Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Scientific Examination of What Makes a Relationship Work ....

.. by a girl with a history degree.

I write a lot about relationships, specifically mine (write what you know, right??,).  And I’m drawn, after years of being in a relationship, getting older and seeing some become stronger and some fall apart, to figure out why sometime it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Because it all starts the same, right?

Attraction. Chemistry.  Butterflies. 

Then maybe it fizzles, or it grows to include attachment and meaningful love.  We have babies together, we make lives together.  We know where your back is always sore, that you can never remember the phone number for your brother, or that there isn’t a saying or punchline that you won’t mess up.

And there’s the same arguments held over and over again.  There’s the points of contention that never seem to be dulled. There’s the same buttons that hurt when pushed.

Within this delicate balance, this dance of life, some seem to get stuck and forget how to dance.  Maybe they just stop wanting to dance all together.  But some, some miraculously, dance on until the music fades to dusk.

But… why?

So often we hear “outgrown” or “it’s been over for a long time” when people decide to end things.  And the researcher in me, the person fascinated with truth, is always dying to delve in and ask uncomfortable questions. 

So it's with my best friends, curled up with a glass of wine, that I gain real insight into men and women, marriages, partnerships, things that work and don’t work.  I have the best girls in the world.  We are open and honest.. REALLY honest about the mistakes, the highlights, and the times we thought living in a commune might be ideal (ok that was my idea).

We talk a lot about give and take.  What works? How can you learn to be the right partner for your partner as life inevitably takes over and you grow and change as an individual.  It’s folly to think otherwise, and marriage and friendships are doomed if you think the other half of you will never change.  

But, on the contrary, who you were when you met, the essence of you are, never changes. To quote F. Scott Fitzgerald,

 “I don't ask you to love me always like this but I ask you to remember. Somewhere inside of me there will always be the person I am tonight.” 

We talk and talk and rehash who we are, what we have done that works and what we have done that doesn’t, and it still seems like no one, even those married for a hundred years, can figure out what the key to it all is.  Mostly, as I can determine, because every person is so different, and every situation so varied that there is no one way to describe ‘how to make it work’.  Don’t believe Dr. Phil or the Self-Help section.

Naturally I turn the microscope on myself.

True self-reflection to me is a gift that I get given once every three months.. that’s a rough average.  It happens when I’m reading something, or listening to a song, and something resonates so deeply that I have a brief moment when I can skip and see my life, not just from the outside, but in a more mechanical, non-biased way.  I think scienticians (that’s an inside joke.. if you’re nerdy you’ll get it) call it existentialism.

I mean why have we made it so far?

I am an out there kind of person.. I am free with my opinions (don't you all know this..) enthusiasm, and affection.  I love hard and gregariously.  I think the best of all people, and that intentions are always well-meaning.  However, I am closely guarded about how I feel.  Small difference in nuance, huge difference in meaning.

I am married to someone who is the complete opposite.  He is quiet and reserved and definite.  He sees what people’s intentions are way before I want to believe it.  He is sure about people, situations and what he feels about life.

People are genuinely surprised when they meet one of us, and get to know us before meeting the other one.  It seems INSANE that two people so genuinely unalike in personality have been together for so long.

As I do, I listen to music, and I read. 

This article popped up on my feed and I chuckled and gave it a whirl.  Thinking this author meant to talk about free-love and hippies (and hopefully communes!!!).  But upon reading it, I saw something else entirely.  I saw how the author articulated, more eloquently than I, how so far in our lives my husband has managed to put up with my butterfly ways.  How he can sit back and let me make new best friends wherever I go, talk to everyone and anyone about whatever is on my mind, how he puts up with living and loving a person who is constantly at battle with who she is, what she wants out of life, and who she wants to be when she grows up.

In the article, “How To Love A Wild Woman”, he writes:

 “Do not be jealous of her smile, her laugh, her body or her love. Smile at the pleasure she brings to others and do not resent it and wish it all for you. She has chosen you.

Let her fly and do not stunt her desires because you are scared of losing her to them. Support her dreams; entwine yourself in them if she wants you there. But let her go too. Give her freedom and choice because in following her heart she is most happy.”

Sometimes following my heart means eating a poutine in bed.  Or watching a sad movie and weeping and snotting on him.  Often times it’s wandering around parties and gatherings and asking perfect strangers inappropriate questions about their lives.  And making best friends.  He has heard me declare “YOU ARE MY BEST FRIEND” to someone I have just met at least once a week since we have been together.

And through all of this, all the people and all the besties I have acquired (I actually have a small handful of my real bestfriends.. please don’t be disappointed, Mr. Doctor who once gave me Dilaudid at the hospital.  I still think fondly of those drugged out days), he remains the one constant in my life.

So imagine my delight, and the tears, and the loud singing and enthusiastic arm gestures, when I was pondering this very thought and “Sweetest Devotion” by Adele came on.  

“I'll forever be whatever

 You want me to be

 I'd go under and all over

 For your clarity

 When you wonder

 If I'm gonna lose my way home just remember

 That come whatever I'll be yours all along.

I’m headed straight for you

You will be eternally

The one I belong to.”
I know.. I AM THE CHEESIEST person ever.  But it’s so true.  And for us, for two people who are so different in their daily interactions, it seems to be what works for us.  I need to be challenged, respected, and encouraged to chase the WILD ambitions, and dreams that I think will help me become the person I want to be. It is not easy to love a person who is forever at odds with themselves and the world around them.  But I will always, always look to him as home.

And oddly enough, despite all the differences, all he really needs is to be challenged, respected, and encouraged to chase the REAL ambitions and dreams that will make HIM the person he wants to be.  It is not easy to love a person whose job and reality means I will stand by his side as we pack up the house and our belongings and say good-bye…. again. But he will always, always look to me as home.

So the answer to the why?? I still don’t know… for other people.

I know the why for us, for now.  Why we are happy and why it works. 

I’ve realized that the other girls I debrief with, who seem to have the similar happy days to non-happy days ratio as us, well they also have a foggy grasp on what the ‘why’ is for them.

I guess the point I’m driving at is that maybe, just maybe it’s the constant state of wondering, working, and challenging the redundant norms of your relationship, that seems to be universal in all good relationships. But not just the boring, but imperative mechanics of striving to be better, but also the cheesy parts too. 
How even when his socks are all over the damn house, and the kids are driving you NUTS, he’s the same guy that set your heart on fire the first time he kissed you. 


I asked him to take a selfie with me for Valentine's Day.  This is what I got.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Writing is Hard. And Stuff.


I’ve hardly written in almost a year. 

Sure. The odd blog post here and there, but on the whole, I’ve been a writing deadbeat.

It’s so hard with kids and a job (and I only work three days a week!! And I can work from home!!) to find time to sit in front of my laptop and string sentences worth any merit together.

Even my trusty stack of books, always at least three on the go at one time, have been neglected.  I think there was even some dust on one.  (Preteen Brittany is mortified at 32 year old Brittany.)

And lately, I find myself waking up in the middle of the night panicking.  In between the “SHIT the tooth fairy needs to come!!” and “did I put a diaper on Grady before bed?” I remember that I have an almost finished manuscript, a mentor, and enough positive feedback from an agency to surge ahead with making writing more than a hobby.  But for whatever reason, I can’t seem to mount that insurmountable hurdle which is time, and energy.

I fight between giving myself the permission to step back for right now, and knowing that like any muscle, writing requires daily work and dedication to grow. And no one is going to call me up and ask to publish an unfinished, unpolished, piece of work.

My life is hectic at best.  I know we hear this all the time. 

“Moms are so busy, WE GET IT!!”, *eyeroll*  you must be yelling at the screen. 

Physically I am running to and from hockey, football, school, cheerleading, riding lessons, appointments and work so much that I may start giving “Blue Dodge Caravan” as my permanent address.

But the part a lot of moms don’t, or maybe can’t, verbalize is that it's more than just activities that drain you.  It’s all the cerebral energy given to disciplining, teaching, organizing, (I am literal organized chaos at all times.  Supermom does not live here) that has me scrolling through Pinterest or Facebook at the end of the night, looking at other people’s inspiration.

Being a parent drains you of energy that isn’t necessary.  And, with anything that permeates that other part of your brain, the artistic quadrant (half?? Listen I took arts not science), it’s inspiration and the right headspace to really create anything out of that I’m struggling with.  Writer’s block sounds better than “mainlining Pretty Little Liars on Netflix” but regardless I’m having a HELL of a time finding the focus, ambition and mostly inspiration to write.

I take time for myself, no doubt, I am a woman of the 21st century.  I ride horses, escape to horse shows across the US, and have girl’s nights.  But while nurturing the part of me that demands time spent away from responsibilities and potty-training,  that other side of my brain (again.. not sure how many sides there is), is acutely aware that somewhere at home the cursor is blinking on a big ‘ol empty page.

But today as I was doing my daily ritual of quote-reading and using up all my free articles on Elephant Journal, inspiration finally hit me like a thunderbolt and an idea I had swirling in my brain for years suddenly had a construct. 

A story, half created, which had sat dormant in my spinning brain finally ‘big-banged’ together and before I knew what I was doing, I was at my laptop madly typing.

Then tonight, a second sort of divine intervention took place (I hear Mars is in Venus or something.. maybe that’s it?) my husband and I miraculously had twenty minutes where we found ourselves alone and actually talking.  Like not “hey what are you working tomorrow? Where is hockey? Is the dog still in the backyard?” but TALKING, which if you are the parent in a busy household, you get.

By the way isn’t it scary when you can’t remember the last time that happened? Maybe it’s the beauty of being in a stable, content relationship... because while he’s the first call I make happy, mad or freaking out, it’s the nuances of daily life that can sometimes escape dinner conversations.  The type you are too busy or lazy to text, and that are long lost or irrelevant a day later.

So I was literally shaking with anticipation to his response when I started laying it all out.  And while it’s always hard to verbalize these sort of creative, and therefore deeply personal ideas, the security of it being his face I was scanning as I was neurotically telling, reminded me of this quote: 

Dina Craik wrote, “Oh, the comfort - the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person - having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”

And finally tonight, instead of a diatribe on what’s so wrong with people who don’t like pickles, I was able to get out something I didn’t even realize had been taking up so much room in that ‘brain piece’ (I give up knowing the parts of the brain.  I’m aware a quick google search could solve it.).

I finally knew everything about the story I was dying to write. 

I regaled the tale.. rough and breathless as I typed and talked to him.  New ideas coming as fast as I could talk.. which, if you know me, is pretty damn fast.

As I talked, typed and nearly hyperventilated, he took it all in. (Once he closed his eyes and I smacked him and said “OMG DO NOT FALL ASLEEP”.  He swore his eyes were just itchy… right)

He thought about it, and I, my biggest critic was waiting for him to say “but this is TOTALLY different than what you’ve been working on” or “ that is going to take a lot of time and research”.  But he didn’t.

He half smiled, told me not to get freaked out by all the work ahead of me, and to just start writing. That’s it

Then he made at least three inappropriate comments, I smacked him again, and as magically as our solitude came, the beasts were circling the door again.  Ben wanted to know if he could watch another youtube video, Grady had stolen all the pink playdoh and mixed it with green, causing hysterical crying from Annabelle.

My life. 

Sometimes doing anything but surviving these days seems overwhelming.  All-encompassing, all-consuming, and perhaps the actual living metaphor of burning the candle at both ends.

But when inspiration strikes, and when your brain is hardwired to vehemently reject the mundane, to choose the path less travelled (see what I did there Frost fans) I guess it’s what I’ll do.

In the meantime, any freelance editors out there looking for work? I pay in many emojis, witty remarks and plenty of sarcasm.

Writing and getting my husband in a selfie... both very difficult.  But,I will not quit.





Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Celebrating the Last


There’s piles of essays about becoming a mom for the first time.  I mean.. entire books.  Websites.  Blogs.  Entire universes where you can search and read about what it’s like to become  a mom. 

I’m here to talk about celebrating milestones when you know it’s your curtain call.  When you know that it’s the last first birthday.  The last first steps.  The last first words and the last time you take the crib down.

Tomorrow is my baby’s third birthday.  And, as the baby of three, I feel each and every milestone of his marked with a subconscious sign that says “remember this”.

With your first you don’t really know.  Everything is new; you’re waiting for the next milestone eagerly, waiting for firsts you know are around the corner. 

By the second, well.  You’re already a mom.  You know to sit back and to enjoy these moments, but for me, the crazy contingent of moms who are wanting to expand past two, I had the little secret that this wouldn’t be the last time.  There’d be another monster to join my brood and I’d have this chance again.

When my third baby was born I knew he was the baby. 

The last. 

The completion to the algebra equation that becomes ‘when am I done?’. 

And with each milestone achieved I sobbed.  Real, ugly tears, occasionally on the floor of my kitchen with a bewildered husband wondering what the hell got into me.  I mean..  to him every new achievement unlocked meant one more step closer to getting a full night’s rest. (Because he gets up more than I do with our baby… you get smarter with every baby.  It’s true.)

I’ve never been one to ‘get it over with’. 

My kids are all spaced three years apart so I could relish in the time spent one on one.  Little chubby feet and dimpled hands are my happy place.  A baby or toddler on my hip, running around makes me crazy but whole.   The same way I need a few days away is the same way I crave their little warm bodies curled into me, asleep and not at all concerned with the sleep I’m not getting because they needed to be between daddy and mommy. 

All five of us snuggled in bed is a sort of heaven I didn’t know existed.  And to be honest, still don’t. 

Since all five of us in bed means one is gonna end up crying or flying off at high speeds due to an impromptu wrestling match. 

So I made the cupcakes for his birthday today.  I texted friends to come over tomorrow night for a gathering fit for the third child- his buds, presents only from family, and a smattering of MY friends who will know why my eyes get misty.

It’s not because he’s so smart and I’m wildly proud- so so proud to be his mommy- it’s because it’s another milestone met with bittersweet tears as my babies grow up and leave their mom wondering where the hell all the time has gone. 

And then the ironic laughter that follows because all we want.. us crazy moms, aunts, grandmas- is to have these monsters grow and learn and develop into the type of humans that the world needs.

But tonight, tonight I will allow myself to feel the tears roll down my cheeks as I think about the days gone by as I long for the nights where that newborn couldn’t sleep. 

Where the only solace on a fall night was to hold his little body- all seven pounds- against my neck and fall asleep wondering who he’d become.

Happy third birthday baby Grady.  You are all I hoped you could be, with a pinch of wild that makes me terrified, but excited, to see what you will do. You are charismatic and hilarious with a soul that is so reminiscent of another guy I used to love, sometimes it stops me in my tracks. Larger than life, a constant source of hilarity for others (not always for your parents you little shit), and our baby no matter how big and strong you will become. 

Shit.  You better be big and strong.  You already trash talk better than most adults.

<3 o:p="">

 

I hope this does not turn out to be an ironic photo.

If a picture is worth a thousand words than I don't need to explain to you how well this sums up all three.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Smile


Anyone who reads my blog knows I love music.. country to be specific.

My 9 year old often tells me “Mom.  Every song is your favorite” as I proclaim “THIS IS MY FAVORITE SONG” and crank the volume driving around in my bright blue minivan packed full of kids.

I even lament to my husband often.  “Why don’t YOU ever write songs about me!??!?” And, in his calm way, as steady and logical as I am neurotic and emotional, he simply says, “Because Brittany, I don’t write songs”. Which is fair.  I guess.

A few days ago, I downloaded the new Johnny Reid single, ‘Picture of You’ and instantly fell in love.  I added it to my playlist which, much to everyone’s dismay, I listened to whenever I drove them around.  Which by the way.. is always.  (Whatever… if I’m gonna be the official taxi driver to hockey, football, riding lessons, so on and so on I get to pick the music).  They would request some songs, ignore most, and occasionally there were a few Ben would slink down in his chair and try to hide from passers by as I cranked, and opened the windows to rock out to.  Come on.  Tupac in the summer is perfection.

But, I had never really figured out if the kids were LISTENING to the music or it was just a melody as they pondered greater things,.. like Clash of Clans, Minecraft or whether I was the most embarrassing mom in the whole wide world car-dancing to Spice Girls, or excitedly lip-syncing Beyonce to a MORTIFIED 9 year old in the front seat.

So it was a little surprising when we were driving and the new song came on and my son said, “Mom.  This song.  It kinda reminds me of you and Daddy.  But like, before you were married, did you ever have a crush on anyone other than him?”

I smiled and told him that I had.  But when I saw him I thought he was the cutest boy I had ever seen.

Like all kids, ours love to hear the stories about how we met, what we thought about each other and who liked who more.  It’s always a competition in this house after all. 

But as he gets older he seems to need more details, which after 17 years, are getting a little foggy.  This time he needed to know EXACTLY the interaction when we first saw each other.

 “Like, did he just walk up to you? How did you talk to him?”

I thought for a second and noticed he was trying to smother a smile, he was playing it cool but he needed some answers. Real concrete answers.  Like how did these two uncool weirdos meet each other and decide to have kids and live together.  I mean, currently he's not sure he wanted to ever get married and live with anyone other than his little brother.  Maybe.  If his house was big enough.

I told him I remembered the exact moment I saw him for the first time.  He was standing with a group of friends in the hallway at school.  He was laughing at something and I remembered thinking that he had the most perfect smile I had ever seen.  Like in the cheesiest of cheesy movies, time slowed down (and I probably tripped), and forever in my mind, when I think about the beginning of us, that’s the picture.

Now time for a fun fact: I can’t remember what I wore today.  I have no recollection of seeing someone for the first time and remembering it like this.  It’s weird and cheesy. I embrace that fact.  But, that image is locked down so hard in my mind that I will likely wander the halls of my (expensive and luxurious) nursing home someday looking for the boy with the beautiful smile.  Then I'll find him, think I hit the jackpot, and our kids will get a call about their elderly parents being inappropriate.. again.

My son bit a smiled back and pushed on.

“SO… did he just walk up to you or what?”.

I explained how he had come to the football game and was watching me cheerlead and I almost couldn’t remember the words because I was so nervous, and then afterwards we met up with friends and I decided he was perfect.  Mostly because he played hockey, had a car and was hot.  Ben squealed at the ‘hot’ part and giggled while he looked out the window.

But, the summer sun betrayed his secret and in the reflection I could see the smile he had worked so hard to keep to himself.  And in that smile I saw one that looked so familiar it caught me by surprise. 

I could hardly stop the mist from filling up my eyes as the song came on in the background and Ben, satisfied with the answers to questions, smiling like his dad, nonchalantly started singing along ,

“Time goes by so fast,

when it’s gone it don’t come back.

If I could leave this world with just one memory,

it would be a picture of you looking back at me”


I couldn’t have said it better myself.


 

 

Monday, August 10, 2015

What I know at 32


Not much. 
In fact, the older I get the less I know which I think may actually be a step forward towards enlightenment.  But probably not. 
Regardless, since today marks the anniversary of my birth, I thought I’d share a few morsels of wisdom/truth that I have accumulated thus far. 
**Doesn’t include previous lives.  Because I can’t remember ANY of that shit no matter how many times I’ve tried.

  • "I, myself, am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions” -Augusten Burroughs

This quote not only serves as a window into how I see myself, but upon greater reflection it is also an accurate summation of all my favorite people.  I throw ‘best friend’ around like it’s my job.  I will tell a particularly great server they are my best friend mere moments after meeting them, I will refer to at least 3 dozen people as my ‘besties’. I subscribe to the Mindy Kaling school of thought that ‘bestfriend’ isn’t a person but rather a tier. 
But the ones that have squirreled their way into my heart of hearts, the ones I confide in and laugh with, and ugly cry on- snot and all.  Well, this is them. My band of misfits and weirdos makes my heart soar and my face hurt from laughing.  And they are always right there to pick my sorry, defeated ass up when I need them.  Which is often. 

  • Being in love is less flowers, Lionel Richie love songs, and grand displays of affection and more the boring stuff. 

Like knowing exactly the spot that is ALWAYS itchy on my back that I can’t reach, and getting it the first time.  Or reminding me that no matter how good my book is, I’ll barf if I try reading while in a car.  Settling my nerves when I think some catastrophic cataclysmic ending is headed my way because two weird things have happened to me and so the third death-inducing thing is around the corner.  Being woken up at 4am with the greatest thought I have ever had and not getting angry or hating me for it, but simply telling me “I love you.  But shut up and go to sleep” in the nicest way possible.

Being in love is knowing all the bizarre ins and outs of who someone is and loving them through it.  I’d say for it but honestly I think he’s growing tired of the chewing neurosis.  But come one.. chewing is THE WORST.

  • Being a parent is bull shit.  NO one tells you that.  Kids are terrorists.  Parents of other kids can be even worse than terrorists.. which is.. I don’t know, gluten or something.

I love them.  I really, really do. They make me pictures and tell me how snuggling with me is the best because I feel like a pillow, and my toddler is currently only referring to me as “Brittany” and I can’t get him to stop yelling “You STUPID” at random people.  But I do really, really love them. 

But I have also never thought about leaving my husband and I have thought almost weekly about leaving my children.

Parenting is hard and it’s bullshit and we should be allowed to speak more candidly about it.  Because the way I see life, a giant, splendid pendulum, means that the more I speak and laugh about the bad times, the more I feel and relish the good times.  The more I am open and honest with my friends about thinking about selling my eldest on kijiji, the more I can return  home to them and find the humour and the sanity to keep running this marathon for one more day. 

They are the most perfect of humans with their own little flaws, and the immense gratitude I feel to get to be their mom is almost overwhelming as I watch them begin to blossom into distinct, independent, smart, and obviously ridiculously good looking, little humans.  And it’s this dichotomy I live with daily.  The amazement and wonder of how I got to be so lucky to have such great kids, and then having to reprimand a nearly potty-trained toddler because he has found great elation in peeing on his sister in the bathtub.

  • BeyoncĂ© and Britney Spears are only one year older than me. 

  • I can’t decide about #blessed.  Like on one hand it’s great to feel such gratitude for like, Pumpkin Spice Latte season, but maybe a little much and we’re losing site of the significance of blessings and blessed.

  • If someone makes you laugh keep them in your life forever.  The ones who make you laugh and make your day a little more sunshiney are the keepers.  There’s enough negative, energy-sucking people in this world.  Keep the good ones and be the good ones. 

  • Animals are the single greatest mental health therapy around. Every day should be spent giving some love to an animal.
  •  “Sexiness wears thin after a while and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that's a real treat.” Joanne Woodward


More than half of my 32 years has been spent with the same guy.  I get so many comments and questions about how at 15 and 17, two teenagers met and managed to navigate their way through three kids and 9 years of marriage- mostly but not always happily since I’m in the business of being honest.  But, honestly I have no idea what has made us work so far other than that we genuinely enjoy each other’s company.  I mean reading Twilight (shut up.. I was super pregnant and I needed a diversion) I saw how Jacob imprinted on Edward and Bella’s kid and wondered is something like that happened to us.  Like it was fated or something cosmic like that.  Or maybe we just have worked really hard to have a friendship and partnership or maybe we are just really lucky.  I don’t know.

But in the absence of any good advice I can, and now that I have referenced Stephanie Myer on my blog (cringe) this quote from Joanne Woodward (was married for years and years to the sexy Paul Newman) is kind of the best and only advice, really. 
Honestly last night we got laughing about something and I had to stand up repeatedly because the wheezing and snorting was trying to kill me.  I was crying and he was laughing harder at me and my noises and I nearly passed out.  If that’s what she means then yes.  Do that. Especially if he thinks those snorts and wheezes and weird cry face are loveable too.   

  • New Kids on The Block are better dancers than Backstreet Boys.  It pains me to admit it, but the truth needs to be told.
     

     

    Where I do my pondering. In the sun

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Nine Years Ago

I was 21, ready to take on the whole world, just finishing up my degree when I realized my life was going to change.. drastically.

You see, I had plans to visit Italy, and to finally take a moment to enjoy all the hard work , and the education I had absorbed (well.. mostly), since being in school from 5 to 21 years old.  I was on the precipice of the life I had dreamed about sitting in Art History, History, English and Religious Studies lectures.  I was going to see all the places I had studied, to color in the lines of the images and the places that had been sketched by inspired professors and idealist textbooks.  
I would visit the tombs of the scholars whose words I had memorized, I would see the birthplace of the Renaissance with my own eyes, the architecture, the art, and the inspiration.  I would see religion played out in the Vatican, I would relax in the south of France with red wine and the knowledge that my whole educational life had been directing me to this moment.

The last thing I was worried about was what in the world I would do with an arts degree. I mean,  I had my LSAT study books, my Masters application in the works, and a sincere desire to further direct my life once I got back to reality. 
This was my break from the life I knew was mandatory.  I was raised to believe that this education was the minimum educational requirement.  Sure, maybe my parents wouldn’t have picked the arts for their baby, but it never was lost on me that neither of my parents had the opportunity to go to University.  To this day one of their proudest accomplishments is having three University graduates as children.  Only second to the fact that we are all pretty decent human beings.  And we own our own houses.  That’s cool for them too I would assume.  Probably grandkids too. 

So 21, ready to rock the world, with my knowledge and my relief that I had a reprieve from midterms, finals, and the pressure that comes from a ‘reading’ week spent in the bar instead of the library.

In the meantime, my boyfriend had already convocated with a Kinesiology degree, and was off at RCMP Depot pursuing his future career. He assured me he could have plenty of vacation days to accommodate the travel bug that had taken over me.

Coming into the home stretch of school, I felt more self-assure and more ready for the life I had planned.  After all,  I had spent the summer before that last semester working moderately hard, laying around my friend’s pool, and sneaking visits with my boyfriend and his troop whenever we could. 

It was a benign Wednesday, and the sage advice from a supervisor that led me to the pregnancy isle in the drugstore.  It was her listening to me complain about how I was feeling, and off-handily remarking maybe I was pregnant that led to my shaking hands buying the test, and those same hands that shook as they drove all the way back to my apartment too.

It was not scary, I don’t remember any scary waiting part, I took it and instantly the result was obvious. 

The next thing I remember were tears. 

I cried, I cried and sobbed and hiccupped until my roommate came out of her room to see what was going on. 
I showed her the test and fell into a pile of dirty laundry on my bed, as I sobbed and instantaneously grieved the life I thought I was about to live. 

That immediately, from the first blue line to the second, I knew my life was going to be different.

Another girlfriend, a restaurant and two Dairy Queen blizzards later I had started to come to terms with my situation.  I hadn’t even told my boyfriend yet.  It was a few stolen hours of not dealing with anyone other than my own feelings, and a sugar rush.

Now, I want to stop and acknowledge that I know that some people dream about being pregnant and want to have babies so badly and can’t.

I sympathize with them, I think it’s impossible not to.

But I’m telling you there is another side of the coin, the one people sometimes like to judge.  You know, the “how did could you let that happen unless you wanted it to” type people.

But, just stay with me for a moment.

I want you to know it is terrifying to sit in that moment alone, and wonder if there will be any one to stand by you. 

Letting your boyfriend know, your parents too, his parents, and our families know there is a truth which I have decided will be born into fruition.  Because for all the people around, it is me that has the finale, absolute decision on whether or not it is.  And, rightfully so.

A 21 year old girl with an arts degree, one hand me down computer, one dingy double mattress and a TV to her name.  A girl who had dreamed of one day having a family but no concept of how she was going to do so right now, at this moment of her life.  And the unshakeable worry that acceptance and understanding might not come generously.  I was terrified and vulnerable, and so unsure of what my future would look like.

So yes, I was devastated.  And I own that feeling and I will never, ever feel sorry for it.

But as strong people do in difficult situations, I stood up, and was lucky enough to have a hand to hold as we told the world.. eventually.  I mean we waited well past the 12 weeks, not generally reserved for married, ‘supposed-to’ couples.

It went over like when you serve fish at a big family dinner. 

Some people, people you had no idea, they freaking LOVED it.  There were the ones you knew loved it, because they had told you so before. 
The ones you were pretty sure were faking it because they loved you and didn’t want to hurt your feelings. 
And, well, the ones that didn’t.. maybe they just  couldn’t, like it, because they were not prepared to try fish for a few years.

But, it was a freight train on a one-way track and before long.. he was born.  And oh... he was beautiful.  Truly.  Beautiful.
Nine years ago today I became a mom.

And while we have long since settled into our roles of mom and dad, family of three, then four, then five, along the way I’ve thought of that girl who leaned against her apartment wall as she sobbed and thought her life was over.  The girl who grew up and took a different path than she thought was hers to take.

And that in becoming a mom, much younger than my friends, the first of our siblings to enter parenthood, that maybe I gained all the experiences I longed for, just not in the way I saw it back then.

I travelled every nook and cranny on each and every one of my babies.  I saw religion in a much different way than before, felt it in the purest sense, in the most divine form when I held my babies for the first time.  When they looked to the sky and asked about God and our lost loved ones, and how a flower knows to bloom.  Most importantly I had a confessor, a professor, an everything, guide me through life and love and all the stops in between.
And that well-travelled soul, that prophet in our lives.....  Well, he turned 9 today.  He's not my son.  No, that seems too strange for what he's done.  He's an equal.  Maybe our sun.  Maybe his own sun.  But a wise teacher in a small child's body.

Because through him, I have enjoyed a glass of wine as the sun set on my children playing with their cousins, or our parents, as they laughed and we witnessed the beauty on the faces of our parents as they experienced they joy through a grandchild’s eyes. 

He accelerated my life and made it come faster, and in a different way than I thought.

So, today I’m celebrating becoming a mom of three exceptional kids (yes.. I know, this is not unbiased) and especially, most especially my oldest. 
The little old soul who took this girl and turned her into a mom, even if she wasn’t expecting it.

Not without tears and breakdowns and enough insecurity to drown a continent. 
Still. 
Am I OK at this whole Mom thing .  Do I laugh at his antics too much?  Do I ask too much?  Am I enough to look up to?  Also who am I really? Wait… that can’t be part of being a parent.  Shit.  I suck.  Am I a good parent?

But then I have a little (big) boy who has grown into an amazing student, a gifted athlete, the keeper of the rules, intense as they come, passionate and driven.  He can be a jerk too.  Let’s be honest.  But as the sum of his parts he is set to be an incredible human being.

So tonight, tonight I toast the other women who sort of tripped into this whole ‘mom’ thing.  Who didn’t know that’s what they wanted, or what would color in the lines of a picture they never knew they had.

To the moms who still have dreams and places to travel, without their kids.  Who love their children fiercely and assuredly enough to admit that the sum of their parts isn’t entirely weighted in them, and that the very notion of this actually releases their children from conforming to their ideals instead of reaching their own potential.

I love being a mom.  It’s not the entirety of who I am but it takes up a whole lot of it. 

Tonight, tonight I pour a glass of wine, toast my husband and celebrate the anniversary of having shared nine years together as parents.

Holy shit.  Nine mother f&&&ing years.  And he’s great.  Our kid.  Same with the other two.  NO time to stop and get complacent but let’s keep this momentum going.

So one day we can relax in the Tuscan sun.  And I can rustily recall the lessons on Italian history.  And we can stumble into the south of France.
And I can realize that maybe it’s not the destination, but the journey that will teach me the real lessons.



Wednesday, April 8, 2015

When a Melody Sounds Like A Memory

I’ve been listening to a bunch of Eric Church in preparation for his concert this Sunday. .. ever a student I want to make sure I’m well versed on all material before heading into the test.  Only this one will be loud, and have beer, lots and lots of beer.

Anyways, I’ve loved the song “Springsteen” since I first heard it. .. because if there is one thing that is guaranteed to take me back, it’s a song.

It doesn’t matter that I now drive a bright blue minivan populated with my own offspring, when Snoop comes on, I’m turning that shit up, car-dancing, and definitely singing along.  Like some sort of space time continuum, I’m transported back to my girlfriend’s basement; south Regina, two blue-eyed teenaged white girls, layering on Bonne Bell Vanilla Icing lip gloss, baby t’s and denim miniskirts, and above all,

Sippin on Gin and Juice.. laaaid back.  Got my mind on my money and my money on my mind”.   

Then one of my kids pipes up,

“MOOOOOMMM, is this song ‘propriate for kids??”

And just like that, I’m snapped back to reality, and the melody fades into the background with the memories.

But it was listening to this particular song one night, driving in the country when that lyric hit me in the face with a memory. 
“You looked at me, and I was done, or we were just getting started...I was so alive, never been more free.  Funny how a melody, sounds like a memory, like a soundtrack to a July Saturday night"
 
Obviously this song was not around when I was in high school, neither was any Springsteen song for that matter, but that line kept playing over and over in my head in conjunction with one of my most favorite of memories, one that encapsulated what it felt like to be young, and free, and everything I don’t feel like these days.

The same blue-eyed bestie and I had headed out to a park, on a July Saturday night, with booze bought with money meant to be spent elsewhere, or smuggled from someone’s parents liquor cabinet (always replaced with water because that was REALLY a genius idea), or paid for by some boy who liked us.  I had my typical Jungle Juice which cost exactly the same amount of money as the ‘movie’ I said I was going to,  and we were sitting with boys in the park being naughty, but not REALLY naught in the grand scheme of bad things we could have been doing, teenagers, watching the storm in the distance as the lighting flashed and the thunder rumbled.  Definitely the last place our parents would have wanted us to be as a violent prairie thunder storm rolled in, not to mention that fact that we were with boys in a dark and isolated place, but hey, we listened to enough Cali rap to know a thing or two about being street smart.

As the storm approached there was a crack of thunder that vibrated the earth so hard I remember how it felt in my chest, and with the roar came a downpour of rain straight out of a movie. 

I remember us all beginning to run towards the cars, laughing and stumbling through the rain and the storm until someone, I can’t remember who, in fact the faces of everyone there are still fuzzy, stopped and started running back into the park. 

And for a brief moment, a second, it was like someone waved a flag to my subconscious to remember this. To take it in.

Because before long we were laughing and running through the rain like the, young, wild and free beautiful creatures we were, with nowhere to be, not a worry in the world, eyes clouded with the lust and haze of a few drinks and teenage hormones.  We laughed and ran and then I remember the boy with the perfect smile telling me to jump on his back as we headed back to the cars.  Soaked, laughing, and now with a ripped skirt from the gymnastics performed in order to move at all in a piece of denim that short and tight, I remember memorizing the details.

It was like an older version of myself crept in and enhanced the moment for memory sake- the smell of the rain, the grass sticking to my bare feet, the laughter mixed with the thunder, and lightning momentarily illuminating faces, then trees, then the swing set, then the water running down his face as he smiles and tells you to ‘COME ON!”.  And the feeling.  The feeling of being exactly who I was, and the universe revelling in the moment of connectedness.

Because a part of me would indeed, go on to visit that memory often, more frequently as an exhausted mom, a stressed out wife, a grown-up who doesn’t feel so grown up some days.  Because that grown woman still feels a tiny part of that girl when the right song comes on, or the rain pours down.  With an unforeseen knowledge of someone living their own past life, how much it was needed to vacation back in a memory for a few minutes.  To remember the essence of yourself in a world that sometimes sucks life and spirit and joy out of you without you recognizing it until you find yourself back in a memory.

And that line, the melody was the storm and the laughter, the hot July night and the look.. the look that was in fact, US just getting started.

Since this moment it’s happened more times.. not always when you’d expect it.  For example, my wedding day is a blur.  It’s in the most unplanned, unrehearsed prefect moments of life where these subconscious flags get staked.  And for me, almost always linked to a melody, a song, is a moment intrinsically embedded into the deepest part of who I am.

So yes, sometimes it’s a country song and I’m back on a horse, checking fences as my Grandpa led me and Tigger, as the grasshoppers clicked, and the sun drenched fields swayed in the breeze.  Sometimes it’s the melody of Backstreet Boys, never breaking my heart, which reminds me of the preteen girl who wanted to fall in love, who was so in love with love that she could barely stand it.  Or the melody of a Cali gangster that brings out the teenage me, ironically the whitest of white girls, still boy crazy, Sun-In hair wearing teeny tiny skirt, dancing through life with a smile and a giggle. 

And I know, someday down the road, which will feel like a brief moment, but will in fact be years, I will hear’ Sexy and I know It’ or ‘Happy’ and think about my three babies shaking their little selves in my living room as I laugh and dance along. 

But for now, I’m going to let Songza “At a 90’s School Dance” (Much Music Video Dance Party anyone??!!?) keep this day chugging along while I get some work done, with some memories scattered in here and there.  And probably chair dancing.  Because… obviously.
 
 
I know what you're thinking.  Hard Core Gangsta Rap Fan. 
 
Teenagers.  Just getting Started.
 
 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cabin Fever

In the last week or so I've been grumpy and restless with an epic lack of motivation.   
 
I mean epic.  My top two favorite things to do have been sleeping, and thinking about when I can get my next nap in.  This is obviously problematic with three kids and a husband busy working weird shifts.  So, instead of napping I found myself irritable and grumpy scrolling through my phone for a welcome diversion as I go about the necessary tasks of my life.

As a lifelong hypochondriac, of course I self-diagnosed myself with depression.  Seasonal, obviously, as up until mid-January, I felt ok.  

Since then, there has not been enough yoga, coffee or wine to make me feel a little like my old self.  (And I’ve tried.. oh I’ve tried.  One thing I don’t recommend is lunch with friends, a few beers, followed by a hot yoga class.  This ended in me finding little to no energy to do anything but Savasana.  Thankfully my social anxiety kicked in and I at least kept up with the class so as not to embarrass myself.)

It wasn’t until yesterday, when dear friends stopped by, that I realized I may simply have fallen prey to a sweeping epidemic.

A beautiful, and normally chipper teenager ,was a grump who thought basically everything and anything was stupid.  To which her mother, a constant ray of sunshine in my life, replied back that she too, thought most things were stupid and annoying these days as well.

The commiserating hit an all-time high when suddenly a term came to mind and I blurted it out, which I have the propensity to do in most situations.  (Appropriately or not.)

Cabin Fever.

We all kind of know what that means, right? 
I think a lot of us that live in these frozen parts use it a lot.  But, as I like to do, I decided to actually research what the hell that meant, if it was a real thing, and what the signs and symptoms of such an illness could be.  Since, to be perfectly honest, the thought of sitting in a remote cabin would be pretty awesome right now.

Google, the answer to all my earthly questions, defined it as :

“an idiomatic term, first recorded in 1838,[1] for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in a small space, with nothing to do for an extended period. Cabin fever describes the extreme irritability and restlessness a person may feel in these situations.[2]”

Guys, shit just got real, because then it went on to describe ME!!:

“A person may experience cabin fever in a situation such as being in a simple country vacation cottage. When experiencing cabin fever, a person may tend to sleep, have distrust of anyone they are with, and an urge to go outside even in the rain, snow, dark or hail. The phrase is also used humorously to indicate simple boredom from being home alone.[3]”

My name is Brittany, and I have Cabin Feveritis and I will no longer stay silent.  I am taking a stand for my fellow  Feveritis Sufferers.  My particular strain is of the Equine variety, but I know that Angling, Hunting, and Boating strains also exist.  (Those are some obviously made up terms.  But it sounded more professional).  

Cabin Fever is a thing, and it’s terrible. 
There is only one known cure for myself, and those like me.

Horses.

And not furry, winterized horses.  I need the smooth bodied, soft muzzled ones that won’t leave tufts of hair in the girth.  I need an orangey horse nickering to me as I walk down the aisle to get her, and I need to hear those sacred, sacred words to any rider, as I buzz down the rail and my ponytail swings like a toddler let loose in the backyard with a bat,

"Yes.. keep her right there.  Perfect.  Great! WOOOOO look at that show horse go"

Because most of all, I need to be riding towards a goal.  Not just for giggles and fun only.  Nope, I’m ready for the fun that comes from working harder than I have at anything else to attain my next goal.

And I need all the things on the periphery that come with this.

I need Starbucks, and an early morning drive to the barn on a warm spring day.

I need red wine in a red solo cup sitting on a mounting block in the middle of the arena watching horses work, and riders sweat, on a beautiful spring evening when my phone has conveniently lost service, and I swore I was going to be home an hour ago already. 

I need to feel the nerves of getting on, or staying on, when things have suddenly gone sideways… literally.  I need the bruises back on the inside of my knees, my legs to feel like jello (almost giving out when I jump off, stumbling super gracefully away as my trainer laughs and laughs at me), my hair to smell like horses, my hands to be dirty, and to laugh as shavings fall out of my bra when I go to change when I get home.  (But really.. how do shavings get everywhere??)

I need the camaraderie of the barn and the people and the animals that populate it.  I need the “You gotta see this horse work” and the “Wanna try him out?”s that ensure I will never, ever, ever be on time getting home from the barn.

It’s in my blood, and anytime something permeates the very essence of you, it starts to become more than just a pastime.  Passion is thrown around often whenever someone talks about horses.  But to me, passion is something that can fade.  Yes, passion it is, but more so it’s a need that comes from a place you can’t even name.

It’s what got me out of bed at 7am in high school and University, when I would do the Sunday chores at the barn to work off board. 

It’s using my one ‘kid and husband free’ week a year, to go to a show where I work longer hours and feel more drained than when I left, in the most beautifully, contentedly, exhausted way.

It’s what fuels the drive to keep trying and keeping saddling up when you’re feeling defeated, or scared, or maybe a little of both.

It’s what I saw in my Grandpa, who could barely bend over without losing his breath or passing out, as he still hauled himself atop his horse right up until the end of his life. 

So yes, I’m feeling Cabin Fever, no doubt.  But upon further contemplation, a strange realization came upon me. 

To feel this void, this utter lack of motivation reminds me of what I have the privilege of possessing in my self and in my life. 

Because you can't miss the adrenaline, the sanctity, the joy, and the sheer insanity of something you've never had the privilege of knowing.

So instead of the grey days of February beating me further into an abysmal state, I’ll grab a coffee, head out to the barn, and hug my horse, and eagerly await those moments of bliss that are sure to await me this spring. 

Well, bliss and sore legs. 

And shavings.  Always shavings.
This is a winterized Indira. 

Because what would horse shows be without golf carts and great friends?

Preclass chat.