Tuesday, 30 December 2014

We were here yesterday.  It was bloody cold.  Too cold to stay for long.  We came home early. 

Friday, 26 December 2014


One of the big guy's images.  Pyramid Lake, Jasper.

We're heading there Sunday, except the lake will be frozen and covered in snow.  Today I am still in my pyjamas which feels rather decadent.  I ate cookies and bacon for breakfast and homemade spring rolls for lunch.  I had a good, rather long cry because my family was not together for Christmas and because my youngest daughter is still handicapped and doesn't understand that it's Christmas, or care for that matter.  And the big guy held me while I cried. 

I am one of those people for whom reality seldom meets my expectations.  I even have a little stone block on my bookshelf which says, "Happiness is wanting what you have.", and still I resist.

Right now the sunshine is streaming through the windows.  There is a hockey game on the TV and the big guy is gently snoring on the couch.  The cat is sitting beside the humidifier, staring intently at it, waiting for it to gurgle.  I get to spend everyday with the man I love.  I am blessed and still I feel unsatisfied.  It is getting better, but ever so slowly.  I try and fail.  Try again.  The mountains help.  When we're in the mountains I slow down and accept what is. 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Happy Solstice.
My daughter called me yesterday.  I can't remember the last time my daughter called me.  She was upset, stuff going on in her life.  I listened.  I told her that she was not crazy, that she was in fact a wonderful young woman, all true.  She called me, her mother.  We've have had a very strained relationship since she was fifteen, almost ten years.  Before that we had a wonderful relationship and I am most thankful that she called me and even more thankful that I can listen and not tell her what to do.  I trust her.  This is her journey, not mine.  I cannot tell her how to live her life, will not tell her how to live her life.  But I will support her.  She is my heart.  I still remember the day she was born as if it were yesterday.  She slid out of me, purple and yelling but she was the easiest baby to care for.  Having her was so wonderful, I wanted another baby, right now.  And then we had Katie.  Miss not so easy.
I also got a text from my son this morning which made me cry.  I love my children so much and this time of year it seems more intense.  They are the best thing I ever did and they are wonderful people, even Miss Katie who astonishes me always.
Apparently I am quite weepy this morning.  Strong emotions make me cry.  I need to stop apologizing for that.  I love my children.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

My middle daughter at Christmas, seven years ago.  I can't believe it's seven years ago already.  My family was still together.  I miss that this year.  My family broken up and spread out.  I'm not sorry I left my husband and my children would have left home anyway but still there is a sorrow attached to my nostalgia.  Maybe because I didn't know then.  Katie still lived at home.  I tucked her in every night;  I knew she was safe.  Of course it wasn't real.  My husband and I were unhappy.  My son was dealing drugs.  I could hardly manage to care for Katie anymore.  But my friend wasn't dying of cancer seven years ago either.

I ran into my girlfriend at work this morning.  She was coming in for a CT scan.  We sat and talked.  She got more bad news last week.  The cancer has continued to spread, now invading her hip bones as well.  She's on morphine every four hours to keep her comfortable.  It will be her last Christmas ever.  She and I both lost it in the front lobby and sat and cried, holding each other.  Not sure what my other patients must think but I don't really care.  I started her IV, took her papers into the CT area and burst into tears again. 

I decided to take a sick day but I waited until my friend was done her scan and I walked her to the front lobby to meet her husband.  We talked again about suffering, counselling, children and cancer.  There is so much suffering where I work and not just from cancer.  One patient has a wife with MS and he wants to find her a place to live before he dies;  they're in their thirties.  Another patient who is dying from his cancer just lost his wife to cancer last month;  she was my patient as well, as is her twin sister.  Everybody has their story and I know it's not new but today what the Buddha said hit home, human beings suffer. 

So I went to the mall because I don't want to suffer.  I bought a few tops for Katie's roommate for Christmas.  I felt better for a moment.  I looked around at all the clothes, all the decorations, all the stuff in the mall and it didn't make me feel better.  What did make me feel a little better is the understanding that I am sad and grieving because I am losing someone I love.  And yet, this is life.  Everything passes.  Nothing is permanent.  It's okay for me to feel sad and grieve my loss, even while she is still alive, but the grief will pass as well.  And that helps.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Things I'm thankful for today.

A walk in the river valley.
Time for Christmas baking, ground hazelnut cookies.
Homemade spring rolls.
New running shoes.
Talked to my middle daughter today.
My son is coming over for supper tonight.
The big guy told me how he was feeling today.
Seven more days of work and then I have almost two weeks off!
In two weeks the days will start to get longer.
I enjoyed my walk so much today.  It's been mild here and it was wonderful to be outside for an hour, listening to the birds, feeling the sunshine on my face, watching the dogs run and sniff and pee.
I saw a pileated woodpecker today while I was walking.
The smell of ham cooking.

What are you thankful for today?

Sunday, 7 December 2014

It's eight thirty in the morning and the sun has not risen yet.  Sunset is at 4:15 this afternoon.  This time of year I almost feel claustrophobic.  The days are so short and I crave sunlight.  Today we  won't get home until after four and it will be too late to walk in the river valley as the coyotes come out as the sun fades.  Sigh.

I need sunlight on my skin, not just my face.  I want to see green that's not a spruce or a pine.  I want.  I want.  I want.  I want what I do not have and do not want what I have.  Sigh.

Three weeks and the days will be getting longer. 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Miss Katie's roommate had a meltdown last weekend and put her head through the wall, or maybe her foot, I'm not really sure.  Katie had a sympathy meltdown of her own because when Angie gets upset, Katie gets upset.  Katie has a permanent lump now on her forehead from banging her head against the wall or the floor.  She also has another lump on her hand because when she's upset, she bangs her hand against her teeth. 

I can't stop any of these behaviors.  I've tried and tried but they continue.  And now that Katie no longer lives at home I have very little day to day contact with her.  I see her once a week.  We go bowling.  We have lunch.  There is a lot of talking and a lot of signing and then she goes home. 

Katie is very well cared for.  Her caregivers are truly wonderful people who have the patience of saints but I don't know how her live goes.  I don't get to tuck her in to bed at night.  I can't make sure she has a poop everyday.  I can't make sure her teeth are brushed properly every day.  I do cook for her but I don't get to sit with her after her bath and have her lay her head in my lap while she eats popcorn.  I miss that.  I don't miss the constant vigilance required to care for her though.  Nor do I miss the feeling of being in prison. 

So Katie living away from me, for five years now, brings feelings of ambivalence.  I wish I was the kind of person who could care for her every day but I know I'm not.  I cared for her for many years and now I can't.  But I do miss brushing her hair and tucking her into bed.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

I've been thinking about death and life a lot this past year.  This will probably be my girlfriend's last Christmas;  she's not yet fifty.  Her and I talked about what would be happening at her house this Christmas.  I asked if she needed any help with shopping and she said no, she just wanted to spend time with her family.  There isn't any gift that she would rather give or receive than time spent with her family. 

I spend all day with people who are often staring death in the face.  Some people want to travel but most want only to pull their families tightly around them in a warm embrace.  Because of my girlfriend, Christmas has taken on a new meaning this year for me.  What if this was my last Christmas?  How do I want to spend Christmas?  And what was my favorite Christmas?

Five years ago on Christmas Day my husband packed up his bags and left.  It's not quite as dramatic as it sounds.  He is a pilot and he always packed up his bags and left.  The difference this time was that he wasn't coming back, not to live anyway.  Of all the days he could have chosen to leave, he chose Christmas Day.  It was also three days before Katie was to move out to be cared for by the agency who now cares for her.

Four years ago my soon to be ex-husband came to help me with Katie at the beginning of December .  Katie had a dentist appointment and it's a really long day with Katie and the dentist and the drugs.  As I was driving to pick up Katie my husband proceeded to have a monumental meltdown in the van.  I won't go into details but I did ask him to stay away for Christmas that year.  It was the best Christmas I ever had.

Both of my older children were still living with me.  Katie and her aide, a young woman who had cared for Katie since she was eleven, joined us for the afternoon and supper.  My mum was alive and relatively healthy.  My two oldest went to West Edmonton Mall with Katie and her aide;  Katie loves the mall.  My mum and I cooked supper.  The six of us sat down and ate supper together.  When Katie was done eating and started to through her food around, I picked up the gingerbread house that her sister had made and set it in front of her.  Katie sat quietly, picking candies off of the gingerbread house and eating them.  We were able to finish our meal in peace.  Katie was happy.  It was lovely.

Afterwards while mum and my kids cleaned up, I drove Katie and her aide back home.  When I got back the kitchen was clean and we sat down to have dessert and watch a Big Bang marathon.  My kids had a few beers and played Janga.  My mum knit.  The cats sat with us.  It was lovely.  It was my favorite Christmas ever, even better than the Christmas I got an Easy Bake Oven.

I have no idea what anyone gave me for Christmas that year, nor do I remember what I gave as gifts.  What I do remember is sitting in the living room with the people I loved, laughing and eating peppermint cheesecake. 

What was your favorite Christmas memory?

Friday, 28 November 2014

I had a patient last week with a tattoo on her arm;  it read "Love is the anchor of the soul".  I believe that to be true but I think that I must first love myself and trust myself.  I grew up in a family in which I was told "Don't feel that way.  Don't say that."  What was real and what was presented as real didn't always match.  I found it very confusing.  I still find it very confusing.  If I don't like someone, I don't like them.  I don't pretend to like them sometimes and then talk about them behind their back.  I get confused when people do this and yet I know this is how the world works.

Mostly what I learned from my family was to not trust myself.  God, I hope my children trust themselves, although how they might have learned that would be a mystery as I certainly couldn't have taught them that.  Living with my ex-husband also taught me to not trust myself.  I was the "unstable one" in our relationship, or so I was told.  Except I wasn't.  My boss at work told me that my "negativity was bringing the whole department down" and I believed him.  Except when I look around it's untrue.  I have asked co-workers, is this true?  Am I bringing the department down and their answer is always no.  More craziness.  More moments to distrust myself.

So when I feel a knot in my stomach, a pounding in my chest, I try to ignore it, make excuses.  It's me. 

Along with this learning to trust myself, I'm learning how to accept and love myself as I am.  I don't have to be perfect to be loved.  I am loving and compassionate.  I am also passionate and when I feel emotions strongly, I cry.  I cry a lot.  When I'm upset, I cook or bake.  When I'm bored I'll bake.  I like to keep busy and I like to walk outside so that I can hear the trees.  I love dogs but I don't want to live with one because I don't want the responsibility anymore. I like my house clean and tidy.  I like my workplace clean and tidy too.  I am forgetful and sometimes I don't pay attention.  I like to exercise and enjoy the feeling of sore muscles the next day.  Sometimes I get lost in the past or in the future and forget today.  I am very organized.  I believe the best of people.  I am easily swayed.  I am all these things and more and I don't have to change a damn thing to love myself. 

Monday, 24 November 2014

Things I'm thankful for today.

Took Katie to Special Olympics Bowling yesterday and she had a good time.  No crying.  And she ate a lot of KFC.  I didn't get scratched or pinched and Katie was okay when I left her.
Made crème brulee for my girlfriend.
Make up a big pot of Thai coconut curry soup for my lunches for the week.
A lovely walk in the river valley yesterday.  The weather was mild and the snow was fresh.
A good night's sleep.
My depression seems to have lifted.  Not sure why but I am very thankful.
Watched a good movie on Friday night, "Enough Said" with James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Sunshine for awhile yesterday morning;  it was lovely.

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, 17 November 2014

Things I'm thankful for today.

I feel a little better.  I only cried a little bit today at work when I was missing supplies for the procedure and the doctor didn't show up because he was sick and I had to find another doctor to do the procedure;  then I put my big girl panties back on and got back to work.

I thankful my children are healthy.  My first patient today was the same age as my middle daughter.  The young woman has three children and is set for a stem cell harvest this week, after which they will destroy all of her blood cells and bone marrow and transplant her stem cells back into her. 

I'm thankful I got to go to Special Olympics bowling with Katie yesterday.  I truly believe there is no better group of people.  Poor Katie wasn't feeling well though, a bit of a cold.  She started crying and kept holding onto me.  Katie never holds onto me, except when she's pinching me.  It was bittersweet.  I got to hold my daughter but she was sobbing.

I have a photo show coming up, in a year, but still, it's coming up. 

I exercised yesterday.

I saw my both of my girlfriends with cancer on Friday at work.  My old friend and I had a nice long visit and we even got to go shopping in the gift shop, just like the old days.  She has a hard time walking now because she can't feel her feet, a side effect of the chemo.  And she's shaved her hair off because it was falling out in handfuls.  Her head is beautiful and we have the same color hair now, gray!  She loved the crème brulee and I'm so glad.  It's got lots of calories and protein for her. 

Thankful for a chance to sit down this evening.  My feet are tired from standing, wearing lead all day.

What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

I had a good long cry yesterday.  The big guy listened to me, talked to me and then hugged me.  He loves me, even though I leak tears almost daily.  As Elizabeth said, I am probably depressed.  I feel too much right now.  The pain around me seeps through my skin.  I work in cancer care;  I have friends with cancer now.  It kinda sucks.

I have started exercising again.  Fingers crossed I make the time for myself on a regular basis.  I have been so tired lately that I saw my doctor.  Everything is fine with my blood work.  I'm not as young as I once was but best treatment for fatigue is exercise.  It's just hard to fit in with full time work. 

I've been depressed for most of my life, off and on.  It sneaks up on me.  I'm not the kind of depressed person that takes to my bed.  I still work, still cook, still clean.  I just feel everything too much.  The boundaries between me and others gets blurred, especially with regards to pain.  Sigh.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

I took this photo with my phone.  It reminds me of a painting;  I think it's the light.  That was the river valley last weekend.  This weekend it's covered in snow and ice.  Sigh. 

I haven't been writing much but I have been thinking a lot.  I just found out another friend has been diagnosed with cancer.  The total is three now, all of them younger than me.  I know we all die.  I know that 2 in 5 people will get cancer during their lifetime.  Facts aren't people though.  Facts don't work with you, don't call you when you're feeling depressed, don't go shopping with your or have you over for supper. 

I've been very lucky really.  My children are healthy.  I'm healthy.  The big guy is healthy.  I have a job.  My mortgage is almost paid off.  But what I wants is my friend to not be dying.  As I type this crème brulee is cooking in the oven for her.  She loves crème brulee.  It's got lots of calories for her and she can taste it. 

I just feel kind of lost lately.  I'm past middle age now.  I'm fifty-two.  This is the last act of my life and I still feel ill equipped.  It feels like time is running out for me, although I'll probably live into my eighties, it still feels like the clock is winding down.  To what purpose?

I have three children.  I did a barely adequate job of raising them.  I have hurt those I love.  And I just really wonder what is the point of this whole thing.  I had a dream last week that seemed to go on forever.  Like most of my dreams it included all kinds of bizarre shit but the final bit of my dream was me falling to Earth in a spaceship, being told that I would have to keep going back (to Earth) until I got it right.

And that's what I've been doing for the past few weeks, months, for the past year it seems.  I guess I expect there to be an end point, like the end of a race.  And there will be something waiting for me, a prize for a medal or something, some way to know that I have made it, that I have gotten it, that I have figured it out.  When in reality there is no end point but just a continuing journey, of which this life here, is only one small part. 

I work with a woman who just wants to have a good time.  I'm not judging her, it's just the way she is.  She wants to go out on the weekends, loves parties, wants to have fun.  And part of me envies her but a much bigger part of me wouldn't want to live like that, the not seeing.  It's hard this looking within and it wears me down but I wouldn't give it up. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

The big guy and I went to a lecture yesterday morning given by Gabor Maté about Compassion and Social Inclusion.   "Dr. Maté has extensive experience working with patients in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and has championed a compassionate approach to supporting vulnerable populations . Dr. Maté will speak about compassion, addiction and inclusion."

There is a video making it's way around the internet right now about a homeless man, Ryan Arcand, in Edmonton who plays the piano. Dr. Maté started off talking about Ryan and the fact that people are surprised that this man not only plays the piano beautifully but that he also composes his own music.  This man, Ryan, is creative and produces works of art.  Then he went on to say that Ryan is no different than any one of us in the audience.  He has a soul.  He has dreams.  He has fears.  He is a human.  There is no difference between us except the things that we put there, between us.  Things like he is homeless.  He is an addict.  But those things are not him anymore than my fears are me.

Dr. Maté believes that addiction comes from some kind of childhood trauma, that it is an attempt to ease fears, to soothe, to feel better.  He pointed out that none of these things are bad things.  We all want to stop our pain, to feel better, to feel included, but the problem with addictions is what happens afterwards, the negative things that come after that initial feeling better. And we all do it.  We all want to feel better, we all want to stop the pain, ease the fears, feel a part of something.

Which is where compassion comes in, compassion not only for others, but for ourselves.  In fact the compassion that we need to feel for others can only start with ourselves for if we cannot be kind and compassionate with ourselves, how can we give that to others?  We also need to understand that we are all the same, there is no distance between us.

The talk he gave meandered through politics, modern culture versus tribal culture, addictions, racism, sexism, trauma, disease and most importantly, cultivation of compassion.  I cried more than once and he made me think.  I didn't agree with everything he had to say but I what I took away from his talk was the importance and need for compassion in our world. 

Two weeks ago I listened to a woman on the CBC radio show Tapestry discuss compassion and self kindness.  I didn't know what Gabor Maté's talk was about when I signed up to attend his lecture but as luck would have it, or perhaps the universe, the two went nicely together. 

I am a slow learner but it would seem that I about to learn how to become compassionate with myself and others.  I didn't learn kindness as a child but I am hopeful that I can learn to be gentle and kind with myself, hopeful that my children can learn as well because I was not able to teach them what was not taught to me.  And so it goes. 

Saturday, 18 October 2014

This is one of my favorite places in the world. 

It's been a difficult week, again.  I ran into another friend at work who is starting her cancer journey, one that will end with her death.  Two friends, two different cancers, two deaths. 

On Thursday, a co-worker (the one drives my crazy), made a patient's father cry with her insensitivity and her need to follow every single fucking rule, whether it applies to this situation or not, it didn't.  I confronted her, lost my cool, reported her to my manager.  Blah, blah, blah.  Nothing changes. 

I did have a job interview for another job, still within my hospital, but in outpatients.  We shall see.  I did cry during the interview, which might not have been a good idea, like I have any control over my tear ducts.  The last question in the interview was, What is your purpose in life?  I talked about souls and journeys and love and then started crying.  What can I say?  I am who I am. 

I have decided not to keep Annie the beagle.  Although she is a lovely dog, it's more responsibility than I want right now.  It was a trial adoption and next weekend she will go to a foster home. 

I've also decided to open my own photography business, which terrifies me.  What if I'm not good enough?  What if I screw up?  I still don't really understand the technical side of photography but I'm learning it.  I'm the kind of person who learns by doing.  My big guy bought me a lovely filter for my birthday in September which I learned how to use.  I love it!  I can learn.  I just have to believe that my work is worth money and work out the logistics. 

It's a beautiful day here today, warm, sunny and all the leaves have changed color.  I'm off to the river valley to take photos.

Take care.

Friday, 10 October 2014

It's Thanksgiving this weekend.  My son and his girlfriend will be over for supper on Sunday.  I wanted to go hiking with them this weekend in the mountains but they're both too busy with school.  My daughter in Vancouver will skype with us on Sunday.  I miss her but she's busy with school too.  I have to laugh because neither one of them graduated from high school and they're both getting business degrees.  We'll see Katie on Monday;  if the weather's still nice, we'll have a wiener roast down by the river and bring the dog.

We have a dog living with us, Annie.  She's here for a trial.  She's a very sweet, loving, well behaved beagle but I'm still not sure I want a dog in an apartment which is something I should have thought about for longer before taking her in.  I do like to delude myself though.  When I want something I tend to gloss over reality and tell myself that it will be fine.  We'll see.

The big guy and I spent last weekend recharging our batteries in Jasper.  The mountains were wonderful and worked their magic. 

I'm still finding work difficult.  Another friend of mine showed up yesterday.  She has ovarian cancer and the surgeon couldn't remove all of the cancer.  She's a year younger than me.  There have just been so many sad stories lately.  There is also so much love where I work.  I see men caring for their wives, wives caring for their husbands, friends supporting and loving their friends, parents coming in with their middle aged children who are now dying before the parents.  It's a difficult place to work but a wonderful place as well.  I think it's all just to close right now with my girlfriend dying of cancer as well. 

I called my girlfriend this past week.  I'm reluctant to go over their because I don't want to interfere with the time she has with her family.  She asked me how I was and I told her that I was feeling depressed.  When she asked why I told her I was sad because she was dying and she said, "Oh Deb, I'm sorry." I pointed out to her that she was the one with the cancer.  She told me how much food people have been bringing over.  Nobody knows what to do, myself included, so we make food.  She said that one week they had six batches of homemade cinnamon buns.  I couldn't stop laughing.  Her girls are sick of lasagna, another staple apparently.  She has all her siblings coming this weekend to see her and I told her to make sure that she lets them take of her. 

I'm reading a book right now called "For Joshua" by Richard Wagamese.  He is an alcoholic, estranged from his sons due to his alcoholism.  It's a book for his son but it's a book about living as an alcoholic as well.  I have a hard time with alcoholics, they cause so much collateral damage to those living around them but this book helps me to understand the reasons that he drank.  We all have our addictions. 

Things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend.

A long weekend.
A beautiful, warm, sunny day.
A dog to walk with.
My children.
The big guy.
My friends.
My bed, very soon.

What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Things I'm thankful for today.

Spoke with my dying girlfriend on the phone.  We laughed and cried. 
Walked in the river valley.
Made meals for Katie.
Made carrot muffins.
Scrubbed the bathroom.
Lots of hugs and understanding from the big guy.  He's a good man and I'm lucky to have him in my life.

Monday, 6 October 2014

My favorite waterfall, Tangle Creek Falls.  The big guy and I spent the weekend in Jasper, wandering around the mountains, taking photos and walking our new dog, Annie.

Annie is a seven year old beagle with food allergies.  Who knew dogs could be allergic to foods.  They eat shit after all.  She is a lovely dog though, good natured and good with cats which is a plus.

I continue to think about death more than is probably good for me.  Another friend emailed me last week to let me know that she's just had a mass removed from her abdomen and that she would be visiting me at work.  I do love my work but I truly wish that cancer did not exist. 

I find myself often thinking about my girlfriend, saying goodbye to her girls, saying goodbye to her friends and family, to her husband and I wonder how she can get up each day.  But it's not like she has a choice.  I miss her already and she's not even dead and then I feel bad.  I know it's called anticipatory grief but it's still grief and that's exactly what it feels like. 

I try to remember there are always things to be thankful for.  I remember when the kids were little, sometimes the only thing I was grateful for was that I didn't yell at them that day. 

Today the things I'm grateful for:

The sunshine and warm weather.
Fall leaves and cool nights.
A full moon.
A weekend in the mountains surrounded by beauty.
Friends and hugs.
My bed.

What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

I'm back at work.  Life goes on.  Holidays are nice because I can forget my real life.  My girlfriend with cancer came in today for an x-ray.  She looks frail and wobbly;  she moves slowly and needs help to stand up.  She is forty-eight years old. 

I had a twenty year old patient today.  She has osteosarcoma that has spread to her brain and lungs.  Her baby was delivered by C-section at 25 weeks this past summer so that she could begin treatment.  She's dying and her baby remains in NICU.

Another patient told me today that her chemo has stopped working.  She sold her condo and is planning on traveling, first class, five star.

It's too much sometimes.  I think that's why I liked the beach so much in England.  It took my mind off life, although not really.  I thought about death as I wandered up and down this beach.  Thought about our souls, our connections to each other, to the Universe. 

Mostly I'm sad because my friend is dying and I don't want to burden her with my sadness. 

Sunday, 28 September 2014

I survived my first overseas trip by myself.  In fact I not only survived, I enjoyed myself which was a pleasant surprise.  I visited my Auntie Fran, who is now as frail as my mum, and we had lots of time to visit and reminisce.   I survived both her cooking and her driving.  I spent time in one of my favorite towns, Rye, pictured above.

We made it to the Fire Hills and I learned how prickly gorse is. 

I found so many heart shaped stones on the beach I had to start taking photos of them as I couldn't have fit them all in my luggage.  It's amazing what you find when you take the time to pay attention.

I spent a lot of time on Winchelsea Beach, wandering, looking at stones and thinking about life and death.

More time spent in Rye.

And Winchelsea Beach again, looking toward the Fire Hills.  It was a good trip for me, a boost to my self confidence and a chance to miss and appreciate the big guy. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

This is one of my favorite photos.  My mother has the straw hat on, my Auntie Fran is in the middle and my aunt's best friend Ann has the blue hat on.  I'm leaving tomorrow evening to visit my aunt in England.  I miss mum and so does Auntie Fran.  My visit will be a chance for both of us to remember mum. 

Thursday, 11 September 2014

I learn and forget and learn and forget.  Sometimes I remember, but not often.  Shit happens.  The world is filled with suffering.  I can't stop the suffering.  I seek equanimity.  That's what I'm striving for and falling short of.  But I'm trying. 

Breathe in, breathe out. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

A Brief for the Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

I think this poem came from Elizabeth's page.  It's how I'm feeling.  There is sorrow everywhere and still I need to enjoy my life.  The sorrow feels too heavy though.  My friend is dying.  I lay in bed last night wondering what is the point of life.  We're born, we live, we suffer, we die.  And in between all of that we love.  I believe that's the point of life, or at least I think I believe that.  I love my friend and still she will die.  She loves her children, her husband, her life and still she will die. 

I know that we all die.  I'm a nurse.  I have taken care of dying patients all of my working life but this is different.  She is not my patient, she is my friend.  One day she will stop breathing.  She will be gone.  Her children will grow up and get married and have their own children and she will be gone from their lives.  Our lives will continue on.  Life doesn't stop for those who are dying.  They take their last breath and life continues on. 

Today we had a young woman, only twenty-one, with cancer and a brand new baby that had to be delivered weeks early so that she could receive treatment.  Last week we had a six year old, the granddaughter of a co-worker, with an inoperable brain tumor.  It's been too much lately.  Do we live only to die?  What is the point? 

Friday, 5 September 2014

Things I'm thankful for today.
I got to swim in this lake while on holidays. 
It's Friday.
None of my children were ever diagnosed at age six with a brain tumor.  (That girl broke my heart this week;  her parents and grandma too.)
Got to see patients this week that I hadn't seen in awhile and they're still alive and doing well.
Sold my first photo.
Mostly I'm just thankful that this week is over.  The six year old broke my heart.  We called a code this morning because a patient had an allergic reaction.  I worked with the world's most oblivious, disorganized, just plain mean nurse.  And I'm leaving in two weeks for England to visit my elderly aunt which sounds like a good thing until I realized I've been feeling down because this is the first time I've ever gone to England without my mum and I fucking miss her still.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

I'm reading another wonderful book, "Knocking on Heaven's Door" by Katy Butler.  There was a passage that caught my eye, "I wish I could say that I remembered the Buddha's Second Noble Truth:  that suffering is caused by wishing that things (and people) were different;  and by trying with equal vehemence to stop things from changing in the evanescent world, likened by poets to a drop of dew."

I produce my own suffering for wanting circumstances and people to be different than what they are.  Kinda puts a new spin on things for me.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

I just finished reading a very good book, "Drinking: A Love Story" by Caroline Knapp.  It's a book about alcoholism, about women, about families.  It's a memoir written by Caroline Knapp, an alcoholic for twenty years. 

I've known alcoholics my whole life.  I saw what my grandmother did to my father, even though I never met my grandmother.  My sister's husband periodically blew through our family like a tornado, leaving destruction in his wake.  My son's father.  My daughters' father.  My partner.  I've cared for alcoholics going through withdrawal, shaking and swearing as their bodies dried out.  I've cared for alcoholics who had destroyed their livers and were now dying slowly, turning yellow and becoming confused, or quickly, bleeding out of their mouths and their rectums.  I've cared for alcoholics who had destroyed their minds and could no longer feed themselves or toilet themselves.  But I've never really understood why they do what they do.  Until now.

Caroline helped me to understand what it's like living as an alcoholic.  Why she did what she did.  How she lived like she did.  Three quarters of the way through the book I wanted to know more about her so I googled her name.  Sadly I found out she had died in 2002 of lung cancer.  I felt like I had lost a friend.

Here's an excerpt from her book.

"Al-Anon...estimates that every alcoholic's drinking affects at least four other people.  We worry parents, lovers, co-workers, anyone close who crosses our paths.  We lose our tempers with them, we blame them for our troubles, we push them away.  We never quite let them in, let them know us too well, because we're afraid that if they got too close they'd be appalled at what they'd find.  Accordingly, a great deal of the active alcoholic's energy is spent constructing facades, an effort to present to others a front that looks okay, that seems lovable and worthy and intact.  Inside versus outside; version A, version B.  The double life grows more sophisticated and more deeply entrenched.
Mostly, we lie.  That's a statement of fact, not a judgment.  Alcoholics like about big things, and we lie about small things, and we lie to other people and (above all) we lie to ourselves."

What got me the most was her assertion that alcoholism was about not feeling.  She drank to anesthetize herself, to stop feeling anything.  I can understand the desire to not feel but couldn't, wouldn't go there because to not feel pain or sadness or fear means to also not feel joy or love or compassion.  You can't have one without other.  It was a wonderful, sad and profound read. 


Sunday, 24 August 2014

I lovely lady died a few days ago.  I never knew her or of her.  Her name was Gillian Bennett and she took her own life this past week.  She died in her garden, her husband of sixty years laying beside her as she slowly stopped breathing.  Gillian was eighty-five years old and was diagnosed with dementia three years ago.  She did not want to suffer the indignities that go along with dementia care, or have her family suffer either.  I would do the same if it were me. 

  Here are her last words.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Eleven years after a fire on Highway 93, fireweed living up to it's name.

Castle Mountain.

Moraine Lake, early morning.

Mount Revelstoke.

We're back from holidays.  We took 2500 photos between the two of us.  The mountains were beautiful but so hot.  It made me wonder what will happen when the last glacier melts. 

The holiday was successful.  It made me miss home and work.  I saw my daughter in Vancouver and my sister in Penticton.  I cried when I said goodbye to my daughter.  I miss her still and she's lived out there for almost three years.  She's a strong, smart woman and I'm proud to be her mother.

My sister made me cry as well.  I cried for what I never had.  I'm good at that, wanting things that never were.  I have twin sisters that are almost sixteen years older than me.  I am the outsider, not included, never included.  I didn't realize how much that hurt until lately. 

The best part of our holiday, apart from seeing my daughter, was hiking.  I've never really hiked before and I loved it.  Can't wait to do some more. 

Friday, 1 August 2014

Mount Revelstoke

We're leaving on holidays tomorrow morning.  We're going to visit my daughter in Vancouver.  We're going to wander through the mountains, taking photos and hiking.  The best part, no work for two and a half weeks.  I need a break.  I need to recharge my batteries.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The bathrooms are both finished and I am thankful.  The floor looks beautiful and both toilets work.  I am so thankful for flush toilets. 

 We went for a walk at the Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary this afternoon.  Took some photos of birds and flowers.  It was wonderful to see families there, children without electronic devices. 

And then we went for a walk down by the river to get a stick for the big guy.  He wants to make himself a walking stick for our upcoming hiking trip.  To our surprise we found out that there is a sandy beach by Devon.  There were kids and parents and dogs, all enjoying the sun and the water. 

It was a very good day.  My home is put back together.  I got to spend time by the river.  I am thankful.

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, 21 July 2014

Who am I?
I've been thinking about this question a lot lately.  I'm seeing a counselor, dealing with my co-dependency issues, writing and thinking.  I didn't know I was co-dependent.  I take care of everybody.  I took care of my mother for as long as I can remember, protected her from my father and his anger.  I took care of my sister's children when her husband was too drunk or unreliable to take care of them himself.  I took care of my children.  I took care of Miss Katie, still take care of her, and will take care of her until I die.  I took care of both my parents as they aged and then died.  I took care of my ex-husband.  I take care of the big guy, although I don't think he realizes this or understands this.  I take care of my patients.  I take care of and it turns out I do it to my own detriment.  How could I get to be fifty-one and not know this about myself?  But now I know.
So to answer my question, who am?
I am:
a woman
a mother
a daughter
a lover
an ex-wife
a friend
a caregiver
a nurse
a sister
a walker
a writer
a meditator
a photographer
an animal lover
a baker
a handywoman
an introvert
a scared little girl
a survivor
I'm practicing meditation now.  I'm not good at it;  I'm practicing.  I finally figured out that's why it's called a meditation practice, because you practice.  I started writing again which feels good.  I stopped writing when I met the big guy.  I need to write.  It's how I sort shit out.  I'm reading books about co-dependency and apparently I'm not crazy or alone which felt very good. 
I've felt crazy for most of my life.  When I started reading "Adult Children Secrets of Dysfunctional Families: The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families" and then "Codependent No More" it felt like these people had grown up with me, lived with me my whole life.  It wasn't just me.  I'm thankful.  I'm also seeing a counselor who is such a kind man.  I'm starting to understand how much fear I've lived with my whole life and I'm learning how to move beyond that fear. 
I think that last descriptor answered my question best, I am a survivor. 

Friday, 11 July 2014

Things I'm thankful for today.

I got to walk on this beach last weekend.
I was able to come home from work today early because I was sick.  Not everyone has sick days.
I napped for three hours with the cat laying beside me.
A quiet evening with the big guy.
Listening to the magpies outside through the open windows.
A very good counselor.
Leaves on the trees.  I love trees, in the spring when their leaves are bright green and new, in the summer when their leaves are full and rustle in the wind, in the fall when their leaves turn color and fall and even in the winter when the trees stand naked, pointing towards the sky.
My bed, where I'm heading shortly.

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, 7 July 2014

The same world that produces such beauty also produces cancer.  My girlfriend's cancer survived six weeks of radiation, four rounds of chemo and surgery.  She almost didn't survive.  The cancer has though.  Pathology report came back, it's not fucking dead.

I am  beyond sad tonight.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

a literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character's words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.

I'm reading a book right now, recommended to me by my counselor, "Codependent No More" by Melody Beattie.  On the fly leaf it says, "How to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself." and that's pretty much what it's about.  The irony is, as I read this book I start thinking about other people whom I should give a copy of this book to.  I mutter fuck to myself and then continue on reading about how to help myself.

Excerpts from the book.

     I saw people who were hostile;  they had felt so much hurt that hostility was their only defense against being crushed again.  They were that angry because anyone who had tolerated what they had would be that angry.

     They were controlling because everything around and inside them was out of control.  Always, the dam of their lives and the lives of those around them threatened to burst and spew harmful consequences on everyone.  And nobody but them seemed to notice or care.

     I saw people who manipulated because manipulation appeared to be the only way to get anything done.  I worked with people who were indirect because the systems they lived in seemed incapable of
tolerating honesty.

     I worked with people who thought they were going crazy because they had believed so many lies they didn't know what reality was.

All of what she writes strikes a chord with me and I keep thinking she must have lived with me for pretty much my whole life.  Apparently I'm not crazy. 

Monday, 30 June 2014

Waterton National Park

I was here yesterday morning, overlooking this beautiful lake.  We had a lovely weekend and then I had a breakdown/breakthrough, on the way home.  It's a long story but basically I burst into tears in a restaurant on the way home when the big guy asked me why didn't I just tell him what I wanted.

I started crying and couldn't stop crying.  I had to leave and go sit in the car;  I told the big guy some of what was going through my head.  And then I cried for the next two hours until we got home.  Good times.

One of my earliest memories is of me standing in front of my mother while my mother cried, wrung her hands and said, "I wish I could just leave."  I was three years old.  I was still wearing diapers and a onesie when I realized that a mother could leave and that I didn't matter. 

I've felt invisible for most of my life. When the big guy and I walk, people literally walk into me.  They don't see me.  When I was growing up, it didn't matter what I wanted, I was told what would be.  My mother never learned how to ask for what she wanted;  she learned instead how to manipulate to get what she wanted.  She didn't teach me a healthy way to ask for what I wanted.

Last night I realized I believe that I am unlovable, invisible, not wanted.  Still.  I don't ask for what I want because I don't believe anybody cares.  I also have a belief that if people loved me, they would know what it was that I wanted and they would just give it to me.  Love for me doesn't include the answer no obviously.  The big guy also pointed out to me that by not asking for what I want I also take no responsibility for what happens. 

In my head I know that this is not true but deep inside of me there is still that little girl who feels invisible to her mother.  That little girl is the one that needs to believe that she is loveable and then she needs to learn how to ask for what she wants instead of doing what she thinks others want her to do and then feeling resentful.

My parents were not horrible people.  They were deeply flawed, wounded people, much like me.  I know that I have wounded my own children as well which  breaks my heart because I never meant to do that, just as my own parents never meant to hurt me.  And so it goes. 

It's tiring work this growing up. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Things I'm thankful for today.

A cyst removal and biopsy that hurt even less than the doctor said it would.
Five days off!
Three days spent here.
The tiling is almost done.
My laundry room/closet will now be a very cheerful yellow.
Cheese and crackers.
A new meditation practice and by practice I mean practice, as in learning and failing and trying again.
A wonderful counselor that's helping me.
Did I mention five days off? 

What are thankful for today?

Friday, 20 June 2014

I took this photo five minutes ago.  My washer, dryer and stove are all where my dining table should be.  The floors have been stripped of the vinyl flooring.  There are stacks of tiles everywhere, waiting for the contractor to come tomorrow.  The cat sleeps blissfully on the back of the couch.  My back hurts.  And I hate chaos!  Why did I ever think this was a good idea?  Shit.