In the Toilet

Well, my month of blogging every day is pretty much in the toilet. I’m not beating myself up over it, I just feel a bit sheepish. But the point of this space is honesty and accountability, right? So here I am, being honest and accountable. I’ve been feeling sick the last few days, both a cold and my period hitting me with a one-two punch yesterday. All I’ve wanted to do is sleep. And I have been doing a lot of that, when I can.

I have still been writing daily, just not here. I’ve been writing with my two-week writing group, a ten minute prompted freewrite every day. There are some beautiful, brave women in this group. I read their free writes and in awe, I think: “this is your first draft?” And I feel small and insignificant but the point is just to write in spite of the inner critic, and I’ve been doing that, at least.

If I were to attempt a daily poetry practice, as I’ve been contemplating these past few weeks, I would have to make provisions for sickness and for monthly cycles. I would have to be sure to honour myself when my mind is foggy, find a way to still come to the page without much pressure on those days. Ten minute free writes are good, manageable. It’s something to think about, or maybe I should just leap and trust the net of inspiration will catch me.

We’re off to Vancouver for a two nights, to take both the boys to see specialists at the children’s hospital (for routine things that we just can’t do in the territory). I will try to make my way here over the next few days. I’m not promising anything, though.

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Daily Practice, again

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I didn’t write anything yesterday that I feel like sharing here, and so I’ve missed my second day of posting this month. I’m a little more than halfway through my commitment to post daily, and I’ve been thinking a lot about daily practice and what I’d like it to be, for me.

This daily writing practice taunts my inner critic and causes me to challenge that nasty voice constantly. Right now, even, it whispers “delete, delete, delete. Nobody cares.” But here I am, showing up anyway and it’s like pulling teeth, as the cliche goes.

The 4:30 am wake up calls since the clocks went back are sapping me. It feels as though I’m trying to dredge these thoughts and words up from a great depth through some viscous sludge. All I can do is hope this passes. Keep showing up anyway. Because this will pass, and all that will remain will be the habit. The words will flow again and I’ll be grateful. Am grateful right now, to the sleepy baby, the quietly playing 3 year old, the kindergarten teacher. To myself, I suppose, if I have to, for being here.

I contemplate a daily poetry practice. As it coalesces in my mind, it would be writing something new, even a few lines, each day. For a year. Without trying to pin down when I would actually do that. Just doing it. And I also think about not submitting my poems anywhere for that year. I want to see where that steady, single-pointed practice might take me. Like being in school: an immersion in poetry, my own and others’. In craft books, in taking in interviews and podcasts with poets, about poetry and process. I wonder if I could do it, really. Through travel and ever-changing schedules, through moves and work and summer vacation, could I find the time every day for 365 in a row?

I want to find out.

Image via Flickr user Dafne Cholet

Home

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Our Dempster home. Not where we’re living now.

We’ve been living in our rented “town house” for a few weeks now. It’s a big, rambling, oddly laid out house on three floors. There are big north facing windows in the two sitting rooms, with views of the Dome (is it a mountain? I’m never sure what to call it. It’s bigger than what I think a hill should be, but smaller than what I think a mountain should be.) There is ample light, even as we turn incrementally away from the sun. We moved almost none of our own furniture here, though, and the furniture that was already here is sparse, a real hodge-podge. Our dining room table is an old round wood veneer table butted up against a slightly higher glass top table. There are Hastily made wooden shelves in the two sitting rooms. Extra phone and fax lines, external wiring cased in metal and glaring fluorescent lights cover the walls and ceilings: in the summers, a television production crew rents this house as their dormitory and office space. They’ve certainly left their mark.

My point in all of this is that we’ve felt a bit like squatters here. I didn’t realize it until today. I was having my girlfriends over for tea and snacks this afternoon, so before P left for work this morning, I insisted we bring down an old couch that was in one of the bedrooms upstairs. Our seating arrangement until today has been a lone armchair in one of the sitting rooms, with a mattress-turned-reading/jumping space and a fancy deck chair in the other sitting room. With the couch moved down, with the toys picked up and some throw blankets spread around, with candles lit and potpourri simmering on the stove, with Joni Mitchell low on the speaker, it finally felt a bit like home. I do this often: live in a clutter, clothes flung about every room of the house, stepping over the same mess over and over, crumbs sticking to my feet in the most unpleasant way, until company is due. And then as I tidy and make things cozy, I wonder: why don’t I do this for myself? For us?

We’ve had so many homes in the last 5 years. You’d think I’d be better at this by now. I always bring the important things, when possible: houseplants, a few framed photos, a basket of Yukon rocks (yes, really) some favourite candles, a prism from a dear friend, a rainbow striped blanket from Mexico…these little things, thrown about whatever new place we come to inhabit, help in the beginning. But it’s the extra push of having visitors, and maybe the visitors themselves, that really make me feel moved in.

I know this won’t be our last move. I’m tired of moving. I want to be rooted. For now, though, I’ll have to put down roots like grass: wide and shallow.

Peace Begins at Home

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Even after all the lovely words I wrote yesterday and the beginnings of a shift in my home life, I lost my cool as I was trying to get the kids ready to go out in the afternoon. Admittedly, this is my least favourite time of day. I have a tendency to wait to get them out of the house until they are literally bouncing off the walls, and so you can imagine how wrangling the three of them, in that state, when my patience is at it’s limits, is my personal hell.

But I realized something else yesterday, and it lead me to do some deeper reflecting. Right before I lost it and yelled, I’d been reading the news. I’d just finished reading an article about Donald Trump’s plans to appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court.  I haven’t shed a tear in the last week over his election, but this really brought it home to me. This is happening. It’s not reversible and it’s going to have such far reaching effects that we can’t even begin to comprehend. My heart broke for my American sisters and their right to choose what happens to their bodies. That right has been under assault for as long as it’s been theirs, but there are those in the Supreme Court who defend it as best they can.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes that we must be mindful of the foods we ingest, and he includes not just actual foods but mental and spiritual foods. He writes that if we water the seeds of anger or hate or distress in our minds, then those are the seeds that will grow. Am I watering the seeds of anger by ingesting so many news stories and op-ed pieces, every day, that trigger my anger, my sadness, my feelings of hopelessness for the future? And where is the balance of looking at what is going on in the world, of bearing witness to it, and also protecting our hearts and minds? I recognize it is my privilege to even consider looking away, for a moment, from all of this. My right to an abortion isn’t under attack. My family isn’t being targeted by hate crime, isn’t under threat of deportation.

But if peace starts at home, then I need to do all that I can to water the seeds of love, peace, kindness and compassion within myself and my children. For now, I think I need to step back a bit from the big picture, the overwhelm of what is happening in the world, and focus down. Here is some of what I plan to do that:

  • read the Recommendations for report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • do what I can to ensure proportional representation is implemented here in Canada
  • read and write more poetry
  • meditation
  • talk about and model respect, empathy and kindness with my kids

I don’t want to stick my head in the sand. I don’t want to pretend like everything is okay. But I do think that it’s necessary in my life right now to pay close attention to what I take in, and how it’s affecting what I put out. Perhaps it’s time to focus on actions, my own and the actions of others. To seek out stories of hope and change. It’s an exercise of my privilege to completely avoid the news; I’m not sure I can do that. I think I have to continue to look, to hear what others are saying and bear witness to their experience. I need to find the balance, though, between looking and falling into despair.

Have you been feeling overwhelmed by the news lately? Has it been having an effect on your relationships? What actions for change do you plan to take?

Photo via Flickr user Kaveh F. Azad

Transitions

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As I went through his things this morning, writing his initials: A.M. on the tags of his coat, his hat, his mittens, his boots, his backpack, his blue plastic cup, it really hit me that this is who he is. He is A.M. Different from the other kids. Different from me. I am T.B. And today, his first day in Kindergarten, he begins moving away from me, from my sphere of control, from my ideas about who he is and who he should be. He begins to move into himself, begins to occupy his own life more fully. He’ll do things I know nothing about. He’ll learn things that I didn’t teach him. He’ll say his own name and ask the names of others. And this doesn’t scare me. I am so ready for this.

And here I am: T.B. Moving into my own life a little bit more, feeling more space opening up for myself, my dreams. More air for me to breathe. More silent moments for me to slip into. This writing today and the writing I’ve been doing each day this month, is a part of it, a part of moving forward. A part of my claiming, my reclaiming of what is mine and not-mine. The clouds reflect in the glass tabletop where I sit to write; the sky is lightening and, also, still grey. It is in transition as I am.

It strikes me that transition, this particular transition that has begun today or perhaps was begun weeks ago, is much like the quality of the days at this time of year, this far north. These shortened northern days are one long sunrise that fades into sunset a few hours later. It is a transition with blurred edges. No edges. It’s muted pinks and greys and mauves, it is always beginning and always ending, too. He has always been going to kindergarten and I have always been sitting at this table writing and writing. He has always been A.M. and I have always been T.B. and here we are, here we’ve always been in the indirect light of this winter day. He’s always been both mine and not-mine, always spinning closer and further away from me and I’ve always been doing the same, spinning closer and further from my self.

I sit here and write myself into the perpetual transition of the day, the dark morning fading to light fading to the dark night again. The sun rising and setting, so low on the horizon that soon we won’t see it over the hills that surround this river valley. He’ll go to school in the dark, he’ll come home from school in the almost-dark. I’ll write in the light, in the dark, in the dips and silences of the day. I’ll write my way closer as he explores further and further away. And then, before I know it, the other two will spin off on their own trajectories; are already spinning off on their own trajectories. We’ll all orbit one another and the light will rise and fall.