Monday, July 28, 2008

not camping

Really, we're not.

We're Kamping. (my sister coined this valuable phrase).We'll probably end up sandwiched between two enormous motor homes on a site with no shade. This is as close as we can get to camping without actually killing each other.

Do I sound excited, or what?

I haven't had time to put my thoughts on paper since last Thursday. There is so much sadness in my heart right now. I can't stay. I can't not stay.

It would be great if we were roommates, or best friends. I get through things by pretending that's what we are. It would be easier if things were hard. Really.

I'll think for a while "It will be okay. I can do this." But the minute he touches me, something inside me shrinks. That's the only way to explain it. Mind you, this is not a new feeling - since Emily was born, I've been slowly losing my drive, and I've been at best a passive participant in things sexual. I thought that there was something wrong with me, that I was frigid, or that my drive was lower than normal. You know, getting older and all that.

Now that I've acknowledged my sexual identity, the thought of being with him is not appealing. I wish it was. I try. But I can't bring myself to...and I feel guilty about it, and I try harder and it gets worse.

Things have to change. I know what this means. I hope that we can find a way to make the transition for E as smooth and comfortable as humanly possible. And if we can make some arrangement where we can live in the same house, aleit separately for a time, so much the better. I don't know.

The good thing is that we are good friends. And I can talk to him about this - I think. It will be the hardest thing to tell him, and I know it has to happen, but I keep putting it off. How? How do you break someone's heart?

Friday, July 25, 2008

never too late

holy s***

I think I just wrote a song.

I'm 43. I've never written a song before. But that's how what was inside came out.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

random notes

I have a few things on my brain
The YMCA has got to be one of the best places in the world to write. Don't ask me why. It's busy, crowded (especially in the summer when there's all kinds of camps going on) and not particularly quiet. But on Wednesday afternoons when E goes to Fun Factory, I can turn out some of the best stuff. An added bonus; The cafeteria (not run by a corporation, but by a nice lady and her daughter) will serve me my food and beverages in washable dishes instead of plastic and styrofoam. I should be working out on Wednesday afternoons, but in the summer I'd rather hike, and I do resistance work at home.

Resolved:I will not read the Toronto Sun while at Tim Horton's drinking my coffee. Or any other time. My blood pressure goes up when I look at the cover. But it's like the playboy magazines that my uncle used to stash in his outhouse - I can't not look. First I read an article about how the Ontario OPP commissioner threatened native activist Shawn Brant during a 2007 blockade. We know this now because a publication ban on evidence in his trial has finally been lifted - the OPP wiretapped his phones, and the calls were recorded. Then I read an opinion piece which branded Brant, and Omar Khadr as terrorists - both of them. And the columnist who wrote the opinion used every bigoted, biased word he could think of in the telling of his story.
For those of you who don't know, Khadr has been held at Guantanamo since 2002. He was captured at the age of 15. But for some reason, in spite of the fact that he was brainwashed and indoctrinated, he is not a child soldier. Another column in the same paper noted that Khadr should be grateful to the US government for providing him with three square meals a day, which he would not have gotten at home.
Can you see why my blood started boiling by the time I got to page 16? And then I closed it and put it back on the shelf, never to be held between my hands again. I'll read the Auto Trader in a bored moment before I pick up that rag again.

There was an amazing thunderstorm last night. I love storms. This one was particularly awesome, with the clouds building and darkening in the northwest for a long time before it broke. There were a few rumbles of thunder, and then the dog and I went out for a walk. We walked very quickly, and made it to the cemetery just at that magic moment when the wind suddenly starts to pick up. Just a bit, and then stronger. You know at that point that the rain will start any minute, but it's impossible to go in, not when the clouds are rolling and the thunder is rumbling in the air. When the drops started to fall we ran home and watched the storm from the front porch. I discovered yesterday that I can run. I haven't tried to run since I was in ninth grade.

The storm was heavy and quick, with rain and hail pounding the streets and my garden. Branches came down, and for only the second time in my life, I was strongly inclined to go to the basement. I would not be surprised to hear that a tornado touched down somewhere last night.

Today my sunflowers are intact, but all sitting at crazy angles. I've been accused of trying to grow a meadow in my front yard. I'd say that's fair. There is a cherry tree somewhere between the flowers, but it's too small to see.

I took my first beans out of the garden today. My garden is a princely 6 feet by 8 feet, which is literally all the room I have. We have a very small yard. I'd like a farm, someplace where I can actually grow enough to feed my family. But I still have three kinds of basil! And enough tomatoes to feed the neighbourhood.

Monday, July 21, 2008

the skin i'm in

I stepped on the scale this morning.

I weigh under 200 pounds for the first time in, like, forever.Seriously. I think I was probably over 200 for most of high school, certainly since having my first child almost 19 years ago.

I've lost 100 pounds in 9 1/2 months.

Okay, breathe.

It's exciting and euphoric and scary as hell. I look good. The problem is that most of the time when I look in the mirror, I don't recognize the person looking back. Who is she, this woman who actually has shape, who has decided that she's not going to hide anymore?

Well, she used to look like this:

And now she looks like this:

When I thought, a year ago, about what I might look like, I figured I'd look like me, only smaller. With wrinkly, old skin because your skin, they tell you, might be loose when you lose the weight. That didn't happen, probably because I've been working with weights. I have curve, and definition. My hair got curly instead of falling out. My skin is clear. You can see my eyes. I've lost two cup sizes and have gone from a 24/26 to a 14/16.

Like I said, sometimes I don't recognize myself.

I thought I knew what I signed up for when I had the surgery - I thought I was prepared for the emotional changes that weight loss would bring.

I wasn't.

More than a year ago, the sisters in my coven and I went on a weekend away, to a cottage on Georgian Bay, to hang out, eat, do ritual, bond a little more. At least that was the idea. It mostly worked. Except that I have a very thin skin when it comes to a few things, and I took exception to what one of my lovely sisters was telling me, in her effort to be honest, to draw me out.

"You're a hider", she told me. "When I read your words, I think "wordsmith." When I talk to you, it's like your someone else entirely, that you've hidden yourself so well that you might never come out. And what I'd really like is for the person who's inside to come out and play for a little while."

Naturally, I took great umbrage over what she had to say. Why can't I have a different writing voice? Of course I'm not as interesting in person as I am through my words. Who is?

The thing is, she was right.

I've never been comfortable in my own skin, not since I was an abused child, not since I was confused, very early on, about my own identity. I didn't want the skin, didn't want the shape, didn't want to be noticed. I hid behind my weight, behind my books, behind a curtain of overpowering shyness that was close to some kind of social aphasia. Over the years, I learned social skills, small talk, how to dial a phone and talk to someone, how to meet new people without experiencing overwhelming anxiety. But I hid the most important parts of me away from just about everyone. I told myself pretty lies about how I was comfortable with who I was. It took extreme physical discomfort to realize that if I wanted to live, I had to actually live. Take the risk of losing the pounds that protected me and isolated me.

And food numbed me out. When you don't want to feel, when you're afraid of experiencing the full range of human emotions because you just might feel pain, food is a great way to go. It numbs you and it helps you hide. it makes you invisible. It physically satisfies you. Now when I have eaten too much, I don't like the numb sensation that goes along with it. I eat less in order to avoid it. But a year ago, I couldn't stop, even though I could barely make it around the block and my knees wouldn't support my body weight anymore.

I wasn't making a conscious decision to change all of this when I had the surgery last October. But subconsciously, I think I knew.

And coming out (or starting to) was definitely a conscious decision. I don't know where it will lead. I'm willing to take the risks, in order to experience the things I have been missing all along. I have a feeling that another year from now I will have experienced even greater, more powerful changes. Maybe I'll fall in love.

Maybe I'll be able to tell people that my first real love was a girl I met when I was a camp counselor in high school.

Maybe I will be even more open to touch than I am now.

Maybe I will finally be comfortable in the skin I'm in.

I'm willing to move from my safe, comfortable and emotionally dry hiding spot, and take the risks that will lead me to new, strange, wonderful places.

At last.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

testing the waters

Mom left home at 13. She moved from Northern Ontario to southern parts, to work and support her family.

She worked in a nursing home and lived in residence until she got married at the age of 19.

My great grandmother committed suicide when my grandmother was in her early 20's.

There is a history of mental illness in my maternal grandmother's family. See above. As a consequence, there is a history of mental illness among my extended family members.

I was inappropriately touched by a family member.

I didn't tell anybody. Why? Because, I reasoned to myself, that I didn't want t hurt people. And it would.

My mom is emotionally hard to reach. She's spent most of her life working in geriatrics. Until I spent a day with her in her workplace, more than fifteen years ago, I never would have guessed how caring and affectionate she could be with other people. I mean, I know she loves me. She would do anything for anyone. I can talk to her about a lot of things. But she doesn't hug me. I don't remember being told that she loves me except when she's been drinking.

There are topics that she doesn't like to discuss. And when you happen to stray onto one of those topics, it's like a window shade coming down. Her expression grows vague, she looks somewhere other than at you, and she changes the subject as soon as humanly possible. She does not like to discuss my weight loss surgery.

Why? It's not like anything tragic happened. I lost 100 pounds. I'm out there celebrating my success and when I mention my weight loss, my mom looks the other way.

We can talk about issues, like gay marriage, or sex education. We don't talk about abortion because we will be forever divided on that topic. But it doesn't ever get personal.

And when it does, the window shade comes down. She is her guarded self, the person who cannot speak of these things.

Too many secrets.

Unless, as sometimes happens, she has had a drink or three. Then she tells me she loves me and I get supremely embarrassed. Why can't you say it when you're sober?

I tell my kids that I love them every day. I want them to know my affection for them.

And yet in many ways I am too much like my mother. I am a keeper of secrets. Or I have been, until recently.

On Monday, I went to visit my parents. They've just come home from a well-deserved vacation, three weeks away from the demands of work (my mom is near retirement, my dad is retired) and family - grandkids and an aging grandmother who needs a lot of care. The look better than they have in a long time.

I thought I would try easing my mom gently into my newly discovered sense of self. Like I said, I'm not going to hide any more. N says that there's really no reason to tell anyone at this point, unless I want to, especially if the telling of these things might cause me pain. He has a point. But I get sick of the pretending that everything happens to everyone else.

So I mentioned my surgery, and a friend's interest in the procedure. I told my mom that I wanted to meet this friend in person (really haven't seen her since high school) and talk to her about the unexpected emotional impact of losing your crutch. I was forced to deal with things. I think I'm doing a pretty good job, considering how explosive the revelations have been for me personally.

Click. The shade went down.

N thinks that it's because she feels a lot of guilt. She knows part of my story, the story about the withdrawn kid who was bullied, who was shamed into having no voice until she left the small town that she ambivalently loves and hates. She likely blames herself for some of those things - they moved us there from a larger city, she didn't see the signs of my depression. Et cetera. But really, from my perspective, she's just another parent who made mistakes. As I was. As I continue to be. So why can't we talk about it? Why can't I get past the window shade so that I can reassure her, let her know that my experiences, all of them, shaped who I am. And since I really like who I am, it all worked out in the end.

Of course, I would also like to tell her that I'm gay. Someday. When I need to, when the time is right. Whatever. I just want it out there, want it known. I'm proud of who I am. I am sick and tired of carrying around this basket of things that we don't discuss.

It starts with me, and the decisions I've made about how I'm going to live my life. It started with coming out to N and my older daughter. I can't stop now.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


my desire to move away from this, find someone who can really understand me, with whom I can be whole, and strong with grows more urgent with each moment, with each passing blow to my growing sense of self. Something has to change!


I'm not having a particularly good day today. And it's only 11:30 in the morning.

On one hand, it's nice to be at home with my youngest. She goes to day camp two days a week. The rest of the time, including most of my weekend time, she's with me. Partner's oh-so-important side projects seem to take up a lot of his time, leaving me with the bulk of child care responsibilities. And this child does not amuse herself. She's a verbal processor (as is previously mentioned partner) who constantly needs to be entertained.

My time to myself is squeezed into two precious days a week. In those two days, I still have my day to day - the laundry, the front lawn, the bathrooms, the floors, the cooking, and often the after-dinner clean up. I get an hour, may be two hours to actually sit and be with myself.

And then there's the eighteen-year old, who lives on her own, but hasn't quite figured out how to be independent. She wants a ride here. She needs a ride there. Boyfriend works nights and needs rides at odd hours, when he can't get a bus. All well and good, but there are days when I wake up and think "enough is enough." Today was one of those days.

And so, while I was driving her to work, because she slept in and then the bus went by her or something, I told her that she needed to find a way to be more independent. That I was not going to be available to give her rides whenever she needed them. That I had very little time to myself and I was feeling a tremendous amount of pressure from different directions. Something needs to change.

She cried. She wailed. She told me that I was being unfair because I promised to help her out whenever she needed it, whatever that meant. I do not actually recall saying that. She'd had a really bad weekend (and she did) and the last thing she needed today was a lecture from me, because they always made her feel bad.

Said daughter exited the car crying.

And called home twenty minutes later to tell me that she'd been sent home from work because she couldn't calm down and could I please not lecture her while I'm driving her to work because it makes me feel bad.

Okay, then.

Oh, and can I still drive her to her job interview at four o'clock?

I'd better not make her cry. Or else she won't get a full time job and she'll move back home and I'll have to give up the only space in the house that's really mine, and I'll go completely and totally insane, in a slow and decent fashion as befits a middle-aged woman.

So I'm in the laundry room and the partner comes in and says "Give me a hug,' whereupon he takes one. And I say "Oh, all right." And he says "What, don't you want one?"

Not really. But no one asked me.

And then I start to tell him about my frustrations, that I have no time to myself, and about the daughter, yadda yadda.

"Well" he interrupts me," there is one area that you can control. You can stop giving M rides here, there and everywhere."

I know this. I've just spent time and energy explaining this to her and then defending my position. I tell him that I already know this, that I'm feeling upset and I just need someone to talk to.

"Well. if you don't want to hear my advice, then maybe you should just stop talking. You're not a very pleasant person to be around when you are feeling these pressures."

"Well, I'm just venting."

"If you're going to vent, then I just wont be around you anymore."

Whereupon, he leaves the room and goes downstairs. He works at home in the basement.

Message: There is no room in my life for me to feel, and I'm an idiot for thinking that anyone might want to hear what I have to say.

When did my life stop becoming about me? Why is it that the only value I seem to have is what I can bring to the others in my life?

I listen to him rant and vent all the time. He's depressed, he doesn't like his job, he goes on and on about things that really don't interest me at all. I listen because I care about him and I want to hear what he has to say. Unfortunately I am not being afforded the same consideration.

I feel very small and alone today.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


What I am doing right now:
  • I just finished reading As the Crow Flies by Anne Marie MacDonald. It was an amazing book - and spoke to me in several different ways. Small town SW Ontario was much the same in 1962 (the setting of the book) as it was in 1974, when I moved from London to a small town in Perth County. Her book was inspired by the Stephen Truscott case - most people from Ontario are familiar with his story, and how last year he was finally acquitted. I started the book at home and finished it while camping near Tobermory, where her story ends. Who knew?
  • Next on my reading list is "The Night Watch" by Sarah Waters. I'm reading a book about chakras and energy fields and want to finish it before I start anything else.
  • After that I have "The truth about Stories" by Thomas King. Yes, I buy several books at once and then read them in an order that only I determine.
  • I am writing a short story that has its roots in my childhood experiences.
  • I am learning a lot of new stuff on my guitar. I recently sent an e-mail to my old guitar teacher (and mentor). I'm hoping that he and I can get together once in a while so that I can improve my technique. I'm not a very good guitar player - I sing, and I like to be able to accompany myself. I decided a few weeks ago that I need to be better with the guitar.
  • My birthday was Friday. I turned forty-three. I don't feel forty-three at all.

Friday, July 11, 2008

last night

I held him in my arms and he cried.
He told me that all he wanted was for me to be happy.

This is so hard!

Monday, July 7, 2008

tough conversations

It's like having a fantastic roommate. He's a great friend. I have always been honest with him.

Do I love him? Yes. Am I in love with him? No.

There are things that we can't share. We don't talk about spirituality, specifically mine, because he has a tendency to mock any spiritual leanings I have. Without realizing it. And when I pointed out to him once that I don't make fun of him for being an atheist, he shrugged his shoulders and smiled. We don't share the same music. I can't show him my writing because he corrects my grammar, and points out the sentence fragments with a suggestion that I might want to revise - I know grammar, and I write as I choose. He thinks that global warming is a hoax, and therefore the entire environmental movement is suspect. He calls himself a social liberal (and when it comes to some things he is) but he questions the welfare system, and the validity of universal health care, looking t o the US system as an ideal model.

Essentially, the things that are most important in my life are the things I can't share with him. Except our kids. We raise them well together.

He is supportive of my goals and direction, but he can't figure out why I want to write fiction. Why not do something practical with my degree? I'm kinda done with making practical and safe choices, and I'm ready to do what my heart tells me is right.

I could look beyond all of this once. I can't anymore. Beyond the personality differences, the divergence of politics, spirituality, music, lifestyle, vacation preferences and goals. I have no physical desire. There is no passion - perhaps there never was. He is not female.

I used to believe that this was the best that I could get - that I wasn't destined to find love in the way that other people have it. I made a safe choice, a choice that brought me partnership, security, comfort. But no passion. No desire, and no real fulfillment. My choice - to shield myself from being vulnerable.

It's incredibly difficult for me to verbalize at times, especially when what I have to say is not likely to be well received. He hasn't done anything wrong, and I know that he loves me. So to tell him what's in my heart is incredibly difficult. But I had to. I can't not say, when I am contemplating so many changes and possibilities.

Last night we walked, and between E's imaginings of butterflies and dragonflies, and other demands for attention, I managed to say what I needed to say.

Not easily. I should just carry a notebook and write down what I can't articulate.

Three weeks ago I told him that I was attracted to women, that I've always been, and why I resisted even admitting it to myself. Yesterday I told him a lot more.

And he was so wonderful, it made me cry. He told me that it was better to learn about myself now, rather than ten or twenty years from now. That what I can't control ( and I can't) is not my fault. And that I am always free to stay, or go if I need to, with lots of warning. He told me that he loves me, that his first choice would be to stay with me, and that we would be able to work things out amicably, no matter what happened.

He told me that I needed to experiment and explore my sexuality, and said that was okay, as long as I was honest with him.

I can't do that. I need a clean break. I think he's speaking out of some sense that he has to have me in his life, no matter what the cost. That's not fair to him - he deserves more than just whatever I have left over for him. And he'll get it, but not from me.

But in the end, what it comes down to is that I am free. I always have been. We can live together for now, and as things change for us, as our relationship changes, we will assess what our next steps will be.

This is also the best for E. Any transition we make has to be slow and deliberate for her sake.

Now I am relieved. And grateful. And humbled. And free.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Images of the Bruce Peninsula

It's kitchen witch day - I'm catching up with all my domestic, food-related chores. The bread's in the oven, the granola is cooling and the yogurt is incubating. I still have to weed my postage-stamp sized garden, but that can wait until after supper.

These are photos I took on the Bruce - at Cyprus Lake campground and on the trail. I tried to put them in some sort of order and it didn't work. Oh well.

This is Cyprus Lake at sunset. As peaceful and calm as it looks. On the second day, the wind around the lake was furiously whipping the cedars around, but when we got to Georgian Bay, it was calm, clear and warm. Such a small body of water, and it seems to have it's own weather system.

I love this lake. I could sit by the shore alone for hours (and I have, but not this time, as I was alone with two kids). You can hear the loons best in early evening, and in the morning just before dawn.
There is a trail that goes all the way around the lake. The trail is also the campground access to the Bruce. The cedars are small here, but bent and twisted by the wind into odd shapes, bowed and bent with the forces of the elements. We have a special tree, that we call "the sitting tree" where we have all - now including both my girls - have had our pictures taken at one time or another.

My little one, getting as far into the icy waters of Georgian Bay as she dared. It is usually cold. The day we hiked out it was freezing.

She's almost five years old, and a little trooper. She hiked almost six kilometers that day, over two boulder beaches, and up a few cliffs.

A wildflower meadow on the Horse Lake trail.

Walking the trail. It was not very warm that day.

A wild lily of some kind, close to Cyprus Lake. We did not see any yellow lady slippers (endangered plant that can be found in the park). Nor did we see any Massasauga rattlers (thank goodness!)

View from the first boulder beach we traversed, near Halfway Rock.

This is the second boulder beach that we walked. E and my nephew stopped and tried to make inukshuks, but we were chased away by blackflies.

The Grotto. It's been a few years since I've climbed down there. Water levels have dropped in recent years, but there used to be quite a few divers who would travel under the rock and make their way inside. Three years ago I swam around the outside of the grotto and sat in the cave. The water was much warmer on that trip. By the end of August, it's usually tolerable.

And now I'm home. I was busy - two kids and no other adult makes for a trip with very little alone time. But I did get the opportunity to sort through a few things, through late night campfires and early morning journalling. I know what I have to do. It won't be easy, but I think that in the end, everything will be okay.