Isolation Communication

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ML and I are having trouble communicating.

To be fair, like everyone else, we are living in stressful times. We added the purchase of our first home, moving, ML’s Dad requiring daily care due to lung cancer, me not being well enough physically to properly clean and unpack our new house, being bombarded with stupid little issues with the house that sees us dishing out $$$$ at every turn….to the mix and we’ve become a bit distant and cranky.

I’m also not the easiest person to communicate with. I travel the dips and flats of depression, anxiety, panic, OCD and aspergers daily – but that’s the only travelling I do. I’m also extremely agoraphobic and would rather cut off a foot than leave the house. I do. When I absolutely have to. But with the monster virus floating around out there – there’s no way. My Dr’s have been wonderful – allowing for telephone consultations during this time. Suits me just fine.

So, I don’t have much to talk about. I’m no longer reading. A little switch in my brain has malfunctioned and I can no longer concentrate long enough to get through a book. They no longer bring me the joy they once did. TV is a barren land – with the occasional documentary (I love SBS on demand!) to sink my teeth into. When I try to discuss them with ML (I LOVE conspiracy theories), I can actually see his eyeballs rolling into the back of his head.

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He’s tired. I get it. He comes home, wants to relax and watch TV (he’s a TVaholic – mostly news and politics – he actually watches Parliament Time on the ABC). He doesn’t want to talk. We’re neither of us chatters, nor do we bicker to fill the blank air space. His days flow pretty much the same every day, as do mine so….um….yeah…..

So when he brought up a subject last night, I jumped in, settled myself down, and began to discuss. Except, he didn’t want my ideas or opinions, he didn’t care what I thought of the whole situation, made it clear I had no idea about the whole deal. Because I sit here like an onion every day – I’m no longer able to process thoughts and express opinions.

So, I try to engage him by asking questions…how’s your Dad? Fine. Did you go with him to the Dr today? Yep. Is he eating all right? I guess so….you get the idea. And asking ML how he is –¬† well that’s even worse. He’s my carer too, so he’s fine…he’s always fine. Everything’s fine…except when it isn’t, then it’s a catastrophe that I need to stay out of. It’s far too much for my fragile mind and body to bear.

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My goodness…I sound like a whinging bitch. I should be grateful. But we live beside each other. We’re room mates. We don’t touch – heaven forbid one of us gets this virus. He’s in bed by 9:30, I’m still wide awake at 2:00 am.

We’re physical and social isolation failures. I cry a lot. I’ve cut myself off from a lot of the people I used to communicate with on a regular basis because….if I could explain it I could work toward fixing it. I feel like a nothing, a nobody, an onion. I question and regret everything I write and say. Sitting outside the bubble looking in.

I’m trying. Blogging again is helping a little. I speak with my brother a lot – he’s such a smart guy and we never run out of things to talk about. Our telephone conversations always involve a bit of laughter and a few tears. It’s all I can manage right now. He’s my light in these dark times.

I’m grateful.

Connecting With Reality

agoraphobia-detail austinkleon
Photo Austinkleon

 

A lot of people don’t understand why I don’t leave my home.

It’s difficult to explain without sounding ridiculous, and it didn’t happen overnight. It’s a fear that developed over time, and it is something I want to overcome, but haven’t been able to – yet.

I suffer severe depression, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and psycho social disorder. What locks me inside is a result of a bit of all of these issues and it is known as agoraphobia. I think my being on the Asperger Spectrum plays a part in the whole mess as well. There are a lot of misconceptions concerning this phobia, so here’s the medical description:

Medical condition: Agoraphobia is an intense fear and anxiety of being in places where it is hard to escape, or where help might not be available. Agoraphobia usually involves fear of crowds, bridges, or of being outside alone.
People with agoraphobia are typically:
  • afraid of leaving their home for extended periods of time
  • afraid of being alone in the social situation
  • afraid of losing control in a public place
  • afraid of being in places where it would be difficult to escape…
Causes: Having panic disorder or other phobias, or experiencing stressful life events, may play a major role in the development of agoraphobia.
I’m now at the point where I only leave the house when I absolutely have to – going into hospital, seeing doctors, getting tests done – mostly medical errands. And I have been known to flake out at the last minute because I just can’t do it.
I’ve suffered from panic attacks all my life. I’m also a fainter. I faint when I stand up too fast. I faint when I’m hungry or thirsty. I faint when I’m hot. But mostly when I have a panic attack. And it’s not a pretty “oh my, I have the vapours” sort of fainting. It’s face plant fainting. Soooo elegant. Sooooo frightening.
papsychotherapy.org
So, I stay where I feel safe and in control. It’s frustrating, inconvenient, and incredibly isolating.
I’m a very tactile person. I love affection. I’m a hugger, and a kisser, and being here in my chair on my own means I’m starved for company and affection. When ML was gone, I kept getting this really sick feeling – something I’d never felt before. I couldn’t put my finger on it – what was bringing it on, how to get past it.
Last night I snuggled in full length next to ML in bed. Don’t worry – this is PG rated. I just needed to feel his whole body next to mine. I needed to smell his skin, and feel his body heat. I needed physical affection. I stayed there for the longest time. Bliss.
At some point over the past couple of months, my affection tank ran low – so low that it made me feel ill. I have a lot of friends and family that I connect with “virtually” or over the phone, but my heart, my soul needed to feel the warmth of someone else’s body next to mine. ML is the same – he gives the best hugs. He’s tall and broad and I fit perfectly under his arms. He makes me feel safe and cared for. He is my home.
I’m grateful.

Fragrance Friday – Going Off Road

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The fragrance world is HUUUUGE and broken down into several “types” – niche, designer, mainstream, and independent to name a few. There are crossovers and blurred lines – fragrances that may fall into more than one category depending on who is marketing the scent – but these are the basics.

My fragrance life was primarily mainstream, with the odd designer when funds allowed. Niche was, and still is, mostly out of reach. Spending $500 or more on a bottle of fragrance might be nice for some, but we’d rather eat.

About a year ago, I won a small collection of sample sized fragrances from an Australian independent natural perfume artist. From memory, I think there were eight tiny vials of fragrance.

Now, when I say fragrances, I don’t really do these glass vials of amber glory justice. These were all natural fragrances – made by magic hands from the dirt up. Each incredible note squeezed out of flowers and leaves and wood and resin over many months – carefully monitored and kept at the perfect temperature until…well it’s magic really and it’s all a bit out of my realm of understanding. I’ve had a tiny glimpse behind the curtain, but I’d rather believe in the wizardry.

All I do know is that this is something that takes a lot of time, love, passion, and trial and error. A tiny bit of the maker ends up in each and every bottle. The market is tough for independent perfumers – it costs a great deal to make each scent, and the time and tears trying to come up with new and exciting scents and concepts is harder than you can imagine. Then, you have to get the word out – find a following, and a stage on which to sell your wares.

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Teone Reinthal makes fragrances that make her happy. She finds beauty all around her, and captures it in small vials, rollerball bottles, and crystal flacons. She gives them each a name and a story, and pushes them out in to the world.

I am one of the lucky few who found them.

I have a small varied collection that I cherish. I have been lucky to have been a “trial nose”, and have traded some of my quirky skills for scents. I’m no artist, but I’m a nitpicky OCDish numbers person who appreciates true beauty. And Dr Reinthal is extremely generous.

TRNP (Teone Reinthal Natural Perfume) has a dizzying array of scents – mostly unisex depending on your taste in fragrances. The line is sold online (https://teone.com.au/), and out of Teone’s house/studio. This is in no way an ad for her fragrances – if I didn’t love them, I wouldn’t waste a blog post waxing poetic believe me.

batavia
Photo Fragrantica.com

I have my favourites. Batavia is my comfort scent. It’s warm and gooey, and surrounds me in the spicy scents of my dutch heritage. It puts me in a safe scent bubble and is one I often wear to bed.

Rose Embers is my gritty pretty. I love big rose fragrances with a touch of something strong and grounded. There is just enough vanilla to please the gourmand in me, the rose is huge and dewy, and the sandalwood buttery and smooth. The rose note alone is more than enough to make me happy, but it’s how it’s framed that brings me the greatest pleasure. It’s rather like hanging a beautiful painting on the wall unframed – it’s nice and a pleasure to look at – but put it in the right frame with a beautiful matte and it becomes something else entirely.

There are more, but you need to have a look and find something you’ll love and make your own. The notes in a natural perfume are true to nature and hard to achieve. I really had no idea until I got to know Teone, and did some research. We spray and expose ourselves to so many unnatural and chemical products everyday – we’ve become walking toxic waste sites. Using natural fragrances is a step toward cleaning up my body and my little world. The fact that I love how it smells and, more importantly, how it makes me smell and feel, is a gift.

There are many independent perfumers out there – sweating over their creations and trying to make the world stand up and see them. Some are natural, and some a combination of natural and chemical. Do some reading – have a look around. Support them if you can. Walk away from the unfeeling machine that grinds out scent after scent after flanker after flanker and take a chance on something magical. You won’t regret it.

Well, I Guess That’s It Then…

I had my last appointment at the pain clinic today.

I limped in with my cane (did I mention I’m having to use a cane now?), and she didn’t bat an eyelash.

‘So, no better then?’

What do you think? After all the faffing about with medication and exercises and general non helpful time and money wasting treatments, and I now feel worse. I NEED A CANE TO GET AROUND!!

I have more pain, I have more digestive issues, my GORD is twice as bad, my back is completely screwed up, I have pain all the time in my left left leg, and my left foot has gone numb.

I’m more depressed and anxious, I cry all the time, I can’t sleep, I’ve found myself self harming more often, and thoughts of suicide are becoming more frequent.

And I’m angry.

impatient

She simply shrugged, said there’s no more I can do for you. Thanks for coming.

We’ve paid her a small fortune. We’ve wasted a lot of money on medications and treatments that not only didn’t help at all, some of them made me feel worse. One “off script” medication made me put on weight, making me feel horrible about myself, generally uncomfortable, and depressed. And guilty.

Other therapies and medication – also “experimental” and “off script” involving hormones, has seen by bust blow up to a ridiculous size again. All the good work my plastic surgeon did has been undone. More guilt.

Her other suggestions – hydrotherapy. I can’t put soap on my skin – I’m pretty sure exposure to salt water/chlorine is not a good idea. Large patches of my skin has become so thin it splits, bleeds, becomes infected, and finally heals leaving a large scar. My body is covered in scars. You want to put me in a bathing suit in front of strangers and expose me to skin irritants? With open wounds. And I’m the one who’s being difficult. Really.

Physiotherapy was another option. I can’t stand having my hair cut. I don’t like being touched. Ever. By anyone. Other than ML. One of the areas that is most painful and requires the most therapy is my pelvic floor region. Um. No.

Perhaps I’m not playing along. Maybe I am being fractious. But, so far I’ve gone along with every other suggestion. I’ve made the one hour trip each way into the city to see you. I don’t even walk to the end of the drive to get the post anymore. I’ve put up with the fact that you are not patient or kind. You’ve been angry with me because my other specialists will not communicate with you. You’ve written them. I’ve asked them repeatedly. I’ve begged them. We need to work on me “as a team”. I’ve repeated this phrase over and over again. I agree with you. I can’t control what my other doctors are willing, or not willing, to do. I’m thinking most doctors don’t have time to chat.

I’ve done my best. I’ve swallowed all the pills. I’ve taken all of your advice. I’ve listened to you tell me “facts” that are contrary to what my other doctors/specialists have told me. But there’s no discussing their opinions, or mine, with you. You are the special specialist, and you’re the only one who’s correct.

So why do I feel so much worse now? We paid the dollar. We road the ride. We’re not just back where we started, we’re 10 steps behind that.

buhbyeThere’s a long moment when ML and I don’t know what to do. Do we just get up and leave? Thanks for nothing? Okay…well, good bye then.

One look at ML’s face, and I know he feels as angry and disappointed as I do. But, he’s still holding my hand. He’s still on my side. He still has ideas. We’re going to regroup and carry on.

I’m grateful.

Trust

trust

Some recent events and conversations have had me thinking a great deal about trust.

I’ve always been the sort of person who trusted until proven wrong. Living this way has seen me hurt and disappointed many times over the years. I was raised in a strict protestant household, and the word or God ruled in our house. I believed in the goodness of mankind, the grace of God, and not judging others. That was God’s job. Mine was to forgive.

I trust ML without condition or hesitation. I felt this way from the moment we met and he has never given me cause to doubt. It’s a rich and liberating gift, one I never take for granted.

He is the first person in my life that never let me down. He never disappoints. He loves me unconditionally and cares for me as no other.

But, I have felt disappointment – family, friends, co-workers, professionals – people who I should have been able to count on to have my best interests at heart. I’ve had to let a lot of people go in my lifetime and it hurts. Some have come back around and worked hard to regain my trust, and I love them for it. Others have stayed away and proven me right. I hate that.

There are many people I still love deeply that I am unwilling to open my heart to again. This could change over the years, I never say never. But earning trust is hard work and it takes time. Those wounds don’t heal overnight. They bleed for a very long time and fester. They live in my mind and in my heart and add to the darkness that hovers over me.

Making new friends is difficult. I’ve isolated myself from the world, and find communication very difficult. I can write, but speaking is a problem. My anxiety winds it’s way around me throat, choking me and leaving me mute. Or, when I do speak, the words come out wrong, Not at all what was on my mind, or what I meant to say. It’s frustrating, and isolates me even further. Most people can’t understand. My words choke me and make it hard to breathe. Who wants to be with someone like that?

I’ve also lost all faith in the medical community. I have been mismanaged and given bad information for years. I’ve been dismissed as mentally ill. I’ve been crammed full of pills to keep me subdued and vague. It’s easier to pump me full of anti depressants, anti anxiety drugs, and opiates than it is to find the answers to my problems. I live in the “too hard” box. What I have can’t be repaired overnight – I am not an “easy fix”. I take up too much precious time, and there is a long line of patients waiting for my chair. Take these pills and move along.

I was misdiagnosed by many “specialists”. Everyone had their own opinions on what was best for me. Shifted from one doctor to the next to the next….keep moving….pass me along. I go home afterwards, take a pill and sit. What more can I do?

I have taken back some control. Hurt me or take advantage of my trust and you’re out. Life is so short. When someone shows me their true selves, I now believe them. I don’t wait for them to change, or think that by caring for them, they will somehow become better people. I do forgive still. It’s in my nature. But trust, that’s harder to do.

I’ve hurt people over the years. I know that. I’ve been selfish and mean and I have lost the trust of many. But, I’ve grown up, and when and where I can, I have done my best to atone and regain trust. Some have accepted and some have not.

I’m at a point in my life now that I have to expend my energy on people who matter. I no longer have time for people who lie to me, take advantage of me, or treat me as a lesser person.

Trust is a gift. Given and received. I do my very best to be honest. It may at times be hurtful, but it’s my truth.

And it’s a gift. And I’m grateful.

Chronic Illness – Tips and Tricks

I’ve I been a bit (well a lot actually) negative lately. It’s been a rough ride for a while now, and I’m feeling down and sorry for myself. It gets boring. So today, something a bit brighter?

There are some things I’ve learned – some workarounds and things that make my life a bit easier. I basically suffer from chronic pain due to endometriosis, and I suffer with digestive issues due to colitis (could be related to endo – nobody really knows), and GORD – fancy acronym for heartburn.

First of all – sleep. I sleep whenever I can. If I’m tired and feeling sleepy – I sleep. I can only manage 2 or 3 hours in a stretch, so I snatch whatever rest I can. I don’t sleep through the night – haven’t for quite a few years now – I’ve accepted this and rest when my body tells me to rest.

Food. This is a huge issue. Very little appeals to me or agrees with me these days. I basically follow the BRAT diet – bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Bland, bland, bland and bland. I do try to avoid anything white and refined – brown rice, wholegrain or gluten free bread, no white sugar and NO ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS. It’s little known, but a lot of artificial sweeteners act as laxatives. I was a sweetener junkie (in herbal tea and drinks), but as soon as I stopped I did notice a slight improvement.

I avoid anything greasy or oily, no butter or spices, and no meat. I do try to eat light fish occasionally, but only if I’m feeling up to it. I’ve learned to “read” my body and know what to avoid and when. I love fruit, but can’t tolerate a lot – bananas, blueberries (we buy them frozen), and mango (also frozen). Nothing acidic or hard to digest. Yogurt is usually good, and I love it plain with some fruit, or frozen.

It’s hard to get enough protein on this diet – I eat a lot of chia, couscous, and quinoa – steamed with some sweet potato is a frequent choice. Pumpkin soup is normally OK too. But if I’m feeling really ill, it’s usually just a nutrition supplement drink like ensure until it passes.

I take a lot of supplements – but supplements prescribed by my doctor – things my body needs that I’m not getting enough of on my limited diet. I don’t just take a random selection of supplements – just the ones I need.

Exercise is difficult, but I do try to do some easy yoga stretches through the day. I also have a set of 3kg weights that I use when I can. Swimming or hydrotherapy would be ideal, but there’s no facilities nearby, and I can barely look at my body, I don’t want anyone else looking either. I don’t like leaving the house, and I really don’t like being touched anymore by strangers. But, I do what I can when I can.

The most important tip that I have is to keep your brain active and challenged. I read a lot, I’m on the computer a lot, and I’m interested in a great deal of things. I do our taxes and keep our financial records updated – making up extensive spread sheets to keep me busy. I’m not crafty – I wish I was – but I’m thinking of taking up sewing. Just need to find a sewing machine. Still in the research stage. There are a lot of tutorials online that teach sewing skills – I’ve fallen down that rabbit hole a lot.

I also try to do a bit of housework when I’m able. I love my surroundings neat and tidy – it’s a bit of an OCD thing – so when I have the energy I’ll do small tasks throughout the day. I keep an ongoing “To Do” list and enjoy checking things off as they’re completed. We have a house full of crap that needs to be sorted and stored or tossed. It’s a slow process and I find myself lost in memories quite often when I go through one of our many boxes.

The most important thing is to try to stay busy and to live as normal a life as possible. It doesn’t work everyday, but sitting and watching TV for hours on end is mind numbing and depressing. I keep the TV on for company, but rarely watch it when I’m on my own.

My life today is so different from what it was ten years ago. I haven’t given up hope on finding, if not a cure, then some relief from my issues. In the meantime, I have to live the best life I can. I have to keep trying to find joy and keep feeling gratitude for what I do have. I shed a lot of tears – anger, frustration, sorrow – but I start each day with the intention of being positive.

This is what works for me. Pretty standard stuff, but if you’re just starting down the path of a chronic illness, or recovering from a traumatic incident, I hope you find something here that helps.

The best tip I can give you is: ask for help when you need it. You’re a human being in pain and distress. There are no medals for being your own hero.

Stimulation – The Brain Kind

I used to spend a small fortune on books and magazines. This was back in the days before I fell apart and was still bringing in a good wage.

This created a few issues. First of all, books and magazines are terribly expensive in Australia compared to Canada. Because we are a smaller audience in Aus, there is an agreement in place that all books are to be sold at a rate fair to Aus writers so they can compete with all authors around the world. Fair enough, but my goodness $30 for a book I can buy in Canada for less than $20 becomes painful when you go through 3 or 4 books a week as I tend to do.

We have a small house with limited storage space. Finding room to stack and shelve all the books I go through becomes an issue. I end up bagging them up and donating to charity or hospitals. I do keep a limited collection of books written by my favourite authors – ones I occasionally revisit and reread.

And magazines – there isn’t a lot on the racks published in Aus that are worth $14. I just can’t justify spending that kind of money now that I’m on a disability pension. Half the magazine is full of advertising, and I can get through a magazine in one afternoon. Rather unsatisfying.

I’ve discovered a couple of cheats.

The first one involved signing up as a member to Goodreads.com. It’s a worldwide reading club where you track the books you’ve read, books you’re reading, and books you want to read. Based on your history, the website makes recommendations on other books you may enjoy. There are lists of all kinds – best non fiction 2018, best thrillers from the UK, etc., and you can search by genre, author, and titles. It’s invaluable if you read a lot, and you have a chance to leave and read reviews and get a better idea of what to choose for your next read. Especially if you’re still buying books. This website has lots to offer, and if you’re a big reader like me, is well worth a look. I spend a lot of time browsing through the various lists.

Secondly – the library. This is an incredible resource. Our local library system is incredible. Once you’ve joined the library, you can use your membership number to log on to their website and find what you want. Books, magazines, DVD’s, CD’s – they’re all there. Once you’ve found what you like, you simply put them “on hold”, and as soon they’re available, you get either an email or text (you choose) to let you know that it’s ready for pickup.

ML goes in once a week – taking back what I’ve finished with and what’s due back, and picking up the stack of new choices to take home. Our library system is very up to date, and add new releases basically when they’re available to purchase. Binge watch a TV series? The library has those. Read your favourite magazine – yep – the library.

The best news – it’s all free.

If our circumstances were different, I would be all for supporting writers and artists as much as I could. I feel like I’ve done my bit, and it’s just no longer within our budget so I can no longer justify spending that much money.

But, I need to keep my brain busy. I have a lot of empty hours to fill, and I’m afraid if I stop stimulating my brain, I’ll fall deeper into the darkness. I have a never ending supply of entertainment and learning.

I’m grateful.

 

I Have a Voice

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Back to see my GP today to get scripts for more painkillers. You now need a prescription for ibuprofen plus codeine, and there are times when my pain is so bad I need one of the big guns – oxy codone, tramadol, whatever. I asked for oxy – doesn’t make me itch, helps me sleep – best of the worst.

I feel like a pathetic street addict going in and asking for pain killers. My husband attends all of my doctor’s appointments with me. I need his memory and his voice to back mine up. My memory fails me often, and when in the grip of anxiety, I lose my voice.

My doctor has every right to be concerned. I take a lot of medication, but I take them as directed and only when absolutely required. We go through the same dance every time I go in for a script. I get the “it would be irresponsible for me to…” speech every time. I get it. If I could live with or around my pain, or if you and my large group of specialists could find a way to address and remove my pain, I’d be happy to never have to take another opiate or anti anxiety medication again. I’ve been through detox once as you well know (for Ativan – a truly ugly and dangerous drug), and it’s not something I’d like to have to go through again. It was ugly and embarrassing, and it made me feel small and out of control.

What bothers me more than anything is that my GP addresses all of his concerns to my husband. Like I’m worse than a sad addict – it’s like I’m not even there. Like I don’t have a voice.

When I do speak, he continues to talk over top of me. He has all of his notes in front of him – he’s been our GP for years. He has all of my history – each time there is a change to my meds or specialists or anything medical related, I have a typed up document that I keep up to date and bring in to every doctor/specialist appointment that I have. It’s all there – I’m sitting right here. Talk to me.

The longer this goes on, the more anxious and angry I get. Then, there are usually tears. I need to be heard – me – the person in pain. Listen to me. Talk to ME. Look at my face, look into my eyes – you’ll see a person in pain who does not want to be here. I hate begging, pleading, justifying my need for relief. Please don’t make me feel less than a whole person. Yes, I’m mentally ill. I am painfully aware of my mental illness. But it doesn’t make me stupid, or take away my voice.

By the time we left, scripts in hand, arms throbbing with pain from our flu shots (is it me or are they especially hurty this year?), I was a trembling sweaty, snotty mess. I am not a pretty crier. I got home and slept for five hours straight. Exhausted.

I know what you’re thinking – poor you – blah blah blah – there are others who have it so much worse etc, etc. I know this. Knowing this makes it even worse. But I have to go through this every month – me – the person who can’t walk the nine steps to the post box most days. It takes every tiny speck of energy and strength I have to get ready and get out the door. I’m already a mess well before I need to get on my knees and plead for help.

I have a voice. I’m not being heard.

Moving On…

My brother, TJ, purchased our family home from my Dad when my Dad remarried. It was comforting having my childhood home still in the family – that I still had “a place”, a place full of memories – good and bad.

TJ is a hoarder. The house is full of stuff – cameras, clocks, model cars, pottery, watches, and on, and on, and on. He bought boxes of stuff at auctions, fixed them up, and sold them on, or hung on to them because he liked having them.

He’s been married now for over five years. His wife has an acreage just outside of our home town – a beautiful home and an ever revolving menagerie of furry friends. They both love rescuing animals and they both love having them around.

TJ has been splitting his time between our old house and his wife’s house, and paying bills on both. Not fair I know, but she was struggling, and he was the husband and wanted to help. Caring for and feeding a dozen or more animals – they often come to them sick or injured – is expensive.

TJ has Asperger’s, and needs his “alone” time. He has a benign brain tumour that gives him crippling headaches, and he needs quiet and time on his own. So, he hung on to the house. I understand his thinking. I sometimes want to just be alone – no TV or radio – just quiet and peace. But, his wife wants him home, and for him that’s now the acreage. It’s where his animals are, and it’s where his life should be.

He’s slowly building himself a workshop and a storage area at the acreage, and boxing and transferring his “hoard” over. As soon as the house is empty, he’ll put it on the market and move on.

I desperately want him to be happy. I want him to move on with his life. It’s not healthy for him to stay in our old house. It holds terrible memories for him, and it makes it impossible for him to let go of Mom and Dad. For him, the house is full of ghosts and voices, and can’t be a happy place.

I want him with his wife and his animals. I want him to make his marriage work. I want him to get on with his life. He’s been “stuck” for the past five years.

He has so many issues with his children and grandchildren, and I’d love for him to take some time to try to repair things. He’s been so depressed and unhappy since our Dad died, that he’s isolated himself. My hope is that with a new life, a loving wife, and a stable home, he can work on his issues, find some happiness and reconnect with his children. Nothing would make me happier.

But yes, there is a tiny part of me that doesn’t want him to let go of that house. I like knowing it’s there. I could never make the trip back to Canada, so it’s silly really, but it’s like a soothing favourite blanket, or a big warm hug.

And the idea of another family living there makes me a little crazy. They will probably renovate – it’s stuck in the 80’s – or expand. It sits on a huge lot in a beautiful part of town, close to schools, shopping and churches. It will sell quickly. I hope a young family buys it and makes it their own. I hope they’ll be happy there.

I hope TJ finds the same happiness.

Memories of Mom

It’s funny how we separate and isolate certain memories of loved ones at certain¬† times of the year.

Mother’s Day brings sweet and funny memories of my Mom. We had a difficult relationship that never really got repaired. Right up to the end of her life she knew exactly what to say to bruise my heart, and she could make me tear up with just a look. She was jealous of my relationship with Dad and made that very clear – Dad talked with me more than he ever did with Mom, and I was the better cook, and I was smarter and wittier, and perhaps I understood him in a way she didn’t. It didn’t matter – there was always a little part of her that hated me, and she didn’t hide it.

But when things were good between us, they were very good. She loved to laugh, and we laughed together a lot. I was hopeless with anything crafty, and she tried so hard to teach me to knit and crochet and sew. Beautiful things flew out of her hands effortlessly, while my projects always looked a complete mess. She even had to finish the simple skirt I tried to make for my Middle School Home Economics class. I got an “A”. She stayed up well into the night to finish it. No daughter of hers was going to fail home economics.

We loved to go shopping together – both zooming in on the same things. Anything sparkly and girly, fragrant and colourful, soft and soothing. We spent hours going from shop to shop sniffing and touching and feeling fabrics. She taught me how to shop for items that were classic and well tailored, how to tell the difference between a cheap looking fabric, and one that would stand up over time. I learned that no matter what you’re wearing, you’ll always look bad wearing cheap shoes and carrying a cheap bag. I learned what to spend money on, and what I could away with on a budget.

She had always cared a great deal about her looks until her first battle with cancer at 46. Her clothes were often custom made for her, or custom tailored. She only stood 4’11, and was built like Ava Gardner. She compensated by always wearing a heel (even her house slippers had a bit of a heel), and wearing a hairpiece on top of her head that added at least 2 inches. She was pretty high maintenance, and we didn’t have a lot of money, but there was always money for Mom’s things. My Dad very rarely said no to her – she was the first lady in our church to own a fur coat. She wore it with beautiful silk scarves, and always kept it on through the entire service. It went into a special storage unit through the summer where it was cleaned and repaired, and came out with the first snow flake.

After her two year battle with cancer that left her horribly scarred and not just flat, but concave, she lost interest in clothes. She started wearing trousers, flat comfortable shoes, and anything that would hide her top half. She was always pale and quiet and didn’t seem to care about anything.

It took years, but eventually a glimmer of my Mom came back. She started laughing again, clapping her hands and singing, and Dad took her traveling around the world. She did have some happy years.

Looking back now, I realize she was angry and depressed – just like I am today. It helps me understand her a bit better, and it allows me to forgive a lot of the damage that was done over the years.

I love her still. I miss her. I miss her voice and her laugh. I would love just one more afternoon of wandering the shops with her, stopping for a cup of tea at Eatons or The Bay.

It’s fading, but there are still mornings when I hear her calling my name.