Today I’m Reminded…

Today – and most days –, I’m reminded of a woman who I was fortunate to know in my lifetime: She was my Great Aunt M and she was one of the most kind and loving people I’ve ever known. Today is the day she was born and I prefer remembering it than dwelling on the day I witnessed her passing away. Even though I live thousands of miles away from where she once lived, and can’t place yellow flowers on her grave, I pay homage to her memory as often as I can because I learned so much about compassion and unconditional love from her.

She was the kind of person who, although quiet, was strong. Not everyone can survive being put on a ship alone as a young adult and sent thousands of miles away from your family to make your mark in the world. Not everyone would have been able to thrive in a place where they knew no one, but had to prove themselves knowledgeable and capable of saving lives from the very first moment they reported to a new job, but she did. Every person whose life she touched, in even the smallest way, still remembers her. The goodwill of her deeds still lives on in the community where she lived, eventually married, and raised her children.

I’ve been the beneficiary of that goodwill each time I’ve visited her small town and someone has made the connection between who she was and who I am. The pride felt in those moments is overwhelming, and added to the love and respect I already felt for the woman who loved me my whole life. It also made me feel more fortunate that what I know of her came to me, not from her professional life, but from moments that are more intimate. Times where I was fed favourite meals by her, walking with her through the streets of her town on cool summer mornings, sharing cups of tea with her dearest friends after shopping in the local market, or receiving small gifts that always arrived in time for my birthday.

Her memory keeps me positive because every time I think of her I know that somewhere inside me lives the things she taught simply by living her life. I know that I can be strong and survive anything life throws my way. When I am fearful, I know that the courage I need to overcome whatever I’m facing is within me. I know a smile and words of kindness can go a long way to make another person’s day or life better. When I am sad, I have wonderful happy memories in which she lives that I can recall. I know the value of doing good in the world because her work and its legacy live on. Most importantly, I know what it is to be loved unconditionally and what can come of giving love in the same way.

Today I honour the memory of my Great Aunt M and I am grateful I had the opportunity to know her.

 

 

Mood Soothing Blooms

Yesterday I was having a tough day, with respect to pain and mood. Of course, in my case, one feeds the other and sends me into a downward spiral of agony. The day had started reasonably well – even though I hadn’t slept much the night before – then an abrupt about-face came because I was angered by something someone said to me. I know that becoming angry doesn’t work in my favour – it never has –, but controlling one’s temper isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

With the hope that it might pull me out of my prickly mood, I practiced a guided iRest meditation, but my mind kept skipping out to engage with other thoughts and memories. I had, however, committed at the beginning of the meditation to accept whatever might show up during my practice so I didn’t stop before the end of the recording. When it finished I was grateful that I worked through it because, as I usually do, I felt sleepy. I was able to fall off to sleep for about an hour until my slumber was interrupted; first by a phone call from my pharmacy and then immediately after hanging up, by a heavy knock at my door.

My annoyance was elevated again because the short sleep hadn’t helped to reduce my pain, so walking to my front door was more than uncomfortable. I was further annoyed when the person hammering my door refused to identify himself until I opened it. When I did open the door, he asked me my name from behind what appeared to be a box overflowing with shocking pink and white tissue paper that he handed to me. Because I was still somewhat foggy with sleep, I almost lost my balance when the weight of the box shifted to my hands. When I shut the door, I was a bit confused by what had just happened because I wasn’t expecting any deliveries.

Mood Soothing Blooms

The overstuffed box of tissue paper turned out to be a beautiful bouquet of a dozen assorted roses. The timing of their arrival couldn’t have been planned more accurately. I knew who sent them as soon as I ripped off the paper and saw each beautiful bright bloom and I was so grateful they arrived when they did. The flowers lifted my mood and proved to be a welcome gift of distraction from what I was feeling physically and emotionally. I know they were meant to be a Valentine’s Day gift, but they delivered a more meaningful message by arriving a day early. They remind me that even though others might engage in negative behaviours, which I sometimes allow to affect me too deeply, there are always those who love and value me for who I am.

Thank you B!

 

Keep Safe Old Friend

Today is the birthday of a friend of mine from high school. I haven’t seen her in years, but I never forget that this day is her birthday. As many do, our paths diverged after high school: I went to university; she went right to work then soon became pregnant with her first child. Being from a religious family, they made her choices for her. She would marry the boy she barely loved, or knew well, and raise a family. That boy became an abusive husband and father, who beat her during both her pregnancies and whenever else it suited him; facts she hid from me for a long time.

When she first told me, I felt outraged and wanted to do everything in my power to punish him and to change her situation: she and her children could stay with me as long as necessary so she could figure out what she needed and wanted to do for herself, for them. She never left him because both families and her religion forbade it. Family elders and their priests counselled them, but the abuse never ended. It evolved, becoming the thing that controlled her life, isolated her, made her ill, and a shadow of the vibrant person she once was.

All these years later, I still become overwhelmed with grief and anger, and well up with tears when I think of the smart beautiful funny girl she was and the hopeless woman she became. There is nothing I wouldn’t have done to help her leave him and nothing I wouldn’t do now. On the odd occasion when we talk on the phone because he’s not lurking somewhere nearby, the topic and the possibilities of how she could leave still arise, but the fear she feels for herself and her children outweighs all else. So, I tell her to keep herself safe and reluctantly hang up and wait for the next time she calls.

I don’t know if she received the birthday message I sent to her by text this morning. I didn’t get a reply. I can only hope she did receive it and believe that telling her I love her makes a difference in her day, and in this fraction of her life. When you love someone that’s what you want for them: goodness and the best of everything. Even when you know, the chances of that happening are slim. Nevertheless, just in case, I’ll send another birthday wish into the universe for my old friend with all the love in my heart, and I’ll pray that she’s keeping safe.

 

Elton John – Friends

 

InkTober: Day 9 – Broken

I have broken four of the ten brightly coloured mugs my younger brother bought me for Christmas almost twenty years ago. He was a teenager then, and it made me feel special that he spent so much of the money from his after-school job to buy them for me. Each time I drink from one of them, I’m reminded of my brother and how much I love him. Each time I break one, even though I know it’s not a big deal to my brother, I feel a bit of guilt and disappointment in myself for not taking better care of these gifts he gave to me. Isn’t it amazing how much meaning we attach to things?

InkTober - Day 9 - Broken

 

Gratitude and Creativity: A Blade Of Grass

It appears that the Penny Dreadful television series had an unexpected impact on me: the darkness, the fear, the gore, and the intensity that held it all together. One episode in particular, Episode 4 of Season 3, ‘A Blade of Grass’, where the character played by Eva Green, Vanessa Ives, relives the trauma of her forgotten institutionalization really moved me. The loneliness, pain, and terror she experiences in her padded cell are raw. Watching her live through every moment was frightening and made me cry at times. However, a few words from that episode clung to my mind: not even a blade of grass.” The context in which they are said is meant to convey hopelessness, but I felt inspiration from them.

It took a bit of turning the words over, in my head and in type, but I was finally able to weave them into poetry.

A Blade of Grass

 

No More Dark Thrills

I don’t usually like watching horror or occult-themed shows or movies, and definitely not alone. However, in keeping my mind occupied there is a certain show I can’t seem to turn away from when it’s on the screen that falls within these genres. Truthfully, I go searching for it to catch up on episodes I’ve missed. The show is Penny Dreadful and airs on Showtime Networks. Eva Green a former “Bond girl” and former teen heartthrob Josh Hartnett play lead characters. The main cast is rounded out by Timothy Dalton’s role as an adventuring, aristocratic Victorian gentleman, which he plays as brilliantly as he once played James Bond; and while I’m not as familiar with each member of the supporting cast, they each play their parts brilliantly.

After watching a shocking episode on Sunday night, it disappointed me to learn online last night that it was the unexpected series finale. The show was in its third season. The blurb on the Showtime Network website describes the series’ concept as, “Some of literature’s most terrifying characters, including Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, Dorian Gray, and iconic figures from the novel Dracula are lurking in the darkest corners of Victorian London. They are joined by a core of original characters in a complex, frightening new narrative. Penny Dreadful is a psychological thriller filled with dark mystery and suspense, where personal demons from the past can be stronger than vampires, evil spirits and immortal beasts.

As terrifying as some as the plot lines are, they fascinated me and made it impossible for me to turn away. I find it believable that within each of us lurks a primal beast just below the surface of our skins. Not to mention the myriad unknown creatures living in the darkest corners of the world and the immeasurable powers they might wield, what some might characterize as supernatural. It frightens and intrigues me to think that we might only see and exist in a small fraction of reality, and that there is a constant battle between the forces of good and evil; not in a religious sense but in relation to the negative and positive energies that fuel the universe and how they emerge. How do we decide which of those pulls to yield to and to what extent we can resist temptation from each pole?

A more intriguing question is whether it is even possible to withstand such powers alone; or if we must, as the show suggests, rely on the strength of others to carry us through darkness. And greater still, is this unending struggle the reason love, in all its forms, is capable of pushing beyond so many perilous situations, especially when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to receive it? Maybe I’m seeing more symbolism than what’s actually present in this chilling dramatic series, but each time the darkness rises up it is one form of light or another that breaks it down. If anyone watched this show, I’d be curious to know if you agree with me.

 

Penny Dreadful – Remember Us Better Than We Are

 

I Won’t Let Pain Stop Me From Comforting A Child

I love my cousin’s children. It was incredible witnessing the birth of her third child a few months ago and having been there makes me feel a strong connection to him. However, her older son – he turned three recently – is working on staking a permanent claim on a corner of my heart. He is one of the sweetest, good-natured children I’ve ever known. He’s affectionate, empathetic, already fiercely protective of those he loves, and hopelessly irresistible. So irresistible, it’s impossible for me to say no to him.

When I spend time with him, my lap becomes his favourite place to sit. He plants himself on my lap for comfort, play, and conversations I sometimes have to pretend to understand – after all, not all three-year-olds have perfect pronunciation. I also become his go-to person when he needs to use the potty. He comes to me, no one else, tells me he has to go, then takes my hand, and leads me to the bathroom. I have to hold him in place so he doesn’t fall into the toilet bowl while he does his business then clean him up, and help him get re-dressed. This may not be my favourite part of spending time with him, but the trust he places in me feels like an enormous privilege.

The only problem with not saying no to him is that it adds to my pain levels. Unfortunately, he weighs more than his newborn brother so having him sit on my lap is one of the best and least enjoyable parts of spending time with him – if that makes any sense. There’s also the issue of how often he needs to use the potty because it means standing and sitting back down for the countless trips with him to the bathroom; or wherever else he feels like leading me: getting snacks from the kitchen or finding his toys. All of this added activity puts a strain on my legs and pelvis; and is most likely the reason I had the intense pain flare I wrote about in my last post after an overnight visit to celebrate his birthday two weeks ago.

Still, no matter how I try to justify it, none of this feels like a good enough reason to deny this little boy the physical closeness that gives him comfort, makes him feel secure, and happy. I also have to admit that even with the added pain; I don’t want to change how I interact with him because I want him to feel loved by me always.

 

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Teach Your Children