Wednesday, 29 February 2012

You complete me...?

Possibly one of the most famous movie lines of all time, when Jerry Maguire walks in to that room full of women and says it to Dorothy, we all believe in true love, even if only for a few minutes.

A little known secret and one of the most important things I've learned is that you don't actually need someone to complete you, you can complete yourself. Being in love is one of the greatest feelings in the world, and I've been there. And apparently everyone wants to be there, all the time. The movie never ends with the girl deciding actually she's ok on her own, saying goodbye to the guy and going home to eat ice cream in her pj's because she's happy to be out of a mediocre relationship and excited for the unknown future.

Looking for love outside ourselves can often lead to disappointment and a broken heart because nothing in this world is constant. Even getting married or having a child doesn't guarantee you automatic love for the rest of your life. People get divorced, they move away, they die, and sometimes they just stop loving you.

Self love is something I've always struggled with. I think most of us do. We don't say what we really feel, or do what we really want to do in our lives because we're afraid. For me, I was afraid people didn't love me enough, wouldn't accept me for who I was if I showed them the real me. So I tried to be perfect me instead.

Of course, that plan didn't go so well, I found myself completely wound up in the life I had thought I wanted, with everything I had worked so hard for, but I was unhappy. It wasn't really me who had wanted those things, it was my mother. My friends, my community.

The problem with that life is that although I hit all the targets that I had been programmed to think I wanted, it was never enough. There was always more I had to do to be accepted and acceptable. It was exhausting.

That's when I met Adam. I was totally in love with him, and a big reason for that was, for the first time in my life, I was seeing myself through the eyes of someone who completely loved me. No conditions. I didn't feel a need to be taller, or skinnier, or smarter, or more hardworking or less honest. I was perfect, even in my imperfection. And I felt complete. It was intoxicating.

We all know how that ended, and after losing a love that I thought was never going away it's taken me three years to get back to being able to look at myself even a tiny bit like the way I did back then. But this time everything is much better, because I'm not with a man that I'm in love with. And I'm not looking to "him" (or anyone else) to make me complete. I just am.

I did meet a man who has loved me unconditionally for real. Over the past year, he, his parents and his daughter have taken me in, accepted me and loved me. And that has made a huge difference. And my family has been there through it all, supporting my choices and the changes I've chosen to make in my life.

But what made the biggest difference for me has been realizing that I'm already enough, just as I am. Sure there will always be a need for personal growth and further education, learning never ends. I hope to get a better job eventually, maybe have a family, be able to do a headstand in yoga, learn to speak Italian, become more patient, be a better person than who I am today in many ways. But the Universe is always in control of these things and I believe I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be, right now.

And at the end of the day, if we can complete ourself, won't we be so much better able to weather the storms that come from losing friends, losing family, losing romantic relationships. One way or another, these changes will come. And they will hurt. And the people around us will try their best to help us come through the other side. But the only person you know will always be there for you, is you. You might as well learn to love them.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

30-something

I feel that I need to write something tonight, not let a milestone birthday like this pass like so many others. And it hasn't. I had a night out with my good friends mom, who is now my good friend, we listened to Irish music and singing and dancing and I felt connected to my heritage. I had dinner with friends, my cousin and her boyfriend and my best friend. We had an oscar party and Liz made me my first birthday cake since I was little. With candles and wishes. Then I left work early to see someone I love and had dinner tonight with someone I love too.

Birthdays might be silly but they do remind you of how many people out there care (thank you FaceBook) and with three bouquets of flowers, a bunch if great memories and a heart full of love, I can't remember how I ever felt so alone.

I don't honestly believe that life has been kind to me these past three years. I think I've suffered more than I deserved to, but that's nobody's fault. There are people out there who have endured more than me and never had the love and support (albeit even at a distance) that I've had.

My favorite part of today was a picture I received from my uncles best friend. I've talked about him recently, and the waves his leaving has sent through our lives. But this picture of Brett, with his partners, having a glass of wine for/with me was so fun, so full of love, I immediately made it the wallpaper on my phone and I laugh everytime I see it.

Life is messy. But its also beautiful. If you can find calm, happiness, beauty in the mess, you are doing better than most.

Birthdays are a new beginning. If you read this blog at all, I'm kind of a new beginnings junkie. New years, fall, spring, birthdays...whatever it takes. Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it. Here's to tomorrow!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Suicide Blonde

It's not just a song by INXS. Most people reading this blog probably have no idea who they are. :)

The time I actually tried to kill myself (and ended up in the psych ward in December) wasn't the first time I really wanted to do that. And I know when I write this stuff my family freaks out, but you have to just accept it. I need this release and that's why I write. Don't read any more if you don't want to. I promise I'm not going to try to do that ever again.

The first time I came close to trying was a long time ago. It was a lovely day on the ferry between PEI and Nova Scotia. It was July. The sun was shining. I had been visiting my family in PEI, but now I was going to see the family on the other side of the water.

I had already thrown the book I was reading overboard. Adam had given it to me. It was his favorite. I watched it sink, and then I tossed the notebook I had been carrying everywhere with me. The notebook where I wrote to Adam, whenever I wanted to talk to him, because I couldn’t talk to him in real life anymore. (At this point there weren't very many people at all that I could talk to in real life anymore.)

I was sitting on the floor of the deck, looking out at the water, trying to get up the nerve to follow that up by jumping over myself. We used to take the ferry across regularly, all the years I was growing up, to go see Grandma, and mom always said that if one of us fell overboard, you would get sucked underneath the boat and drown. I didn't know if that was true or not, but I knew I wanted to drown.

I had almost drowned once, when I was eight or nine, some teenage guy had jumped in to save me. But I was sure if I jumped over the railing of the ferry no one would come in after me this time. If I could do it without being noticed, no one would even know what happened to me until I didn’t show up in Caribou. I felt sad thinking about my Grandma, always there on time, waiting for me when I walked off…but this time I wouldn’t. She’d wonder if I missed the boat. There would be some confusion back and forth between the family on either side of the straight, until people realized I wasn’t showing up at all anymore.

I love the ocean, I grew up surrounded by water, and even though it tried to kill me once, I loved the water more than anything. I seemed appropriate. I wanted to die, I’d been thinking about it non-stop for weeks now and this was the way I wanted to do it. At home in Toronto, my plan had been to buy an expensive bottle of red wine and use it to wash down the bottle of sleeping pills that was a constant feature on my bedside table the past 6 months leading up to this. But the ocean – this was so much more fitting.

Then the strangest thing happened. A lady I had never met came up to me. “Can I help you with anything dear?” I was surprised, and shook my head, glaring at her. “You seem extremely sad. Are you sure there’s nothing I can do for you?” Again, I shook my head. Why won’t she go away? “Sometimes life is hard, isn’t it?” Tears stung my eyes. Who IS this woman? What does she know about me? “It will get better. I’m going to be standing right over there – if you change your mind, and want to talk, I’m here. And I love you.”

I wiped my eyes. I was ashamed for being so unfriendly. That’s not like me. I’ve always been the people pleaser, putting on a smile, looking incredibly happy, even if I didn’t feel that way on the inside. And here was a shocking act of perception and kindness, and I was being a complete bitch. Did she really know what I had been thinking about? How did she know? And what moved this sweet woman to approach the most unfriendly looking person on the boat and say “I love you”?

Maybe it was a sign that I was making a mistake. As much as I wanted the pain to stop, this wasn’t the way to do it. And now I couldn't do it if I wanted to, with her standing there watching over me. I sighed and picked up my bag. Maybe I’ll jump in on the way back, I thought. God, The Universe, whatever, obviously wanted me to make it to the other side that day.

Those feelings didn't end there. And I know how people view suicide. They see it as selfish, and it is. It's a betrayal, it's a lack of love, it's a crime against God and family. But it's usually a last resort. People try to be strong. People love their families. Only the most damaged and self-centered people would ever do anything like that just to get back at someone. Those people leave notes and blame someone else.

But some people do it to stop the pain. It's too much to bear. They don't see any way out. Their lives are hopeless, future-less. They love the people around them, but they don't love themselves, and other people aren't enough to keep them wanting to be where they are. And all I'm saying is we should try harder to identify those people, help them, support them. Not turn them into selfish villains.

If they would just hold on, I'm sure, life gets better. And I write a lot of happy, look on the bright side kind of blogs. Some days now, the sun shines for me.

I don't have any answers. But please don't judge anyone who has made a desperate choice you never made. You can't possibly know what they've been through, just like they can't know what you've been through.

And please don't call Michael or the cops on me if you've read this.

Remember, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. :)

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The X Factor

I think I've been pretty lucky in love. Not that it's always worked out, (because it usually doesn't) but I've managed to stay friends with most of the men I've dated. And most of the ones I haven't, I wish we were friends. I miss them. I think they miss me.

For some reason, ex's bring out the worst in the people we are currently dating. Not sure why that is, isn't it a good thing that we love people for who they are, and choose to be with someone for a period of time who has continued to have a positive impact in our life? My response to that is: grow up. There's a reason that person is our ex, and you are our current girlfriend/boyfriend.

So, the question remains, can you (and should you) be friend with an ex? Not that I think we should keep people in our life who don't love us, respect us and make us happy. If someone was mean or abusive or in the end, just not a great person, we wouldn't want someone like that taking up space in our life.

And you definitely cannot be friends with someone you still have romantic feelings for, but pretend you want to be friends just to keep them in your life, hoping they'll come back to you. Then you're stuck pining away in secret for weeks or months or even years, while they tell you excitedly all about their new girlfriend. That's not healthy.

But when a good relationship ends, where does all that love go?

Just because you don't work out romantically, should you automatically throw away the guy who made you laugh all the time, or the one who always listened when you needed someone to listen, and would give you a hug after?

One important ex is someone who transioned into being one of my best friends. He was the first person I dated after getting divorced, and undoubtably met me when I was the most scared and the most damaged. But he's loved me unconditionally regardless.

The guy I dated in the summer taught me how important it is to take time for yourself. (This is something I've always struggled with, but being on a time out from work this week has been interesting.) He was a TV producer, but on the weekends he painted, wrote songs, played music, wrote screenplays, played tennis. He was always telling me to get a hobby.

In a world where last week's trends are so disposable, so forgettable, it's no surprise we throw people away as well. And often after a break-up there is a lot of hurt that needs to have time to heal before you can or should try being friends. In the end, just because we didn't make it as a couple doesn't mean there is nothing valuable to be found in that relationship. Some of my exes have made their way into my eclectic group of friends and I have no doubt they'll stay there.

I'm starting to wonder how people who stay married for 50 years ever pull that off. Sometimes we do meet the love of our life in high school and stay exactly where we should be for the rest of our life. But more often than not, love affairs seem to be short stories, but no less important, interesting and full of love.

I hope that someday I can be completely at peace with everyone who I've loved over the years. Actually, whether we're still in touch or not, at least on my side, I feel that way right now. :)

And by the way, tonight my ex and I are going to his ex-girlfriends housewarming party. She invited both of us and I bought her a big bouquet of flowers. Sometimes it can work out...

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Top Five Regrets of the Dying (not written by me)

My dad posted this article on FaceBook - I thought it was worthy of sharing. :)

There was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps. A palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is 'I wish I hadn't worked so hard'.

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. "When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently," she says, "common themes surfaced again and again."

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

Monday, 6 February 2012

Support Group??

It's been said that people who escape a cult are as traumatized as those who survive war.

I can't imagine having been to war, or surviving one. I know many people who have, I spent eight years working in the Vietnamese community in Toronto. And they are traumatized. There are those who recover, and those who don't. Some are able to start a new life for themselves, some go crazy. Some seem to recover, but in secret they beat their children, abuse drugs and alcohol, steal, hurt others, break the law, commit suicide.

The emotional effects of war are well documented and in some ways, bad behaviour can almost be understood, because of what these people went through. It's different with a cult. It's all so shaded in secrets, people who get out are deemed lucky indeed, but most of the time, no one really understands how deep the hurt goes.

I read an article yesterday quoting some former members of a religious cult that I'm well familiar with. One of them said: "I would like to know the truth about suicide rates amongst ex-****s. To be cast out of your community because you are considered evil is horrible, but to relive it everytime you see your mother and she won't speak to you just reinforces it in your mind." (I didn't write that by the way, but I can relate to it.)

I have some friends who have recently tried to take control of their lives and walk down the path of walking away. For me, watching it happen to them is it almost like reliving what I went through a couple of years ago. The same people are turning their backs on them, who turned their backs on me. We had the same friends.

Angry emails (they never actually pick up the phone or talk to you face to face, they prefer keeping it at arms length) condemning you, calling you proud, comparing you to Satan, threatening that you will die on Judgement Day...this coming from the girl who was your best friend when you were ten. From her parents who used to have you over on the weekends. From the person who stood beside you as your witness at your wedding. From your parents, your sisters, your husband.

It's a mind fuck, no doubt (sorry mom (Helena mom) I had to say it) and one I'm not sure you ever truly get over. Especially when you spent the past 15 years sacrificing everything, education, career, home, family...for this cause that you no longer believe in.

As for me, I don't completely regret it. I did what I thought was best, at the time when I had the information available to me to make the decision I made. I loved the Vietnamese people. I still do. I'm worried I might never find another occupation in life that suits me so well, because I didn't care if I was poor, I loved helping them. I've tried numerous volunteer gigs but nothing makes me feel the way I did building those close relationships. I learned to speak Vietnamese. I've slept in a bed with 2 kids while their mom slept in the next room and cried because her husband was in prison for selling drugs. I've spent more weekends in the visiting room in prison then anyone I've ever know.

Nothing will ever fill the void left by Vivian. I practically raised her, for ten years. I put my own family on hold to do what I did, but she was my baby. I helped her with her homework, pick her courses at school, took her shopping, to her first concert, bought her that first "legal" drink at a bar, went on vacations together, we talked every day for years. She is still my baby, even though she doesn't talk to me anymore. I love her like she was my own and I do feel like I've lost a child. But that aside, she is what I'm most proud of doing with my life thus far.

Now I have a good job and lots of future prospects, and I'm grateful for that, but I worry it will never satisfy me the way that life did. That life was what I was built for. But I can never go back.

When we walk away, we do it privately. We work hard to deal with our anger and resentments and disappointments and turn our lives into something better. But some people won't let it be. They feel they have to continually hurt us, humiliate us, judge us. And as much as we try to be positive and move on, it still hurts.

Leaving, is hard enough. You don't have to try to hurt us, we already hurt. We LOVE the people we've left behind, we just can't live a lie any longer. And sidepoint, we don't choose to leave you behind - you choose to leave us. We want to have a relationship with you. We don't want to hurt you, but we don't want to be hurt by you either.

I don't know who is reading this blog. I'm almost at 2,000 page views, if there are people out there in Toronto, Montreal or Ottawa who understand what I'm talking about, there are people who could use mutual support (I've searched the web, can't seem to find any locals). Please contact me. I can help.