakers

Dreaming Goodbye

Three years ago my very strong, courageous, beautiful grandmother passed away. She has had such a significant impact on my life, even now that she’s gone. She was witty and independent and strong and she was all this in a time when women were only beginning to understand their own strength and the impact they could have. She met my first boyfriend when I was 15. She eyed up all six feet of him then and said, “Rhianna’s going to university you know,” as if to warn him off in case he thought to change my plans. She approached every single day with such a feisty sense of humour and spirit that it’s hard not to feel an empty space without her. She was larger than life and so how fitting that the morning she died she requested to be dressed early (something she never did) and went out to the dining room to socialize, where she passed away surrounded by people. How fitting that less than a week after she died I had a dream about her and 3 years later I still remember it in detail like a memory of her that never fades. I’ve wrestled with how to write about it for a while because it felt too big to capture. I’ve cried my way through the words and the pages to get the right stuff to describe the way she came to me and said goodbye…

Dreaming Goodbye

I sit between the mantel’s warmth,

And my tearful last goodbye.

The cassettes spread,

In a listless promenade of dusty memories

Of a life in rearview.

Wandering cagey triumph,

Full of the possibility of tomorrow’s embrace.

Dipping low on the pink horizon.

Cotton candy and despair kissing the earth.

She knocks and I rise to understand.

She’s warm but she’s cold to the touch.

I am hushed but the realness of her movements burn the moment.

And I am crushed by the weight of the world,

In this last embrace.

She is everything I may never be,

And it catches in my throat and my eyes,

Until nothing is clear.

And I am alone here.

And she is okay but she is gone.

The old white house with the crooked barn

And the quilted roof remain.

Empty vessels brimming with the clutter of happiness.

Vacant rooms buzzing with thirsty excitement and quietude.

And all along there she was.

At the center of a distant vision.

Warm light,

Smiling in the peace of its glow.

Fat tears of longing wash through my heart.

Gentle waves on the ocean back home.


Positivity Project Day 5

Positivity Project- Record 3 things I’m grateful for and 1 inspiring quote everyday for 7 days to promote a happier, more positive life.

Inspiring Quote: “Climb the mountain so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.”

Three Things I’m grateful for:

1. Country sky at night- millions and millions of tiny dancing lights on the blackest canvas
2. Smores around the campfire
3. Friends that treat me like family

I should be long in bed but I am fresh off a weekend that fed my soul a little and I wanted to write about it before I launch into a busy week. This weekend I headed north to spend time with a family my parents and I met camping about 24 years ago. They’ve known me about as long as I’ve been me and I spent my childhood either running after the three girls or being carted around by them. They now have children and husbands of their own, live in different cities (one out of province) and come together only intermittently.

On Saturday I sat at a table amongst the girls. Their mom was on the end and we were all laughing and joking and playing bingo. One man asked their mom if we were all her girls. She smiled and looked down the table. “Well those three are” she said, pointing to her daughters. “She’s more like my half daughter but she’s definitely one of the family” she explained, pointing to me. Later when they invited me over for dinner and I asked if they were sure it was okay that I crash the family affair they all laughed. Their mom bumped my arm and leaned in, “You’re always welcome here. You’re one of us you know” she told me.

I’ve spent all my time and effort lately trying to belong somewhere. It sounds crazy but I’ve been feeling, in some ways, like I don’t belong in my own life. It’s part of the reason I started the Positivity Project. I wanted to remind myself of all the ways I am lucky and loved and fortunate in my own world. I think I’ve been too easily forgetting about the good bits. This weekend I laughed until I cried, felt so much love I thought in moments my heart might burst, and remembered what that sense of belonging is like. I wanted to write it all down before I let any more of the good little bits slip through the cracks. Life is too short to let that keep happening.



Time Passes Either Way….

All night I’ve been stewing over whether I’d write this blog or not…the experience I had today has been bumping around in my brain like one of those little silver balls in an old-school pinball machine, and thankfully it’s done just enough to ignite a little something in me.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit I’ve been in a slump lately; walking around in a negative funk like it’s my J-O-B. I’ve felt frustrated and cranky and all I could do was focus on being frustrated and cranky and it became a bit of a vicious cycle I haven’t been able to pull myself out of.

Today as I walked home from the subway, caught up in my own little world, I spotted a little old woman walking down the street toward me. She was leaning on her cane and struggling with two bags of groceries as she descended the slope of the road that dipped in a steep decline. I pulled my earbuds out and approached her. I kept thinking I didn’t want to freak her out but was almost certain she’d topple over if I didn’t help. She was hesitant at first but allowed me to take the bags from her and walk her home. She had 3 litres of milk and a carton of 12 eggs. I think the bags weighed more than she did. I made light conversation as we walked and as we approached her house she told me how nice her neighbours have been by mowing her lawn and helping her by bringing her recycling and garbage to the door for her.

I had a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach as I listened. Since I’ve lived in Toronto I’ve grumbled about how hard it is to meet people. I’ve complained about the lack of a sense of community and how nobody is willing to help one another. As I stood at this woman’s door with the carton of eggs and the bags of milk and the circulation to my fingers began to fade, my head swam with the knowledge that she’s lived directly behind me for almost two years and I’ve never made the time to know her, even in passing. Nor have I really met anyone else in our neighbourhood. Isn’t it funny how life just passes you by like that sometimes?

We chatted for a while and in conversation I learned that her husband had passed away in previous years and that last year she’d lost her daughter to cancer. None of it was weird or over-sharing, it just was. She said she had lots of help from neighbours and friends from her church but then she opened the door to let her cat out and as he weaved through my feet I bent to scratch his ear. She admitted that she’d adopted him a few years back just for the company. I wanted to hug her. For the billions of people in this world, I wonder how many of us feel lonely on a regular basis? I wonder how many of us could have an impact just by carrying someone’s groceries to the door or smiling and saying hello rather than keeping ourselves closed off.

As I put the groceries down I made a decision. I asked for paper and pen and scrawled my name and number down and asked her to call me if she ever felt she needed anything. I walked home feeling pretty unsettled. I felt I’d not done enough. I still do. Sometimes I think the ones who ask for the least help are the ones who need it the most. It makes my stomach hurt.

That being said, walking away from her house I also realized that by doing something kind for someone else I’d not been so focused on my own negative thoughts. It made issues that seemed important five minutes before, feel silly. It’s easy to forget there’s more to life than the trivial little life stresses when you’re living them. It’s easy to forget that time passes either way.


The Truth About Vulnerability

Here’s the thing I sort of re-learned about trust and vulnerability this week: I can give it and open myself to be wholehearted and open-minded, but I cannot control what others do with it. I forgot about that little component. vulnerability

These past few weeks someone from my past re-entered my life and I let myself get swept away in it. The tiny little niggling inchworms of doubt prodded at me occasionally and I ignored them and just sort of let it happen. I even let myself be vulnerable and feel joy because of it. Then, like a flashback to high school (okay it wasn’t around when I was in high school but it felt like a high school moment), I logged onto facebook and there was the very honest status update that snapped me straight out of my dream world. It was the words he couldn’t bother to tell me to my face.

Something a little like betrayal lived at the edge of the status update like a crown of thorns coaxing the halo from the head I’d bestowed it upon in error. That jackass. I felt impassioned and alive with the idea that he’d slapped me in the face with his own uncertainty and I wanted to key his car or eat a tub of ice cream or both simultaneously. I stared at the screen for several minutes with my eyes bugging out repeating “Oh my god” to myself like it was my personal mantra. In one amazingly public act of idiocy he’d contradicted everything he’d told me, and made me feel like a colossal idiot. I could feel the rage peeling paint off the walls as my blood boiled.

d42a65f680fb80afbe0abfc0c2e7d665I went through everything in my mind. I’d put myself out there. I’d been vulnerable in terms of letting him come back into my life and I’d been open-minded about seeing if the connection still existed and he’d made me feel like a fool on a social networking site, not directly, but in a way that told me half-hazardly that he’d barked up my tree before he was done sniffing around another. Not. Impressed.

So does my own little personal version of the Jerry Springer show mean I stop putting myself out there and being vulnerable? Nah. You don’t join a sports team only if there’s a guarantee you’ll win every game in the season. I could go through life living in a little bubble- never being vulnerable and allowing others to hurt me (thAwesome-quote-No-I-am-not-singleat’s my natural response) but I think it might make it difficult to experience any potential joy too.It’s a gamble. A VERY wise friend wrote to me and said “There’s no shame in trusting others. It’s shameful when people exploit that”. Preach girl!

He who shall not be named won’t be getting a Christmas card this year but I thank him for reminding me life is a series of learning experiences, good and bad, and courage is about showing up wholeheartedly for each one and gaining value and extracting joy. That’s it. No regrets.


Five Steps

For reasons I cannot explain, when life gets all overwhelming good or overwhelming bad I get writer’s constipation. It’s like everything just flows at once and it gets tangled and backed up in there until nothing will come out.

I’m happy to report my writer’s constipation as of late is coming to you for good reasons. A person I just met a couple weeks ago turned to me the other day and said “you just look so happy and it’s really nice”. I didn’t even think a single sarcastic thought in their direction. The cheesy moment struck me as such for like a half-second and then I was struck by the fact that no one had said that to me in so long I couldn’t remember it. Radiating happiness. I remember once a potential love interest told me the thing he liked most about me was that when I got excited or was truly happy about something my eyes kind of shined or shouted the expression so there was no mistaking it. I’m pretty sure the unspoken bit here is that the same thing happens when I’m angry…7-steps-to-happiness

Anyways- to the point. The point is that I’d lost the shine. I talked about losing it. I talked about finding it. Turns out finding it even in glimpses is a continuous process that involves some of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I’ve surrendered myself to a step-by-step get happy program to toughen me up and soften my spirit.

Step 1: Begin Dating again. I know, YUCK. Believe me this was a challenge. It still is. Do guys not pay on first dates anymore? I don’t mean to get old school here- I’m all for equal rights- but I haven’t lost my love for a little chivalry. I WANT to be wined and dined a little at least on the first date. Is that weird?

Step 2: Present/Facilitate to a room full of people. I told my manager not long ago that I’ve always wanted to teach. It was the original plan. 5-year-old me was jazzed about it. 25-year-old me couldn’t seem to make sense of how to put myself in front of a room full of expectant faces and present. I was terrified. Someone told me that being terrified and nervous is very close to being excited and that it’s all about how you channel the energy. I get it. I really do. But when the fear of it is choking the words off and my heart is about to leap from my throat and onto the floor in front of everyone, I don’t know if that advice applies. Regardless, I stood in front of that room full of people and I talked through the terror. I made myself face it because I realized I’d never get anywhere if I didn’t. 5-year-old me thought it was pretty simple. Why does 25-year-old me have to make it complicated?

Step 3: Define what I want and go get it. Failure is this incredible thing that teaches so many lessons and crushes so much confidence all in one swoop. It’s all about the position it takes within the construct of the mosaic of life. It’s part of the journey either way- but how much face time does it get? How much influence does it hold?

Step 4: Be true to who I am. The other day I took this painting workshop and the teacher was demonstrating a technique that she admitted she doesn’t like the end result of very much. Many in the class shook their heads in agreement and made little ‘mmhmming’ noises. I waited until she was done and holding the piece up before I spoke. “I actually think it’s beautiful. I love it” I said and then laughed awkwardly like the little kid who insists on dressing themselves then puts their underwear on backwards and pretends its the most comfortable thing in the world. My motto for the last little while has been “you just keep doing you”. I mean it ironically when someone does something really stupid but I also mean it authentically. How many of us are truly being us every moment and giving ourselves permission to live comfortably within that world?


Step 5: Exercise. I’ve literally been marking trips to the gym into my calendar so that I am attending 2-3 times a week. I had a trainer set up this wonderful program for me (and also demonstrate thoroughly because exercise equipment freaks me out and he was cute) that he had me commit to doing 2-3 time each week. That sounded like nothing. I knew I could easily commit to that but the truth is it’s harder than I thought to find the time because when life gets busy my first instinct is to ditch the stuff that’s purely for my health and enjoyment. My head and my heart feel better when I make the time and if I’m honest with myself it doesn’t seem like such an effort

I don’t really have the perfect formula. I’ve looked fear in the face and let myself be terrified of meeting someone for a first date, or standing in front of a room full of people and presenting while trying to hang on to their interest while doing my very best not to read directly off the page. I’ve surprised myself by doing the things I was sure I couldn’t. I don’t have all the answers but I’ve just celebrated a quarter century of my life and I want the next quarter century to be overcome with greatness. .