Sunday, 31 January 2016

Faith, Hope and Love - Four years later

Re-post! I'm nothing if not completely predictable. On the anniversary of my uncles passing, I always re-post this blog. I wrote it on a train on the way back home from Montreal the next day - January 29, 2012. I'm late this year. No excuses, but I was really sick.

Everything was so different four years ago. I was in a bad, bad place. So was he. Unlike my clumsy downward spiral, he met his challenge with grace and dignity. He was and always will be an inspiration, a role model and a beloved member of our family. Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for awhile. 

And the only way to truly be immortal is to keep living. In the pictures of you in someone's living room, in how they still remember the really good advice you gave them when they consider making the same mistake twice. In the memories that still make other people smile when they think about you.

We still think about you. More than you probably know we do. And we will always love you. You are our immortal beloved.

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 demonstrating 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.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Happiness Is...

A trap. An illusion. A reality. A certainty. It can be all of those things, depending on one thing and one thing only - us.

It's the plot line to every great book, every Oscar winning movie. Overcoming our barriers in life and finding whatever our personal version of success and happiness is. Okay, okay sometimes the Oscars only like those movies where everyone is miserable and dies at the end. But you get my point.

It's the end of January. It's cold and grey. It seems as though a lot of people are getting the winter blues. Grey is slowly becoming one of my favorite colors. In an effort to fight out against the cold, the wind, the miserable people, the grey...I've been trying to focus on what makes me happy.

So many times it's the big things. Things like work, family, friends, social life, romantic relationships. I won't lie, those things do make me happy. But I've had another *yes another* shitty couple of weeks. I was walking to work and there was a thin layer of snow on the ground. I didn't see a patch of ice and I slipped and fell. Hobbled around like an old lady for a week. My back finally started feeling better but then I caught some crazy cold/flu virus and couldn't even get out of bed for two days.

Time for a pity party right? Not this time. Those grounding influences I mentioned are so valued. In the day to day though, especially if we're on our own, we need to look for those little things that can make a whole day shine. I do a gratitude list every morning and I don't exclude the little things.

For instance:

- I'm so lucky to have really big windows. I wake up every morning and can sit and meditate on the floor while I watch the sun rise. It's the perfect start to the day.
- I work close enough to home that I can walk back and forth instead of commuting.
- Watching my dog play in the park every day and having him to sleep next to me every night.
- Today I received a letter in the mail from a very dear friend. Who writes letters in a world of wifi and text messaging and email? Kindred spirits.
- Yoga (enough said)
- My ex boyfriend bought me a lily one year when he felt bad that on mother's day I had nowhere to go. I've always had a lily since then.
- Books. I just finished a book about a girl who went from abuse to self-hate to self-love and I love those writers who just tell the simple truth and reassure us we're not alone, and we're going to land on our feet.

Yeah, that light dusting of snow that hid the ice gave me a bad week. But the snow was pretty :)

Happiness isn't complicated. And it's not eternal. No matter how much we have or how much we lose, we won't always feel happy. We can however, relish those moments, tuck them away in our hearts and draw on them when things aren't the best. Little pieces of sunshine for those cold, blustery January days.

If you'd like to share what little things make you happy, please leave a comment. Stay warm.

Sullivan out.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Little Lights Shining in the Dark

I had this great friend when I was a Jdub. She was always in love with my husband, but I didn't really get jealous. She was very old. And kinda prickly in the beginning. She was a widow, her husband was the love of her life. She took care of him while he lived with Alzheimer's. Then she was alone. No kids. No family. My ex-husband and I adopted her. She always liked him the most but she loved me too. She called us her kids.

We used to go over every Monday night and make her dinner, took her grocery shopping every Friday at noon, for years. Even after we moved to the Vietnamese and had more on our plate than any two good kids could handle, we always made time for Evelyn. Good times, she wasn't a burden. We would play games and drink this cheap red wine she liked. Talk about all the old times. She could tell you to the year, month, day and hour how long she had been with Lester.

I'm not sure what got into me this past weekend (except a very extreme case of PMS) but gawd, I missed these people. On Saturday I opened a drawer and started tearing things up. Letters, cards, pictures. Then I found this one. 

She said" There is a lot of kindness wrapped up in Travis and Margaux. You may not know it, but you two have changed my life in many ways. It is more colourful, meaningful and interesting. It has built me up."

And then, I didn't touch it but her picture fell on the ground and the glass shattered. I know y'all might think I'm silly with my psychics and superstitions, but I knew she was gone. He and I didn't get divorced for two years. We still went to visit her in the home. I don't think she ever knew we broke up and that's a very good thing. Just seeing his face would make her smile every time. I used to visit her when I was disfellowshipped. She was too old at that point to know I wasn't supposed to be there. Then we got to the point where she didn't know it was me at all.

I was a lot more fragile back then. This past winter while my other friend died, I showed up. Until the last night she was still breathing. I wish I had done that with Evelyn. Because of course, I'm such a dangerous influence, none of the JWs could be bothered to tell me she died or that there was a funeral. Even though I know and she knows and they know that I deserved to be there.

I wonder sometimes if this is what it will be like when my mother dies? I just find out randomly because I call someone I don't talk to anymore and ask the question? Oh yes Margaux, it's very sad. There was a funeral. You weren't invited.

It's disappointing that they think and preach openly that this is the way to win someone back. Through this terrible cruelty that's not even human kindness. Unfortunately, their tactics don't work on me. Each of these little heartbreaks just make me more determined that I made the right choice. I am NEVER coming back. And I'm a big old apostate so just disfellowship me again for Christ's sake.

We're all just little lights shining in the dark and it's sad when a bright one goes out. Evelyn, I love you and I'm sure you're in a better place. And your boyfriend/my ex-husband? I'm sure he misses you too. That's one of the biggest reasons I will always love that guy. He jumped on board with all my adopted strays and they are probably the only ones who really knew him for who he actually was. My time and friendship with both of you will always be happy memories. Rest in peace. Xo.

Sullivan out.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Broken Arrow

Who else is gonna bring you a broken arrow? - Rod Steward

It's been almost a year now since I've talked to most of my family. I went on a date today. It was awful, which is why I don't date. I thought a walk in the dog park would be so much more fun than the usual coffee date. He didn't like my dog so I took him home and we went for coffee, which apparently he doesn't even drink. I don't drink coffee either anymore but I took one for the team. He had a tea.

So I'm so over my family. But I'm not. I cried all night. I called my dad but although I love him, he's not me. Which is weird because I think I'm the most like him than anyone else in my family. He doesn't get me though. He's been through the hell that is Jehovah's Witnesses. It broke up the family. It took away his children. And raised them in a cult.

All he says to me though is that I have to be the bigger person. No hate, no bad feelings. Just be so open to letting them back. I had a realization the other night. It's coming up to my birthday, and that's the day I told Adam I loved him. It was seven years ago. Seven years of back and forth with him, with my family, with the JWs. I can't help but laugh that I have been so stupid. Seven years is a really long time to try to convince people who have left you that you're worth being loved.

So dad, I'm so done. I've tried for seven years. If there is going to be any kind of reconciliation, it's up to them. They can bring me a broken arrow. I don't need anything grandiose. But it's on them now. I even thought of maybe going to a Kingdom Hall tomorrow morning and asking for forgiveness because that's the only way I'll get my family back.

As you told me many times tonight, I'm an adult. And this adult chooses to not go back.. To not shut up about how horrible they are for tearing families apart. I'm a good person. I don't need religion to confirm that for me. I do miss you guys though. I hope everyone is well.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

A Thousand Suns

I love you with the fierce intensity of a thousand suns.  - Donia Ruel

I had a roomate when I was working with Donia. M. We adopted her quote and wrote it down in notes to each other. And it was true. That's why it was so hard for me to say goodbye to Donia this past year. Love that strong, that loyal and that long standing is hard to replace. Not hard, impossible.

Our friendship outlasted my marriage by 13 years. M and I have been friends for 28 years now. On and off. We were bridesmaids in each others weddings. We wore the same shoes. Donia and I were easy soulmates, we were so alike. M and I were perfect opposites. Besides our taste in the same men, we didn't really have anything in common. She's brunette, I was always blonde. She's a gypsy, I'm more of the planting roots type of girl. There was however the fact that we both loved our coffee in the morning and a glass of wine at night.

One of the things I appreciate about my Jehovah's Witness upbringing was our simple, innocent childhood. I think the worst thing M and I ever did together was "borrow" her dad's truck one weekend and drive to the beach where we camped for the night. Listened to cheesy 90s heavy metal music and probably could have got ourselves killed had there been a serial killer in the area.

There wasn't, and two small town girls ended up in Toronto together. She hated my cat. I hated her sister. We made it work anyway.

I have one other friend of over 20 years that's not part of the crazy cult I left. When she got herself kicked out of the JWs, I shunned her.  When I got kicked out, M shunned me. We all came to our senses at different times in our life and the great thing about this is that none of us held a grudge. We all understood the brainwashing, the need to "obey". But as soon as we each walked away, we knew immediately who to call first to be there for us, to hold our hand and tell us we were doing the right thing. To hold on to a piece of our lost past that is so important to us.

I spent last weekend in Montreal with M. My absolutely lovely ex-boyfriend immediately cancelled the gift he'd ordered for me for Christmas and bought me a train ticket as soon as I mentioned M wanted me to come visit. I can't even really explain what it's like to be with her or K. I love my friends here. I have been extremely lucky with the people I happened to connect with since I've been on the outside. It's different though, being with someone who had the same upbringing as you, someone who knows all the really important people in your life - the ones who are departed - and who you don't have to explain or excuse your crazy to. We watched fireworks at midnight on New Years and went home and watched Anne of Green Gables.

I left Montreal feeling happier than I've felt in almost a year. That I have those connections, that family. The ones who don't have to reach to try to understand me. I was still in my happy haze when I went back to work. I walked out that first day to grab some lunch and I ran into HER. The only one besides my ex-husband and my family that I still miss. I practically raised her, she was my sunshine, my baby. Unfortunately I brainwashed her into the cult and now we're just strangers who pass on the street sometimes.

She gave me a hug and said we should do lunch sometime. I'm pretty sure that was just because she was with her co-workers. There's a lot of complicated rules to being a JW. When you're with "outsiders" you have to pretend to love everyone. When you're on the inside you have to pretend not to care about the outsiders.

I took a chance though and texted her. V just said "Are you okay?" Of course I'm okay, princess. Y'all know I had a really terrible year in 2015. But that's over. The only pain I had to deal with was inflicted by the JWs. And a death. I have countless people to thank that I got to the other side. Family, work, friends. They got me through it. Because my darling V, that's what people do here on the outside. We love and support each other unconditionally. Sometimes it's tough love. But we don't discard people based on their life choices. When you're ready, and you will be because you're my girl, we're all here. Ready to shine out the fierce love of a thousand suns.

Sullivan out.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Begin Again :)

"Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it." - Anne of Green Gables

Y'all know that I didn't have a great 2015. I was going to call this blog "My horrible, terrible, very bad year". Then I thought that might be inviting him back to a party he has already been kicked out of. Don't let the door hit you on the way out, 2015.

Honestly though, this past year I gave up again. This is what I decided to do differently: I let my tribe help me. I don't know if it's my own pride, or coming from a place where I was the strong one who helped everyone else, but this wasn't easy for me. Being the weak one, the vulnerable one, the one who was just so sad she couldn't get her shit together. And finally stopped lying to everyone about how "fine" she was.

Do you know what this taught me? If you're a good person and you genuinely care for others and do your best, you don't have to be ashamed of not being perfect. There are (gasp!) people out there who will love you anyway. They may not be the people you expected would be there for you. The ones you showed kindness to and who saw the sacrifices you made for others. They're just good people, paying it forward, the same way you did. That, my friends is the beauty of karma.

I guess 2015 wasn't all bad. I learned a couple of valuable lessons that will stay with me into this new year and the next and the next. I learned some more humility, I learned to trust that the Universe will not desert me. I learned that the biggest thing I need to work on is to try and love myself. Be patient and kind to me. I would never talk to any of my friends the way I do to myself, in my head.

It's almost silly this whole New Years thing. To think we can go to bed on December 31st and wake up the next day and think things will be different. They won't. Unless we change them. I'm on board with having a clean slate to work with though. :)

Like everyone else, I wrote up my list of New Years resolutions. All the things I'm going to be oh-so-much better at this year than last. But the most important thing about that list? If I don't make all of it happen this year, I'll just put it on next years. I'm a work in progress. :)

It's important to constantly work on improving ourselves, our relationships, our habits, our lifestyle. But just because the day is fresh, doesn't mean I won't make mistakes. I made a hell of a lot of them this year. I was lucky to have good, solid people behind me who held my hand, guided me and sometimes just pushed me through. If they believe in me enough to take those chances, I should at least return the favour by doing a little believing myself. There's too many of you to mention, but you know who you are. I love all of you more than I can express.

Look around. Find your tribe, your people. I guarantee you they are there. And then let's all just start this new year with gratitude, with love, with kindness. For those around us and also...for ourselves. It's never too late to start over and to begin again.

Happy New Year!

Sullivan out.