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thinking

I’m a thinker.

When something happens, I need to think about it‎.

Or when something doesn’t happen, or might happen, or I want something to happen, or not.

On and on. You get my drift.

In a world designed for those who can multi-task, making dinner while checking homework, answering email and posting a stunning #nofilter picture on Instagram, I feel constantly, perpetually, emphatically, behind.

But the problem with all of that, with trying to do all of that, just to keep up, to keep my head above water, there isn’t any time to think.

I can’t come up with an answer to your questions until you give me time to think ‎about them. Real time – not 30 seconds or 5 minutes but as long as I need.

Go away, I’ll get back to you. The store is closed, come back another time, there’s nothing for you here.

I think that’s one of the reasons writing has always been so good for me – it’s like my button to pause the world. I can’t write about it if I’m not thinking about it – whatever ‘it’ might be today, in this moment.

But the flip side is that in sitting down to write about ‘it’ I have to force myself to think. To stop hiding from whatever issue is nibbling at the edges of my brain, and sit down, pull it out into the open to examine from every angle, dissect it.

If I don’t write about it, I don’t have to think about it. So when I’m not writing, I’m not thinking‎. When the page is blank it’s because I’m running full speed – not necessarily away from something, but not toward something either.

I’m running because I’ve forgotten how to do anything but.

There’s been a lot going on these days that I should stop and think about. Part of me relishes the chance, and the other part is inherently fearful of what the thinking will bring with it.

But either way, I know it’s time.

early morning

It’s just after 7am and the house is quiet.  This is everyone’s day to sleep in (at least a little bit), but I found myself awake early, staring at the ceiling.

I woke suddenly, opening my eyes and not really knowing why or when or where; disoriented in my own bed.

Then I remembered it’s Saturday – and I really don’t need to be awake yet.

Then I remembered it’s my birthday.

And then I remembered she’s gone.

We got the call yesterday evening, my grandfather (as is his way) waiting until after dinnertime to call with the news.  Little does he know we had just sat down to eat, our schedule and timing pushed later than his standard 5:30 meal time.  The phone rang and hubby said to ignore it – 90% of the time it’s about duct cleaning.

I looked across the table at my mom and we both stopped.

We knew what it could be.

I knew I had to answer.

I saw his name on the screen and knew – in the way that you can know these things without ever really knowing.

I answered and he asked to speak to my mom.  I found it kind of funny he couldn’t tell me, but understood.  There’s a pre-defined pecking order when it comes to death and grief.  The daughter trumps the granddaughter.

I get it.

We knew it was coming, tried to resign ourselves to the fact that, in reality, she’s been gone for a long time.  Her, the grandmother, mother, wife that she really was – back when she was still who she really was.  We tried to tell ourselves we’ve really been saying goodbye for years.  It worked for a little while; it made sense in our heads but not so much in our hearts.

So now it’s 7 in the morning and I’m sitting in the basement, tears streaming down my face, the doors of an old cabinet open beside me.

Years ago my grandfather wanted to get rid of the dozens of old photo albums my grandmother put together over the years.  He, not the overly sentimental type and she no longer able to recognize any of the faces staring back from the pages.  Me, a lover of all photos, family ones especially, carted box after box of them to my house, refusing to let them go anywhere else.  And for years they’ve sat in a cabinet, stacked haphazardly, just waiting – for what I’m not sure.

Waiting for this morning, apparently.

Laying there in bed, tears in my eyes, it came to me that this is where I wanted and needed to be, even if only for a few minutes.  A few precious minutes before the rest of the house wakes and it’s time for breakfast and hockey practice and celebrating a birthday that I don’t like celebrating even at the best of times, and definitely not today.

For right now I’m here with her.

The her that she was when she was still her.

Flipping through pages of vacations and weddings and Christmases and birthdays and barbecues in the backyard and regular moments captured for all time.  Most are labeled with her neat printing – the who, the where, the when, the what they ate.

It’s all so very her, and I know this is where I will always be able to find her.

And so I sit, for just a few more minutes.

Saying goodbye.

I love you Nannie.

remember

I don’t remember how to do this.

There was a time when I didn’t even think about it; I didn’t think about how to open the page and write the words.

Now I don’t know how to not think about it.

There was a time when this was natural, like breathing or walking or throwing back my head and laughing effortlessly when something is funny.

It doesn’t feel like that now.

Now if feels awkward and uncomfortable and unnatural.

I hate that I let it get to this.  I hate that I was on such a roll and got to such a good place and then I let it all fade away.  I hate that I’m feel like I’m back at square one.

And that’s usually where it ends.

I let myself get bogged down in feeling bad about where I was and where I am now and the words get stuck.

Everything I think of writing feels like something I’ve written before.

Everyone else’s words seem to matter more than mine.

And that’s usually where it ends.

I don’t know why it’s different tonight.  Maybe it’s the quiet – a rare night alone in a room without a million things to do.  Maybe it’s being in a different place, with different people and different conversations and different thoughts.

The truth is I don’t know why.  I don’t know why, when so many other times I say ‘no’ and slide my fingers from the keyboard and close the screen, that tonight I said ‘yes.’

I’m not going to make it bigger than it is.  I’m not going to assign meaning where there is none.  I’m not going to assume this is the start of something – or the re-start of something.  I’m tired of trying to find deeper meaning and assign value to things that may just be exactly as they appear on the surface.

Maybe it’s the beginning; or maybe not.  Either way it’s nice to remember, even if only for a few moments, how nice it feels to breath again.

game changer

She can sit in the front seat now‎.

She has access to the radio and changes the station on a whim, even when one of my favourite songs is playing. ‎

Actually, she changes it especially when one of my favourite songs is playing.

I look over and am surprised to see her sitting there. It’s like when she moved from rear-facing to forward-facing in the car seat and I was shocked to see her little face when I turned around.

Now, like then, I feel like we’ve crossed some kind of invisible line. Now and then, before and after, never and always.

We talk about things, now that she’s there beside me‎.

We laugh.

She suddenly feels a little more like a friend and a little less like an obligation.

And, every now and then, I reach over and hold her hand.

And, every now and then, she lets me.

share

My daughter turned 12 last week. In the days leading up to the ‘big day’ all she could talk about / ask about / beg for was the thing she’d been wanting for weeks, and weeks, and weeks.

An Instagram account.

We had pushed it off in the past, saying we would “talk about it when you’re 12” as if it were some far-off milestone that would somehow never arrive, and therefore we would never have to deal with it.

Except, of course, it did arrive, and so we had to deal with it.

I went online and did all the research about how to lock down her account, enable all the privacy settings and had a serious discussion about the rules. The rules about it being a privilege and safety and (not so) common sense. (I also couldn’t help but throw in a few pleas for proper grammar and spelling‎ which were promptly ignored.)

Then I sat there and watched her post her first picture (a cartoon). She leaned over and said “do I press this button Mom? The one that says ‘share?'”

Share.

‎That word stuck in my head and rolled around for a few days.

Share.

I can try and help her navigate the world of social media (until her knowledge quickly overtakes mine) but how do I guide her about what pieces of herself to share, not only online but offline as well?

I didn’t grow up with Instagram or Facebook or the Internet for that matter (wow, now I sound old), but I still struggled with this very idea.

If I’m being honest, I still struggle with it now. ‎

Which secrets about yourself do you tell your friend over a cup of tea?

Which dreams do you bring out of the deepest depths of your heart and into the daylight for others to see?

Who is worthy of knowing you? Not just the you everyone sees but that other you, the one that exists in the corners and shadows?

How does someone prove they are worthy? Is there any way to know without risking being hurt? Where does the line exist between an open heart and a safe one?

To protect yourself is to close yourself off. To share too much is to be vulnerable. This was a hard enough road to navigate when secrets were passed around on tiny folded pieces of paper and whispered behind hands at recess. But now, now there is no end to how far and how fast the pieces of you can be spread.

Each and every time I put my words on this blog I wonder. I ask myself the question of ‘is it too much’? Too much to share, too big a piece of me to put out there? If someone turns my words around to hurt me, am I strong enough to keep going, keep writing, keep sharing?

And yet, what is the other option? A life lived only with boundaries and fences and people who know us just a little bit but never completely?

Is that worse?

These are big questions that I can’t answer, not for myself and not for a 12 year old just dipping her toe into the future that awaits her.

But I will try.

some days

Some days I look around and wonder how I ended up here.

Some days I look around and wonder how I could have ended up anywhere but here.

Some days I look in the mirror and smile.

Some days I avoid looking in the mirror at all.

Some days I only remember the mistakes.

Some days I’m quick to forgive everyone except myself.

Some days I look at you and see the best pieces of me.

Some days I think this is all there will ever be.

Some days I think this is all I will ever need.

Some days I wonder what might have been.

Some days I appreciate everything that never was.

Some days I can see past tomorrow.

Some days I focus too much on missing what I never had.

Some days it’s a cup of tea.

Some days the words are lost.

And some days they are found.

back to it

It’s cold today. Today, this ‘back to it’ day after two weeks of holiday activities, to-do’s and then – finally – relaxing and days spent in pj’s.

It’s the kind of cold you forget about until it smacks you in the face and fills your lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Not unlike when the summer sun hits your face for the first time after months without. “Oh right,” you think, “now I remember.”

‎The lake looks beautiful. There’s a mist rising off the surface. It looks almost like steam although I’m not sure that’s possible. I should look it up, figure out what exactly makes it look like that on cold days. I’ll add it to the mental list of things I mean to do, and then promptly forget.

There will be moments today when I wish it was yesterday again, or the day before, or last week, or the week before. I’ll tell myself if I could go back I would appreciate the time off more, but the reality is I’m sure I wouldn’t.

I tell myself I would do better (at so many things) if I had another chance – a ‘do over’ so to speak – but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. I feel badly about that‎. And then I feel badly about feeling badly about that.

So I’ll try to stop thinking back, except to remember the brief moments that I purposely savoured. ‎ I haven’t yet figured out how to enjoy all of the little moments but from time to time I manage to stop myself, take a deep breath and put the moment in my pocket, knowing I will need to pull it out some time in the future when the days are dark and cold.

It’s cold today – but the sun is shining. ‎Those moments will stay in my pocket, at least for the time being.

I will put on my gloves and hat and scarf and bundle up against the cold.

It’s time to get back to it.