Sunday, 29 January 2012

Faith, Hope & Love

Three things will last forever - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:13

I love my family. I just don't know some of them very well. Until the past year, that was the case with my uncle, Ken. We were rarely home at the same time in the summers, he lived in Montreal, I was in Toronto. He was on the quieter side, and although I always enjoyed any time I did spend with him, I really didn't know who he was.

On the outside yes. Ken was cool, he was a dancer, he's travelled all over, he loved cats, he spoke French, he smoked Peter Jackson - the white package. Our whole family has always been so proud of his career, he was one of those rare people who didn't sell out but instead followed their dream and made a success of it. Ken is a well known and well respected dancer and dance teacher. His students loved him.

It wasn't until he got sick though that we became close. I started going to Montreal more often, spending time one on one with him. For me, there were a lot of firsts, learning about the people he's worked with, travelled with, danced with. Looking at pictures from all his trips. Hours spent talking about life, relationships, death, religion, God, family, friends. Food - he loved food. Making meals, having snacks, drinking coffee and eating croissants in the mornings. Getting to know his partner, Louis. The times I've spent in Montreal over the past year are very precious memories of making a very good friend.

And not just one, but many, as Ken had so many people who really loved him and were there for him through this time. After finding out he had cancer, Ken didn't give up, but he kept himself busy, reading books, cooking, collaborating on new dance projects. He was good natured and easy to be around, even on bad days when he felt so sick.

I feel very grateful and humbled to be a part of a family of such loving, hard-working and accepting people. Watching my grandma, aunt, uncles and mom rallying around Ken, providing support in any and every way possible was truly inspiring.

Seeing Ken's "Montreal Family": Louis, Brett, Sarah, Sioned, Heather, Luc, Francis and others consistently showing up and doing all they could for their friend solidifies my belief in true friendship and true love.

We all hoped he would get better. But he didn't. And now we need to take solace in knowing he's no longer suffering and have faith that he is somewhere kinder, better and happier than here. Hope and Faith can keep us going during even the darkest, saddest times. In the end though, without Love, the faith and hope wouldn't actually mean all that much.

I say it all the time on this blog, but I truly believe Love is an action. Sure, it's also a feeling, and a great one, but without the proofs of love, can we ever be sure it really exists? When Ken breathed his last breath, he knew he was surrounded by people who loved him, accepted him, believed in him. They had shown him this through their actions over the years, but it became especially evident when he really needed them to be there. And they were.

Having lost three family members this month alone - my grandfather, my great-aunt and my uncle - I feel more than ever the importance of demontrasting love to those we cherish, as much as we can, as often as we can, as vocally as we can. Lots of phone calls, visits, hugs, kisses and "I love you"s.

It's so easy to let busy lives, careers and the day to day issues crowd out time and energy we would like to spend on our important relationships. It breaks my heart to see what Ken had to go through this past year, but I'm also grateful for the time it afforded us to know him better, love him more, and prepare to say goodbye.

Healthy or not, none of us really know whether we'll live to see tomorrow. So no regrets! As Picasso said: "Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone."

Rest In Peace, dear Ken. I love you.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Margaux (hearts) Stuart

Stuart is my boss.

But he's been much more than that. Poor Stuart, like everyone else in my life right now, he got me at a bad time. The first year I was with him, I walked away from my community, some of my family, I got divorced. It wasn't a great year.

But Stuart's been great. He was much more than a boss. Over the past two years, he's been a role model, a mentor, and as cheesy as it sounds, a very good friend.

He was the one who, when he heard my story finally, refused to let me leave the patio to go to marriage counselling, and got me drunk instead. (I threw up on my favorite dress so not sure how cool that was, but his intentions were good.)

He's also the one who told me, that same day, that married men never leave their wives. Wish I had listened, he was right of course.

He's the one who pushed me constantly to be better, even when it made me cry. He listened to my problems, he gave me lots of time off to go to Montreal and be with my uncle who is sick. We'd be in the middle of stressful times at work, and he'd say, wanna see some pictures of my kids? Or we'd only have a few minutes to get something done and he'd ask how are things going with my boyfriend.

Of course, none of my last three boyfriends have been good enough for me, because, according to him, I "deserve better". :)

He's the one who convinced me to go back to school, who took me and my friends out for Christmas drinks the past two years and paid for everything. He remembered my birthdays, bought me housewarming gifts and wrote me cards. He brought me back an idol of Ganesh when he went to India. He said he wasn't sure if I'd like it or it would offend me, but Ganesh was a nice God, "unlike the one I knew".

He tried to be another dad to someone who was struggling to live in the city with hers far away. He never treated me as a minion, but always gave me dignity and respect.

He was nosy, no doubt about it. And he butted in on a lot of things that were none of his business. But, he did it because I think he really loves me.

A couple of weeks ago, he asked me to come to his office, and told me he was leaving. He has a new job in New York. I cried.

But hey, I have been so lucky to have him around the past two years. Sure, he drives me crazy sometimes, but that's ok. Most of the people we really love drive us crazy.

Going into the next week, I have three goodbye parties for him. And that's not nearly enough to say goodbye to someone quite so important.

You never know. Maybe he'll get to NY and realize he really can't live without me, and I'll go there too someday. Whatever happens, this friendship is definitely not over. Not yet anyway. :)

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Blogger

So I've had 1,315 visits since I started this blog. Probably not a lot compared to people with actual important things to say about life, but it's humbling nonetheless that so many people would actually read about the trivial things that happen in my day-to-day life.

Canada definitely is leading the pack here, but a huge shout out to whoever is reading in the United States, Russia, Germany, Chile, Ukraine, Latvia, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia. Besides Jonathan in the US, I don't even know anyone who lives in any of those countries! :)

Writing has always been a passion for me, and this blog has almost been life saving in some ways, just being able to talk when I need to, to get out how I feel on the inside is some kind of release for me, I always feel so much better.

When I was in love, once upon a time, being able to write to Him was the best feeling in the world. Now, I know there is a lot of darkness in me, but I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I feel more optimistic all the time.

One thing that has changed my life, besides writing, is the people I've grown close to since my life fell apart. I can't say enough good about them. One of the positive things about going through a major life crisis is seeing all the people who will step up and help you out.

I felt so much stress all through life to be perfect. I tried as hard as I could, and of course, I failed. Like everyone in the world, I just want to be loved, and the funny thing is, trying to be perfect doesn't necessarily make people love you. I tried to be the perfect wife, girlfriend, friend, daughter, sister...but most of the people who knew me at my best just walked away when I needed them the most.

The people who have stuck with me, through the past three years have been the ones who have seen me at my worst. Somehow, they feel i'm worthy to be loved anyway. So I've realized something. I was already enough back then, and I am already enough now, just the way I am. To be able to find friendship, loyalty and love when I have nothing valuable to give shows me the problem was never me, it was the people I choose to love, and to put all my hope and trust into. They were the ones who didn't really know how to love someone, not me.

So I beg you - whoever is reading this - look around at your life. Are the people in it supportive? Do they really see, understand and accept you for who you are? If you are going through the motions without any real sense of purpose or happiness, you don't have to be afraid to make changes. It's a big world out there, and there are wonderful, fabulous people in it. People who will be there for you if you try to find something better.

If your life is great the way it is, I'm so happy for you. But if you're unhappy, please, don't be scared to make a change. I did, and it was the hardest thing I've ever done. But I'm still young. Knock on wood, I've got another 40 or 50 years to get through. Now I know though that I've living honestly, happily, and I honestly don't worry about being alone. One of the more interesting aspects of leaving my life behind and moving on is the people who showed up in it again. I have four girlfriends who were some of the people I'd been friends with the longest, the closest, who have all decided to leave our past life too and have come back into mine. It's been a crazy fucking reunion, one I never saw coming with these people I've always loved. Life is nothing if not full of surprises. :)

Thanks again for reading. We'll talk again soon. :)

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Four Month Milestone

I went to hot yoga tonight with my fabulous friend Liz. Feeling really good afterwards and looking forward to a bubble bath and a glass of red wine, I noticed my phone was flashing. There was a text from my boyfriend that said simply and sweetly "Happy 4 month milestone :)".

Oops. Do I live in a world now where boyfriends remember the anniversary of your first date when you completely forgot? Truth be told, I almost feel sorry for him and the past four months he's survived. I think I've tried to break up with him about 10 times, but if I was being completely honest, the number is probably closer to a dozen. Seriously, Steve, you are a sonuvabitch for sticking with me and all my shit for four months straight. (Sidepoint, no offence, but your mom is kind of a bitch.) But that's ok. Because you are still a good son, and an even better boyfriend. I mean, hey, we both got coffee tables for Christmas, but mine was nicer than your moms. :)

At the end of the day, I can't say with any honesty that I've been the best, most fabulous version of myself since September. I've been awful. And probably more than anyone else, my boyfriend has suffered from that the most. But he refuses to walk away. He stays, he supports, he listens. He's kind and smart and generous and loves to cuddle. He buys roses by the TWO dozen!

I've pushed myself outside of all kinds of comfort zones embracing his love for zombies (The Walking Dead), kill tables (Dexter) and just the plain fact that dating someone with a better wardrobe than me is a little bit embarrassing.

We're both foodies and Friday nights at "the bbq joint" has become one of my favorite times of the week. He loves to give, the first time he ever met Liz was at her birthday party, and he brought a very expensive gift. Not to impress me, but just because he felt strongly if someone invites you to their birthday, that was special and they should get something nice.

He stocks his apartment on the weekends with food and drinks I like so when I come over, I feel at home. He puts up with my moods, the coffee, the smoking, the suicide attempt. (Which I am almost ready to talk about, by the way.) We double date with lesbians all the time and he loves my friends almost as much as I do. He accepts people for who they are, but he's also secretly hoping they'll accept him back...

I can't believe it's been four months. And he's still around. And that I'm actually really happy about that. I hope in the next four months I'll be a better girlfriend. I think I will be, with some of the situations from my past life put to rest.

When all is said and done, any relationship is a gamble. And I'm scared to ever really care about anyone, ever again. But that's not His fault. And in some ways, it's not even my fault.

Yay us, for lasting four months. It may not seem like much, but it's the best I've done in three years. So that's something to be proud of :)

How to move on from a broken heart

This is something I’ve had quite a bit of experience with, so I thought I’d share some tips with you today. Not because I’m any expert, I’ve wandered back into getting my heart broken by the same person more times than I can count. Every time he said he loved me, or made some kind of promise, I would believe him, despite the fact that his actions never lined up with his words.

One of the most important things to understand, is LOVE IS AN ACTION. When we love someone, we desperately want to believe they love us back, no matter what their actions are telling us. We believe their words, because that is what we want to believe. So the first step is being honest with ourselves. What is this person’s actions telling us? It might be useful to keep a journal. In two columns, write on one side of the page what they tell you, what they promise, what they say. On the other side of the page, list any of their actions that display the exact opposite behavior. It’s a huge reality check, but one that is vitally important to healing. Anytime you find yourself daydreaming about the potential promise of their love, go back and read the list of hurtful things that disproves their love for you. It hurts like hell, but you’ll benefit in the long run by finally seeing and accepting the truth.

Remember: There is no love. There are only proofs of love.

Another important thing to remember is that someone else’s betrayal is not your fault. They may try to shift the blame, tell you it’s because of your choices, your friends, your lifestyle. Be true to yourself and realize that if they chose not to be with you, that’s not your fault. I felt that way for a long time, I dwelt on all the ways I could have tried harder, the different choices I could have made. But why would you want to be with someone who picks on little flaws or tries to manipulate your personal decisions? Someone who truly loves you sticks with you through ups and downs, good times and bad, the challenges and disappointments. The man I’m with now doesn’t always agree with me, but he realizes that my choices are my choices, and he loves me regardless.

While you shouldn’t blame yourself, after a breakup or a heartbreak, it can be the best time for you to self-assess. One important thing to think about is past relationships. These may not be love affairs, it could be family dynamics, how you grew up, friends who didn’t treat you the way you deserved. Who in your past made you feel the way your ex does? Do you put up with bad behavior just because it’s familiar? So many of us do. It’s time to break the cycle and find people who truly see your worth and value you as a person. And again, they show that…through their actions.

You might spend hours, days, months, even years (I’ve been guilty of that) trying to understand how they could do this to you. You loved them and would never have done this to them! The bottom line is, whatever their reasons, it doesn’t matter. What’s done is done and you might never, ever understand why it went the way it did. Thank the Universe that you have enough love, integrity and honesty not to be able to understand someone who is manipulative, cruel or dishonest.

Finally, it’s so important to be good to yourself. If you’re feeling down, get out of the house! Get a manicure. Go to yoga. Take a bubble bath. Connect with good friends who you can be honest with and who will be honest with you. People who can be compassionate, but will also give you a required degree of tough love. Write in your journal. Whatever you do, stay away from your ex. You might think you’ll feel better telling them how much they hurt you, or how much you miss them, but all that will do is tear open a huge wound and you will end up hurt, yet again. Because they really don’t care how much they hurt you. They don’t care that you miss them. They’re not losing any sleep at night over these things. They don’t care about anyone other than them. If you need to get those emotions out, write them a letter. A letter you will never send. Some day when you’re feeling better, you can read your old letters, laugh at how much better your life is now without that person, and burn them. :)

If you've allowed someone else to make you feel unloved and unwanted, the most important thing to focus on is rebuilding the trust you had with yourself. Show yourself that you are going to take care of you and that you will make decisions going forward that will protect your heart and mind. Once you learn to trust yourself again, trusting other people becomes a little less daunting. And without knowing how to love and care for yourself, you just can't expect those things from anyone else.

JKF once said: "When written in Chinese the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity." It's scary to move away from an ex, even a toxic one and be alone again. Or to accept that you want to move on and finally make yourself available to someone new. But it also represents an exciting opportunity: to find the love and life that you deserve. :)

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Feels like home

I love Sundays. Today I tried something old/new and went skating. Haven't done that in years! Needless to say, I was terrified.

As I stepped on the ice, my best friend reached for my hand and as he's done over and over again in the past 9 months, he held on and supported me until I felt a little bit more grounded. Once I got the hang of it, and started to feel slightly stable, he let go and made me do it on my own.

This is the thing I love most about him. The best person to have in your life as your best friend is someone who doesn't leave you feeling helpless, but also doesn't enable you to stay scared. Over and over again, he's held my hand while I cried, showed up when I needed support or company, but walks away when he thinks I need a little push to believe in doing something for myself.

By the end of the first hour, I had completely regained my confidence. He was always close enough to reach out for, but far away enough to make me feel I was doing it on my own.

There are so many times I thought of leaving Toronto, it can be lonely to be so far away from most of your family. But I've realized we can make family, right where we are, if we find the right people to build one with.

His family has taken me in and it almost seems they love me as one of theirs. It was so nice to skate around the rink and chat with his mom and dad, or play games with his eight year old daughter. They are truly very special people with open hearts and enough love to go around to embrace someone new.

In the summer when I first showed up with him, they would invite me to the yacht club or we would take Temperance on a picnic or go swimming at the pool. Then I was included at Thankgiving and Christmas.

Being invited for Sunday night dinner is my favorite, playing games with Temperance until it's time to eat, sitting around the table like a normal family, talking and laughing. Being silly, playing Barbies or sports, making ice cream sundays and hot chocolate with marshmellows, a lot of these things I haven't done in years. But I remember how it feels, and it feels just like home.

Even when they went on vacation over Christmas, just after I had had a rough spell, they would call and email and remind me that they were still with me, even though they weren't here. They sent the love and hugs I get everytime I'm with them over the distance and I know that I'm definitely not alone in Toronto with a family like this so close to where I live now.

Before dinner tonight, Temperance put her arms around me and asked if I'd come to her birthday party. They are like family now, and I'm so grateful I found them. But even more grateful they took me in, looked past my past and found a way to love me for who I am.

I am very happy. :)