Thursday, 30 July 2015

Bouncing Back Isn't Quite the Right Word



Slowly I am recovering from such an amazing weekend.  I have had a great deal of sleep and a great deal of sitting on the sofa like a lump. I have to say, I think that sitting like a lump might be one of my specialties.  I like to imagine myself draped in a louche and graceful manner but sometimes reality bites, as they say.

If you read my blog, and if I had access to you recently and you had to listen to me, you may be aware that when I am exhausted and feeling unwell I can get a bit blue and when I get a bit blue it always turns and attacks my physical appearance like some sort of sprung from my conscience monster.  It has been that way as along as I can remember, I always recover, but it will happen again.  I suppose, it's not terribly illogical if you think that most of us, do not feel particularly gorgeous when ill.


Hating all (or nearly all) of the images of myself I saw on other people's cameras over the Vancouver weekend, as well as a little bit of direct advice from Sheila...

An aside here:  If you ever meet Sheila you are in for a treat.  She is, in a word, bossy.  But she is the sweetest and kindest bossy I have ever met.  I think that is because her bossy pants are bright pink.  Sheila told me things I already knew but she said them very directly, matter of factly, and with love.  Sheila just wants to make the world a better place for everyone and she has some good ideas on how to do that.

....she pointed out to me that I would be better served by my hair off my face.  She wasn't telling me anything I didn't already know, which is that there is some weight to my lower face and hair hanging there emphasises it, and that due to the way my hair waves, I get what I have always called the earmuff look and she referred to as dog ears.  Sheila did you compare me to a basset hound?  She encouraged me to tuck my hair behind my ears.  She encouraged me to cut it shorter again and I balked.

I have cycled through growing my hair long and cutting it all off several times in my life, and while short and long both suit me, all of the in between stages are less flattering and those in between stages go on for a couple of years.  I am not sure I have the patience for that.

Another aside: Melanie, because she is Melanie, thinks that I should have a selection of wigs to just change up my look at times.  She supports the idea of something mod and sixties in a shaggy, back-combed sort of way.  You cannot meet Melanie and not fall in love with her, but Melanie, dear, I think I'll take my hair advice from Sheila this time around.

So....I cut it.  My hair.  Because that is what I do at 4am when I am not asleep like I should be.   Slowly, a little bit at a time over the course of a day, I achieved a shape I was happy with.  It's not perfect and I will go to see my poor neglected, lovely Jason in about six weeks to get it done properly but at the moment I don't want it any shorter and hair stylists are utterly incapable of not making hair shorter.  I want it cut with a razor.  I want it choppier, edgier, a tad less round and bowl like than what I achieve when I cut it myself.

Last night I looked like the photo at the top of the page.  No makeup, hair in a natural and no-product state.  I am actually wearing my pyjamas in that photo too.


Today, feeling a little more alive. I managed to shower and dress although simply for staying home and warm weather.  I got out the hair wax and my favourite eye pencil.

It doesn't take much makeup to make a difference on me.  I still prefer a natural look and favour a lightly smokey eye and bare face and lips.  I own several lipsticks but usually can't be bothered with them.

A makeup tutorial from me is a rather hilarious idea, is it not?  I won't go that far, but in case you are a minimal makeup wearing person such as myself I will share my favourites for the very soft-natural smokey eye. In this photo it looks like one eye is slightly darker but it doesn't look that way in the mirror. I like something that is my own colouring but a bit darker so



what works best with my colouring is a taupe colour.  I use a shadow from Revlon called Greige which also works really well on my brows though I generally don't bother.  I love a pencil by Annabelle in Rich Chocolate which I find to be a soft, cool brown with an ever so slight purple undertone and it smudges really nicely.  I put a thick link above my eye and a thin one under and them smudge liberally.  I add the greige shadow all over my lid after and the results are what you see in the photos below.  It's not a big difference and I am generally the type to go for a no-makeup look, the subtle improvement.  It would be more dramatic if I added mascara so perhaps I would do that if going out in the evening.  Perhaps.  I'm not making any promises.



And the final point of this rambly post is to demonstrate the effects of good posing as opposed to my usual look.  I am very self conscious about posing and tend to make an attempt to close in on myself, to shrink, to disappear, if a camera is pointed at me.  It takes a great deal of effort not to and so I typically look like a bit of a blob, as in this photo below.


I am squishing my shoulders together, which makes my boobs look squished and my arms look fatter.  Isn't that bra strap lovely?  I wish I could find pretty bras in my size without industrial strength strap widths.

In the nest photo I temporarily took on a different persona.  I pretended that it was quite expected that there would be a camera wanting to take a picture of my gorgeous self.  And I posed. It makes me look slimmer and is generally more flattering overall.   Instead of shrinking I expanded. My waist became miraculously slimmer and so did my arms.  Or as I like to think of it, it shows what I actually look like better than a scrunched up blob pose does.






I would never do this in a candid photo of course.  Most candid photos catch me in the middle of talking and making funny faces.  If asked to pose I tend to get self conscious and go into scrunched up mode like the other photo.  Baby steps.  I may never get it 'right' and improvement may be slow, but blogging is helping me become more accustomed to a camera pointed at me and also more accepting of what I look like in a photograph.

I am inundated with offers now, to become a middle aged plus size model (oh wait no that was just the nightmare I had last night) but I think I will continue instead being a writer and painter who sometimes embarrasses herself on the internet.  It seems to suit me.


Monday, 27 July 2015

Vancouver Briefly and a Story

The Vancouver Forty Plus Blogger Meet Up was an amazing, wonderful and worthwhile event, and so much thanks is due to Melanie, Suzanne and Sue for putting it together.  I was exhausted, happy, un-stylish and over-fed.  I cannot even begin to describe it and do it justice though I hope to eventually try.  I met so many wonderful women, some I was already acquainted with through blogs and others I was not but have come away in love with them all.  I want to toss around words like, kind, fun, interesting, delightful, sisterhood, charming, and I know this experience will stay with me forever.  Ally wrote on her blog that she is overwhelmed by the acceptance she experienced and hadn't really expected, or had feared she would not find.  In a less significant way, I think, I had a similar experience.  While I present as a woman, and I am a woman, I spent a weekend with some gorgeous, stylish, beautiful women and I was not feeling gorgeous or stylish myself.  I did not have the energy to wash and style my hair during the course of the weekend.  I had not been able to figure out what clothes to pack for the weather, for comfort (which is always really important to me) and for minimalism which was required for my float plane flight.

Priorities were like this:

1.  Use all my energy to be with the women for social events that involved sitting.

2.  Be warm and comfortable.

3.  Take my laptop and camera and a book because I will need to entertain myself while alone in the hotel room most of the day.

...................

100.  Look my best.

But, despite looking my best being quite far down on my list, I felt dowdy, unwashed and unstylish when I was with this group.  I must make it clear that they did not make me feel this way.  It is entirely my own fault, my own hang-up.  Everyone was lovely and what I look like doesn't really matter though I have not quite gotten my emotional responses in sync with what I know intellectually.  It's a journey.  I'm still on it.

What would I want the people I met to get from meeting me?  I would want them to like who I am, not what I look like and who I am is someone who quite often does not look her best.  If everyone else is okay with that, I need to be as well.  I also need to learn to pack more successfully, but I don't leave home very often so I have limited experience with that.

I have very few photos from the weekend.  I am not someone who takes pictures of people, apparently.  I have photos from my flight and photos from my hotel window.  The evidence that I socialised will have to come from the other bloggers, the enthusiastic photo-takers for whom I am so grateful.

I arrived in the rain and clouds.  This is the approach to Coal Harbour, downtown Vancouver.



The weather improved a little on Saturday and was perhaps nicest on Sunday, as is often the way with vacations.

I am also linking up my latest story to Natalia's Write and Link.

                                Things That Happened to Henry


The day before the fire was one of those long, hot summer days where you feel relief when the sun sets and want to stay up all night enjoying the cool darkness.  Later Henry believed it was this variation in the well-structured hours she usually kept  that made her slower than usual and caused her mind to go blank with panic and her body to not do what she expected and needed it to do.  

Henry was used to arguing with people.  Sometimes it was about whether or not Henry was a proper  name for a female, though that was generally the old people. Often it was politics or ethics or feminist issues.  Henry argued just about everything with everyone whom she could draw into an argument.  If she was with someone who shared similar views, Henry liked to play Devil’s Advocate.  The internet was a good outlet for this but lately Henry was feeling that she was growing old and so was arguing.  In her younger years she had believed she could actually convince someone, change minds.  Then as she grew cynical she just wanted to score points, to be right and prove it.  Now she was finding that while this could happen it was rare and it just wasn’t worth all the effort anymore.  Her social media was filled with her own personal rants and links to other people’s rants and attempts to start discussions on a variety of topics but nobody was taking the bait. They only wanted to post photos of their pets and what they cooked for dinner, their childrens’ swimming lessons or some cartoon that was doing the internet rounds that week. 

This time the argument Henry fell into was with the waiter at Chez Moi, a hipsterish eatery with delicious food but a bit of an artsy pretension.  She wanted two appetisers as her meal, the garlic chicken dumplings with chutney and the spring peas and smoked salmon nori rolls, which was not a problem at all according to the waiter, but putting them on the same plate was a problem.  “The chef is not going to do that.” The waiter said, looking a little anxious.   What would the flavours do to each other when mingled?  Henry must understand that the presentation of each dish was also important.  “I don’t care what the food looks like, I just want to eat it.  I know it will be delicious and it’s all going to the same place anyhow so I don’t see the problem with the mingling.  I want to eat it, not look at it; it’s not a work of art.”  She knew she shouldn’t have said that.  To them it was a work of art.  Now she had insulted them and would be even less likely to get her way.

“I will see what the chef says,” the waiter replied.

Several minutes later two square platters large enough to be serving trays, each bearing a small dab of food, were placed on the table, taking up so much space the waiter had to remove the candle and bud vase. Just as the plates arrived, Henry’s phone notified her there was a message and she checked it, as today was one of those days messages should not be ignored. As she’d suspected, it was a summons to the hospital where her mother was awake and asking for her.  Waving the cell phone around as evidence, she explained to the waiter that there was now an emergency situation she had to dash off to and could she please get her food to go.
The waiter gave a pained smile, said, ‘of course’ and carried the platters away again.  When he returned, it was with the dumplings, the chutney, the nori rolls and the garlicky sauce all comingling in one polystyrene container, encircled with a red elastic band.  Henry handed him a twenty, a ten and a five, thanked him for his patience, and said she must dash off.

Dashing was not actually something Henry could do, but she was not prepared to give up the word.  In the car, she ate with her fingers, licking the sticky sauce as it dribbled down her hands and driving with only her left hand on the steering wheel.  When she had finished eating, and while idling at a stop light, she retrieved some wet wipes out of the glove compartment and cleaned up her hands, closed up the take out container and sighed.   Thankfully there would be coffee at the hospital.
Less appealingly, there would also be Bob at the hospital,  her mother’s boyfriend, or lover, or partner.  Henry was never sure what to call him.  Debra, Henry’s younger sister,  was much more tolerant of him but that’s because she was engaged andin love and seeing the world through rose tinted lenses. 

After taking quite some time to find a parking space and then even more time getting a ticket, Henry manoevered herself and her steel crutches towards the little trailer with the wooden sign that said, Java Gypsy.  The trailer was done up to look like a gypsy caravan and it was a fixed copy of one that could be seen  downtown, parking in different locations each week.  Carrying a cup of hot coffee while one’s arms are engaged with crutches, makes progress even slower than usual.  Henry  was in a hurry to get to her mother’s room, to see that she was doing okay, to do her duty, and then get away, but hurrying was not something she had much ability to do.  Some people thought she would give up driving after the accident, but she hadn’t done that.  Henry did not like to meet other people’s expectations, which had probably contributed to her failed marriage.  At least that is what her mother told her.

Surprisingly, Bob wasn’t there after all, though he was the one who had sent the text message.  Her mother was propped upright and fussing with a small handheld mirror when Henry entered the room.  “My hair is a fright.”  She said by way of greeting her daughter.

“Yes, it is, but you’re alive so that’s something,”  Henry replied.

“I was just checking on that in the  mirror.  It seems that I am.” Her mother put the mirror down on the rolling table beside her bed.

 Henry sat down on the plastic chair near the bed and relieved herself of the crutches and the paper cup of coffee, placing the cup on the radiator just behind her chair.  There was an unfinished cup of clear tea on the table beside her mother. 


“Where’s Bob?”  Henry hated making small talk but that is what one had to do when visiting a hospitalised person.  If Bob had been there before her, he had probably used up all the conversation about the weather.  It was quite unremarkable weather anyhow, cloudy skies mixed with sun, mild temperatures, as the forecasters had predicted for the whole week.

“He was here earlier, but had to pop home to walk the dog.  He’ll be back later.”
“Is Debra coming?”  People always seemed to ask Henry this question and it did not surprise her.  Debra was the cheery one.  Henry didn’t hold it against Debra at all for being so likable.  In fact she was rather glad that Debra took that on and left her free to do other things.  For as long as they could both remember, Debra had always told Henry her secrets and Henry had always kept them.

“Debra’s at a fitting for her dress today,” Henry explained, “but I did send her a message and Bob probably did too.  She’s a bit behind schedule today, I think.  We were supposed to meet for lunch and at the last minute she couldn’t make it.”
Her mother yawned and blinked. 

“I’m still really quite tired,” she said. “You don’t need to stay.”  

“You need to get lots of rest before the wedding.  I’ve picked up your dress from the tailor’s.  It’s in my car now and I’ve made an appointment for you at the hair salon, so don’t worry about your hair right now.”

“I won’t have any to worry about after the chemo.”

“Yeah, I know.  But the chemo is after the wedding.  We’ll deal with one thing at a time.”

“Bob said he would polish my shoes.”

“Oh, that’s nice of him.”

“I wish Debra had asked you to be a bridesmaid.  It only seems right.”

“Mum, she knows that wouldn’t work out.  It would take me ages to get down the aisle and it would throw off the whole rhythm.  Besides, I am quite happy not to be on display like that.”

“Don’t you think you could practice and maybe get a little faster?”

“I’ve been practicing for months now.  She lowered the upright bed and helped her mother settle down to a position more comfortable for sleeping.  As she made her way down the hallway to the elevator, she remembered that her unconsumed and by now cold cup of coffee was still sitting on the radiator.




At the wedding, Debra looked radiant, just as brides are always described and their mother, on Bob’s arm, looked tired.  Debra danced with her new husband.  They smiled and gazed into each other’s eyes and showed off the moves they had spent several dance lessons learning for just this moment.  Their mother and Bob joined in, and a small girl, Henry wasn’t sure who she was, danced with her father, her feet placed right on top of his.  Not long ago Henry might have danced too, though she would have favoured the fast songs.  Speed was her need, and her method of getting through life, like those toddlers who when first learning to walk run instead in a precarious and unstable looking forward tilt as though they had no intention of ever stopping.  Henry had always operated on the principle that it was best to keep running, but now she had no speed.  Now she was forced to move through the world slowly. 

She sat and watched people, which was not something she had really done much of before.  It wasn’t comfortable to be still, to be slow, to be on the edge looking on, but there she was.  The little girl, who was maybe three, concentrated intently on where her father’s feet moved her.  Bob held up the woman he loved and moved them together as one around the dance floor.  As the music changed tempo other people made their way to the dance area, not all romantic couples, just people having fun.  People moving in ways she no longer could.  Out there on that dance floor was a woman with cancer, who did not know if she was going to survive it or not but still she danced.  Self-pity and guilt compounded now, and Henry felt the need to hobble outside to the patio for fresh air.   There were obstacles everywhere, dancers, tables, chairs rearranged to accomodate conversation groups.    There had been a rain shower early in the evening and the lawns were wet.  It was best to stay on the concrete patio area, but now that she was outside among clusters of smokers what was she to do?  She stared at the flowerbeds in the distance, making sure she avoided eye contact.   Wedding ettiquette as she understood it required her to stay until her sister and brother-in-law left.  Leaving early would look bad and worry her mother.  She was both tired and restless and she wasn’t sure of the time but the sky was only just getting dark which suggested it was around ten o’clock.  Bob and her mother left early and Henry envied them. 

It wasn’t while snowboarding or skiing that Henry was injured.  It wasn’t while riding her mountain bike over difficult trails where every rock and tree root was a potential danger.  It was coming down the mountain in her car.  The accident was not her fault technically, which was of some comfort, though secretly Henry blamed herself, believed she should have been able to avoid it.  She hadn’t discussed this with anyone except the counsellor she had briefly seen.  Counsellors were just someone else to argue with and she didn’t like paying to argue so she stopped her sessions.  She had already been through the surgery and the hardest part of physiotherapy by then.  She needed a break from therapies and people wanting to help her or fix her or improve her all of which just made her feel worse about her situation.  She was broken but she didn’t like other people pointing that out.  She did physiotherapy now once a week, and followed her exercise routines as prescribed.  She still moved awkwardly, still felt pain and stiffness.  She was afraid of falling or tripping.  It seemed that she had been twenty seven before the accident and was fifty seven immediately after it.  Debra kept bringing up post injury depression but Henry brushed it aside.  Weaker people might be afflicted with that, but not someone like Henry.

People said Henry should have been a lawyer because she liked to argue.  People said Henry was so strong and independent.  Henry didn’t need anybody so it was no wonder she wasn’t interested in any long term relationship.  This is what other people said.  Henry didn’t say this but she really worked at living up to it.  Now she was failing.  Failing because everything was harder now that she had an injury to recover from.  Failing because she didn’t want to go back to the extreme sports she had pursued passionately before.  Debra’s fiance, Steve had said she would change her mind.  He said this when she had just had her surgery.  He said she would be just like she was before and back at it all again in no time.  Then he said that the worst case scenario was that if she were permanently disabled she would just have to use adaptive equipment.  That’s what he said, just have to.  The way you say, well it has started to rain so I will just have to put my boots on.

Henry tried to like Steve but liking him required adaptive equipment and she didn’t have any.  Debra told Henry about Steve after meeting him through a dating website.  She told Henry, over lunch at Chez Moi, when she and Steve first had sex, which was after the third date because Debra had read in a magazine that was the best strategy if you wanted to catch they guy.  Hold out for the third date because it is holding out just enough but not too long.  After she had been on several dates with Steve and they believed they were serious about each other Debra told Henry she knew they were going to get married.  It was just so obvious. Steve was probably a good guy, Henry supposed.  Weren’t most guys good guys, really, if you sorted through all the character traits that may or may not personally appeal to you, and got down to the basics? 

Henry had married a good guy once.  Briefly.  It had lasted a year and then they both realised their mistake.  He was a good person.  Henry was a good person too.  They were just not each other’s good people.  Debra thought Henry should look at online dating too and although Debra was one of the few people Henry didn’t usually argue with there was no way she was going to look online for a husband.  She found the idea repulsive.  Henry kept all of Debra’s secrets and didn’t bat an eye when Debra sat right next to her and told their mother she and Steve had met through mutual friends, or when Debra told her friends that she and Steve had met through friends of their parents.  They were a couple for a year and then got engaged.  It took another year to plan the wedding. 

Most weddings come with a required roster of toasts and speeches and this one did too.  People clinked forks on glasses to make the bride and groom kiss.  Henry’s own wedding had not been a formal event like this.  She didn’t like toasts and speeches or sitting at a head table being looked at.  She had gotten married in a civil ceremony at the town hall, in a small ordinary room done up hastily with a metal garden arch and some crepe paper flowers.  Her mother had been disappointed by it and Henry felt sure she believed this had contributed to the failure of the marriage, this lack of a proper beginning.  At Debra’s ceremony everything was beginning properly.  After the usual toasts, giggling a little, Debra and Steve told the crowd they had a confession to make.  Something that nobody knew, they said.  They had kept it a secret from everyone, they said.  Henry sat very still and listened as they told how they had actually met through an online dating site and wasn’t this funny but look how well it had all worked out.  Online dating sites weren’t just for the old and desperate.  They were for the young and hopeful too.  They were for people like Debra and Steve.

Henry had cleaning help, from a student needing a summer job,  just for awhile while moving, bending, lifting, was all still a bit of a challenge and she needed to dedicate herself to her therapy exercises and leave the vacuuming and dusting to someone else.  Once a week, for half an hour, Alexa came to clean the small one bedroom apartment, to dust her belongings and vacuum her bits of shed skin out of the carpet.  Henry found this embarrasing. She could have arranged it for one of her days at the office and then she wouldn’t have had to see or speak to the Alexa, but that felt too pretentious.  The alternative was the awkwardness of having someone clean around her while she was home.   After she had been coming for a couple of months,  Alexa casually mentioned to Henry that she had another client who would be just perfect for Henry.  They would be such a cute couple, Alexa was sure.  She wanted to fix them up.  She wanted to play matchmaker, she said with a giggle.  And Henry was horrified.

But Henry went on the blind date.  His name was also Steve which seemed like it would be a bad omen if Henry were superstitious.   Steve opened doors and pulled out chairs and Henry was peeved because she thought it was pity.  But she and Steve talked, and talked, and went out again another night and talked more.  He was going to take her sailing on the third date.  She was nervous about it because she didn’t know how to sail.  She would have to rely on Steve to do the work although probably she could help.  She told him she could not move quickly.  Steve thought she meant in a relationship, though Henry didn’t know that.  He looked puzzled but didn’t say anything. 




The fire happened a few days after the second date with Steve.  Lynnette dropped by for coffee and some company as she sometimes did on a Sunday morning.  She was lonely since her husband  died last year and her  daughter  lived half way across the country.  Henry was trying to convince her to join the seniors’ centre.  She worried about being Lynette’s only social outlet.  They sat in the living room drinking coffee.  Muffin, Henry’s very fat ginger cat, was happily settled on Lynette’s lap and receiving half the attention she believed was due to her.  The fire alarm began to clang with an eardrum shattering racket and  Henry felt herself locked into position in her armchair as surely as a seat belt had materialised around her.  Muffin leapt off Lynette’s lap and crawled under the sofa.  Those are the details Henry can remember.   She knows that other things happened because Lynette has told her many times since then but she doesn’t have a true memory of her own.  The apartment was on the ground floor and had a sliding glass door that lead from the living room to an outside patio and beyond that, on the other side of a fence, was the parking lot.  Exiting was easy but Henry wasn’t moving.  Lynette pulled her to her feet, coaxing her, encouraging her to move but Henry said, “Muffin”.  Lynette dropped to her knees and looked under the sofa where she had last seen the cat disappear.  Two shining eyes, huge and round looked back at her.  Reaching under, she grabbed the cat by her front legs and pulled.  Holding a struggling feline in one arm she hooked her other arm through Henry’s and said, “let’s go.”  She marched Henry outside, without her crutches, to the company of the other evacuees gathering in the parking lot.

 The smoke was visible.  The fire trucks came.  Muffin, who struggled and scratched, frightened by the situation, was impossible for Lynette to hold onto and and was quickly released only for Henry to see her make a dash back inside.   As it turned out, the fire was contained within one apartment on the ground floor but smoke had quickly poured into the hall because the resident of that apartment had opened her door.  The alarms had been triggered but there was no damage beyond a melted plastic bowl now stuck to the surface of the woman’s stove.  There was a terrible smell in the hall but Henry did not have to use the hall.  All she wanted to do now was sleep.  What would she have done if Lynette had not been there?  What if it had been a big fire?  Lynette helped her back inside when they were given the all clear.  Henry admitted that she just wanted to sleep and Lynette agreed that she did too.  It’s the shock, she said.  Henry suggested that after a nap she would like to take Lynette out for some dinner later.  They both deserved it she said, trying to downplay the thank you a little bit, not make too much of a big deal about it.  Lynette would understand.  She would see it for what it was. 

While she napped Henry dreamed.  She dreamed of being out on the water, sailing with Steve. Her crutches floated on the water beside the boat and she looked at them as though they were pieces of driftwood.  Then that is exactly what they became and Henry, on the boat, sailed on past them.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

I Present Some Clothes and The Poems of a Sleep Deprived Woman

Poetry seems to pour out of me when I am exhausted but can't sleep.  It's a particularly annoying state to be in so it may have an effect on what I write, but it seems to contribute greatly to what feels like deeper insight into my own head.  This makes sense really, as the fatigue will quiet and slow my brain, allowing me to focus on one idea, but the sleeplessness makes me restless enough to turn on the light and write it down.

Before I share another slew of first draft poems, I will share two days of outfit satisfaction.  It is pretty safe to assume, when you see me, that I am wearing Thrift Shop sourced cotton clothing quite possibly made by an underpaid person in a sweatshop.  Don't think this doesn't trouble me, but for now my best response to this is to buy it second hand.


I am rather awful at giving my poems titles.  A title always seems unnecessary to me except for that pesky purpose of cataloging.  If my poems have titles it is easier to find the file again when I want it but I suspect you can tell that my titles are just slapped on as an afterthought.

A Tree

A tree is radical.
It grows from roots-deep,
Wide-spread seeking stability, gripping rock and soil
As its branches reach, extend, grow  higher,
finding light.
The leaves reflect, gather, consider their enlightenment,
Drawing it in to nourish the roots that secure it to life.

Love

The best way to never get hurt
Is never to love.
I don’t know about you
But I don’t have the ability to stop breathing
And still live.

Letting Go

There was a time when I thought I would break apart
Shattered from the pain in my heart
So deeply,
There were scars-
Which is perfect, really because
They remind me of all that
You taught me
About letting go.


Knowing

Of all the unknowable things the most unknowable
Is Truth.
Many do not know it.
Many others think that they do.

Of all the unknowable people the most unknowable
Is you.
And the sum-total of what I know about you
Is that I will never know you.

Of all the knowable things the most knowable
Is suffering.
And everybody knows it.


My Pen

My pen chases away thoughts with
Lashings of ink,
Curling and flicking out to reach,
To touch,
Seeking to make contact with the sharp whip-crack
Of certainty.
 Once it is written, it is.


After

After it happened there was a gut-weight
Leaden lump
Of something that you turned to nothing.

At first, for a day perhaps,
I thought it was sadness.
Or hurt and then thought, no, it’s anger.

But it’s only the concrete certainty
That nothing was lost after all
Because there was nothing to lose.

Waves

We talk for hours and pour
As much of ourselves into each other
In the only form of intimacy that we have.

Knowing with mind and not body-
Prohibited by distance
There is only this kind of knowing available to us.

So we seek it, cherish it,
Caress it as a wave caresses the shore each time they meet
In the daily seeking and endless leaving.


Thursday, 16 July 2015

Accessories and Layering In Summer Weather

We are getting cooler days mixed in with hot ones now.  Sometimes the range is as much as ten degrees.  I confess to liking the cooler ones better and something akin to room temperature is my favourite. When it gets too hot for me I tend not to want anything to do with accessories.  I think I must get a bit grumpy about this because I will even ignore reasonable ones as though just the effort of putting anything on is too much.


Here is some ladylike doorway posing.  I am becoming a master.  It looks like I am completely without accessories, however I am never without three pairs of earrings per ear, which you cannot see given my current hair style.  I am also never without at least three rings on my fingers.  I wear these to bed, in the bath and basically all of the time. There is a small nose stud which I generally forget exists.  Necklaces and scarves are usually too much for me in summer and I save bracelets for when going out.  I apply pins and homemade fabric flowers if I think of it.  Makeup?  Not likely.  Glasses?  Yes, I had better go and find those.

                               Thank you for that bum view, Matty.


This getup was for a day which was significiantly cooler and damp.  I am also in that phase of my cycle (cue the ominous music) where I get twice as exhausted as normal and feel what is best summed up as "icky".  I'm just glad to be getting that over with before the Vancouver Blogger Meet Up.  So, yesterday I was chilled and exhausted and went into my closet and began piling on layers of pretty much whatever I found first.

The result was this.  Do not try this at home.  Definitely do not try this in public. This is my super comfortable, keep me warm, too big for me, not flattering sweater.  I love it.  It could fit two people which I think is rather romantic.

Shortly after I took this picture I crawled into bed wearing all of this, pulled up the big thick quilt and had a three hour nap.  I look so sad here but I am just tired.

Three days later I got out of bed, showered and dressed again.  Not feeling tip top but feeling better.  Allergies are awful though.  My dear friend Sheila is picking me up and we are going out for a nice coffee and chat.  So glad I am clean today!

I was already wearing this doubtful outfit consisting of a jersey skirt and a shirt dress which I keep putting into my donation pile and pulling out again.  But somebody has to rescue me because I am never happy wearing it.  Can't explain it.  And they are about to come off now.  No idea why my hair looks so weird.  Must do something about that.  And look...a flick of grey eye shadow and I practically look goth. 



So we move on to a new-to-me dress.  It needs ironing so after this quick and dirty modelling session I will whip it off my carcass and iron it right here in the living room.  I'm fairly certain the neighbours can't see me and if they can well then they are most fortunate.  I'm not the best at ironing so it will be a quick hot dab at the worst spots.  That sounds like much more fun that it really is.  I don't iron much.  I stupidly left my favourite ironing board behind in my divorce and this new one, well, I use it so rarely it takes me a minute or two to remember how to work the lever that releases the legs.  And my iron is a smart iron apparently.  It turns itself off when not in use.  It also seems to stand in judgement of my ironing skills and turns itself off when I am in the middle of using it......

Okay, task accomplished and the dress is ironed but in the pics I'm about to give you it's not.  I'm continuing with my theme of looking pregnant to look youthful.  And I don't know what the feck is  going on with my hair today.  I don't actually have much control over it; I only pretend that I do.  I like it in the first picture but that is slept on hair and sleeping on my hair doesn't usually result in that look. My skills with a hairdryer are only slightly better than my skills with a clothes iron.

I wiped off the smokey eye with a tissue but it's still smouldering there a bit.  Time to get serious about looking half decent for going out in public so I've drugged myself with every medication I have for allergies but I am still a sniffling mess.  But isn't my new dress cute!  The pattern vaguely looks like palm trees and the dress like a cut off Mumu.  You might say, but Shawna this outfit is no more or less flattering than the one above that you rejected and perhaps you would be right.  The difference is the way I feel when I wear it.  I feel like me.  The difference is also that there is no collar.  For some reason collars make me insane  unless they are on coats and then they are okay..... OMG why am I now looking at this dress and thinking there are two big coconuts on this palm tree?

Feck feck feckity feck.... I am wearing it anyway. 
An empire waistline, while also making me look pregnant, tend to make my legs look longer.  I know you are about to say I have long legs anyhow, but hear me out.  Yes, I am taller than average, but proportionately my legs are not long.  My height tends to be in my torso and I am long in the rise which makes getting pants to fit a bit hellish.  Of course, we are never happy with our body shapes. My mum has legs that go right up to her armpits and she hates this.  I tell her that long legs and a shorter torso is actually the 'in' look and is more like models and she just looks at me like I am crazy.  Mum and I are the same height but our body shapes are completely different.  We can, however agree on the challenges of sleeve length.

Okay, surely there is something else I should be doing right now.  Oh yes...I need to put the iron and ironing board away.  TTFN

Monday, 13 July 2015

How I Changed My Mind, Grew, and Became Less Judgemental

I used to think divorce was nearly always a bad thing (unless a spouse was abusive) and even bought into that much trotted out idea that people just didn't try hard enough or gave up to soon.  It amazes me that I held these views as I am not remotely religious and they are usually tied up with religious ideals.  I was silently critical of people I knew who divorced, and usually most so of the one who did the leaving, unless the couple had always seemed really poorly matched to me or if I found one of them quite unappealing and could really understand the other's having suddenly seen that.  I used to proudly tell people that even if my husband cheated on me I would not leave him because divorce was bad for children.  I would insist on making the marriage work.

It is exactly this thinking that made such a mess of things for me.  Hindsight being what it is, I can look back on my marriage and see that there were some red flags early on.  But I was not the giving up type.  I was the work it out type, the just try harder type.  I was the type who believed that I personally could and should fix it or hold it together.  Hindsight also tells me that ego was involved.  I would be very unlikely to have admitted that I had made a mistake in my choice.  I now sometimes wonder if I failed morally in some way by not ending the marriage early on, particularly before we had a child. 

I have to note here that not many mothers can ever regret the birth of child and I do not regret mine.  I love him more than life itself but I sometimes feel guilt for having brought him into an increasingly dysfunctional family.

Sometimes when I read of or hear of people saying someone gave up too early, too easily I feel angered by this ignorance.  I stayed until it felt too late to turn back.  To me, because of the beliefs I held, it was too late to turn back the day I said my marriage vows.  Not that I had any regrets at that point.  It took ten or twelve years into the marriage before I was actively trying to fool myself.  Before I was in deep denial.

As the marriage began to more visibly crumble there was counselling involved.  There was much determination on my part.  There was more denial on my part but then life is often complex and so are people.  Although the marriage was dysfunctional, although he was becoming increasingly emotionally abusive, there were nice things, there was a shared history that included good times, he was not and still is not an evil or all bad person.  So I made excuses, forgave, ignored, pretended.  The problem with this is none of that changed his behaviour.  It did not matter how much I tried to make this marriage work, it did not matter that I had not given up 'too soon' and in fact it may have been worse because I had held on so long.  I stayed for 23 years.  Nobody can tell me that I gave up too soon, but there are still people who love those feel good stories about people who are on the brink of divorce because they have stopped treating each other well and suddenly they realise that and fix it all and live happily ever after. 

So what good does it do to rant and rave about people not doing marriage properly, not trying hard enough, not sticking it out or not taking it seriously?  How beneficial is it for a child to witness an example of a dysfunctional marriage instead of a loving and successful one? 

The only people I know who view marriage as some sort of sacred institution that must be stuck with no matter how harmful it is to one or both parties, are people immersed in very fundamentalist religions.  I was not and never have been one of those people so I do not know how I ended up with those attitudes but I suspect it was more connected to pride. 

But I learned.  We do not know all that goes on in someone else's relationship even if we think we do.  Not even if we are close friends with one or both of them and they tell us.  I know this because I myself lied to close friends and family.  Out of misplaced pride I could not let anyone know that the man I was married to had stopped loving me or had been mistreating me.  I preferred to tell people, at least initially, that I was leaving the marriage because I was just not suited to being married and was better off alone.  I took on all of the blame.  I said, it's not him, it's me.  Undoing this later was a bit of a challenge.

While I was silently critical in the past, others are not silent about their criticisms.  I believe such attitudes are harmful and contribute to the attitudes that prompt an abused person to stay in a bad relationship.  I believe they support shame.  To this day most people in my social circle do not know why I left the marriage except for a few close friends (there are only about two people from my offline line who ever sometimes read this blog) and even my ex is clueless.  Emotional abusers usually do not recognise that they are such and they leave no bruises to contradict their own perceptions. 

In writing about this I am simply hoping to reach a few people, perhaps someone who has never considered this perspective before and could offer more sympathy and support to a divorcing friend.  Or perhaps to someone who needs to leave a bad relationship.  I am not jaded; I will try again someday.  And I"m grateful for the many lessons I learned in my experience.  I am even grateful for the times that were good.  I forgive him and I forgive myself.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Sensitive



 
A Happy Place

I am a very sensitive person.  I am sensitive to bright or flickering light, sensitive to heat and cold, my body overreacting to both.  I have sensitive skin which is not much of a treat and sensitive digestion which is even less so.  Loud noises, especially sudden ones, trigger my fight or flight instinct.  I am sensitive to smells, and many that don't bother other people make me feel ill, nauseated, or give me a headache.  I am sensitive emotionally too.  Very.  I absorb all the emotion in a room, sense the moods of other people or at least pick up some sort of strong signal though I may misinterpret it.  I am overly sensitive to criticism.  Conversely I seem to have a high pain tolerance and like a scene from Monty Python, you could chop off my arm and I would say oh, it's only a flesh wound.

I am also very sensitive to colour.  You knew I would get around to colour, didn't you?  The colour of my environment matters to me and can be too bright, to dark, to warm or too cool for my comfort level, particularly walls and floors.  I struggle with that currently as I do not like the colour of the walls in my living room but do not have the energy, nor the money at the moment, to change them.  Most people give me the weird side eye if I say this.  Why can't you just live with it, or decorate to accommodate it? The ask me.  I've tried that strategy.  It makes me anxious.  Just try explaining to someone that your walls are making you anxious!

Colour is a very complex thing for me.  I don't have a favourite, rather I have favourite shades of all colours.  I have preferences.  With some colours there is a greater number of shade preferences and a quantitative person might say, aha!  You like 43 shades of blue but only two shades of yellow and seven shades of red so clearly blue is your favourite.  I could never make such a pronouncement.  My favourite colour or shade of colour depends on the day, it depends on the object that it is coloured.  I might like a particular shade even more when it is in combination with others.  I might feel more passionately about those two shades of yellow than I do about 45 of the blue shades.

Speaking of yellow, a friend who has synesthesia once told me that for him I am yellow.  Another friend said I was his sunshine.  And according to a random online quiz my personality is yellow.  Perhaps my aura is yellow; I've never had that confirmed but it's a good thing I do like at least two shades of yellow.

By the way, I am using the term 'shade' a bit generically here.  Technically a shade is black added to a colour.  A tone is grey added to it and a tint is white added to it.  In the English language we tend to favour the term shade to describe variety in colours.  I personally tend to prefer shade because I literally do prefer tones and shades of most colours.

I also love the colour brown which tends to make people give me that weird side eye again.  Or respond with 'brown is the colour of dirt' or more vulgar suggestions.  I happen to quite like dirt actually, or soil really. And chocolate, and beautiful brown eyes and skin.  I like my brown hair. There are shades and tones of brown which truly move me, which create that little moment where my heart skips a beat and an 'ahh' catches in my throat and I feel I am home.  Yes, brown.  Do I sound defensive?  That's because I am sensitive to all the brown scorn out there.

Well, how long did you think I could go without talking about colour once again?


There may or may not be an outfit post with this.  I am lying in bed feeling exhausted.  I haven't yet found the energy to get up shower, dress or eat though I am quite hungry.  I have a coffee date with my parents, which of course I want to attend but it is going to require running on adrenaline.  You might think that on such a day I'd want to dress in an energising colour but I know I will choose something that feels secure, calm and safe.  It's too dangerous to misrepresent myself.

Six hours later......

It's at least ten degrees cooler than it has been in a long time and it's raining.  Given our drought and wildfires this is good.  I haven't closed my windows at all in about two and a half months but I closed them today.  As I suspected it is a brown day.  Dress, cardi and shoes are all second hand.  Purple silk flower self made from a second hand blouse that shrunk.  Hair, influenced by mushrooms and styled by rain.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Sometimes Titles are the Hardest Part

 I whipped this up between last night and this evening.  My fauvism is getting bolder, I think. 

                                                  Natalia
                               


You may recall my saying I've lost interest in figure flattery.  Largely this is because it's too difficult to achieve and I can't bring myself to care enough to make all that effort.  I happily wear dresses like this for a day of staying home, but the bracelets will probably come off soon as they get in the way of my activities.  To many of my friends this looks like a fancy outfit for a day of nothing special but since the whole thing is cost very little and even required a patch job, I don't think of these as fancy clothes.  The temperature has dropped a little, though temporarily, so I gravitate to layers again.  Only when it's above 25 degrees do I abandon layers and wear as little as possible.

 Thrift shop layers: flouncy white underskirt, plummy dress, crocheted cardi and shell bracelets


 Some Thoughts: You May Wish to Skip This Part

We don't really own much if anything except perhaps our own bodies.  Even than, owning our body does not give us complete control over it.  Most things we believe that we own are just artificial constructs, created by our culture and sometimes protected by laws because we value that sense of ownership.  In fact, I would even argue that we don't own our culture and in a time when the politically correct thing to do is call out cultural appropriation, that will perhaps not be a very popular opinion.

Culture is just something we create, we borrow from others all the time, influences come to us or we come to them.  We borrow from nature and animals as well as other human beings.  There are certain concepts that all human beings are capable of creating.  If we want to be one with each other, to recognise only one race-the human race-then we have to let go of this idea that we own any particular culture.  Culture is fluid and changing and it is meant to be shared.

That doesn't mean I don't think the young celebrities attending Coachella wearing feathered headdresses don't look a bit silly but isn't that rather obvious?  And if that is cultural appropriation isn't wearing western clothing if you are not descended from that culture, also appropriation?  I think appropriation is the wrong word.  We are past that and in striving to be equal, we have to stop separating ourselves into us and them.  Yes we need to notice and change injustices, inequality, we need to question divisive attitudes.  I am questioning the notion of cultural appropriation because I think it is divisive.

We don't own our culture though we may strongly identify with it.  This concept of ownership is popular right now and the term pops up in other contexts.  We say we will own our behaviour or own our body size, I have even said such things myself.  Popular jargon tends to be contagious. The term is used to mean take responsibility for or take pride in.  In those ways we can own our culture, our cultural symbols and behaviours, but that's it.  Beyond that we need to let go and move towards creating the culture of the human race, with infinite variety, love, acceptance and humility.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Just Another Hazy Sunday

Wildfires in my little corner of the world have brought us that peculiar pink-brown haze in the sky.  The temperature is down about ten degrees today which to my thinking makes if finally comfortable, but it is still expected to climb.  I woke up to these cooler temperatures and this brown haze feeling a bit spooked by it.  I woke to a world that was the wrong colour.   Hot dry summers aren't unknown here, and I remember many from my childhood, but where climate change is really noticeable is in winter, when we are no longer getting both the rainfall or the snowfall we used to get.  No snow on the mountains means Comox Lake isn't getting annually topped up with melt-water and Comox Lake is our local water source.  Needless to say we have outdoor burning bans and water restrictions.  I tend to only wash my car once a year anyhow.

I have been so exhausted lately I'm getting a bit nervous about the upcoming Blogger meet-up in Vancouver.  I'm excited but worried about my limitations, so I tell myself that just showing up, getting away for a few days, meeting some new people and meeting online friends face to face is what it's all about.  If I can't go tromping all over with the gang I am going to feel left out, but that's just the reality of my life.  I can't do some things and there are so many things I want to do.   It's funny how perspective changes when inactivity is forced on you.  I would not normally like housework, not think washing the dishes or vacuuming was enjoyable by any means, but when I am struggling to find the energy to hold my body in an upright sitting position, a sink full of dirty dishes begins to taunt me, pointing out what I cannot do, and suddenly washing dishes seems very desirable.

I like a clean and tidy home but not only do I want to be able to maintain one, I want to do enjoyable things on top of that.  Ha ha ha ha ha -I hear my wrecked auto-immune system laughing at me.  Dream on!  I had hoped to get out with my camera today, taking photos of local scenes for potential painting projects but I am a purple blob on the sofa today.  I tell myself that the hazy conditions outside would ruin my photos anyhow.  I tell myself I should just curl up with Margaret Atwood. 

Despite liking the dishes to be clean, I let them pile up in the sink and I painted instead.  In a perfect world I could do both, but when has the world ever been perfect?  Perfection is boring and I do have priorities.  Perfection is something I don't aim for in my painting either.  I like it a little bit naive, a little bit wobbly.
So here is my wobbly project of the moment.  It's a little section of downtown Courtenay, the neighbouring town, painted in acrylic on fibre board.  I will likely spend another month touching it up randomly now.  As with my writing, I alternately like this painting and loathe it. 



Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Fun Surprises and a Heat Wave


 I received a parcel in the mail this week, an exciting one!  It wasn't a surprise but it took a month to get here so there was definitely built up anticipation involved.  The creative, talented and ever so sweet Jazzy Jack of Natural Medley made me a bracelet and necklace and she sure had my colours figured out.  She also knows that I am exactly the sort of person who would mix skulls with soft, pretty beads.  We are having a heat wave, probably something an Aussie would laugh at but I am melting.  I don't take heat too well and you can even see me melting in the photo.  Limp hair, limp dress, just a bit too sweaty.  Yes, I am going to put this picture on the internet.  However, I had a heck of a time getting a tolerable photo of myself modelling my new bling.

                                          Limp in the Doorway

                                                Ladylike Skulls

   I gave up on sweaty photos and went to bed.  I hung my pretty necklace  where I could see it.
                                 

 I tried again the next day and after many hideous results that were blurry and either did not flatter me or the necklace or both I finally achieved these.  And they will just have to do.  Look how Jack just nailed my colours.  They literally match me!  And while we are at it, somebody please tell me what colour my eyes are because I have never known what to call them.  My driver's license says hazel, which clearly they are not.




                      Damn you neck, you are giving away my true age. 


A confession:  Somewhere, hiding slightly under the pretty beads and their creative design, is a red paint splotch because I would not be me if I did not have ink and paint on me in one or two spots in addition to several bruises.


Writing and painting are increasingly crowding out Blog World.  This is a happy thing for me, this is doing what I am truly passionate about doing. I do not expect to leave though and am still coming round to visit my favourite blogs and still posting here sometimes too.    When I am not melted into a puddle that is.  Peri-menopause and a heat wave.  Gah!

Check out Jack's blog if you don't know it because it is an awesome blog and you will not regret it.