ass backwards

I went to a conference on Wednesday and the final speaker spent an hour teaching us how to be happier. In truth, because of the type of work I do, he was actually teaching us how to teach other people how to be happier because happy people make happier workplaces. But whatever. 

You may have heard of him – Neil Pasricha. He’s written a couple of books including the Book of Awesome. 

There was actually a lot of great stuff in the session. Most of it, as is often the case with these things, was common sense. 

Of course I feel happier after I’ve taken a walk outside. Of course I know I should journal and focus on gratitude and make time for things I enjoy. 

I get it. 

I know. 

But then he actually got to the crux of the issue for me – the motivation part. He pointed out that so many people think they have to be motivated to do the thing, before they can do the thing. That the “want to do” comes before the “do.”

If I buy the right Moleskin notebook, I’ll want to write the book, and then I will write the book. 


That one hit a little close to home for me.  

I have a dozen “right” notebooks…and just the right pens to go with them. All the right tools but no closer to having actually written anything. 

Then he explained the way it works. 

Do the thing. Do it badly and wrong and one word, day, action at a time, but do it.

When you do it – you realize you can do it and then an amazing thing happens. 

You want to keep doing it.

So you keep doing it. 

Apparently I’ve had it ass backwards the whole time. 

this time

Am I the only one?

I sit waiting in a cozy booth at a restaurant. A table for four occupied, for the time being, by only me. They’re on their way – I can’t wait to see them. An evening with hubby and another couple, no kids, good food, maybe even dessert.

But for now I wait. And waiting involves thinking.

I play a game I often play – “last time / next time” I call it. What was the last time I was here? Can I remember – how many details can I recall? And then, try to imagine, when will I be here again? For a birthday? Just because?

It takes me a minute to remember the last time. Dinner with friends? Was that it? No wait, it was a birthday. Right.

It comes back to me.

A night that started off well but didn’t end that way. Details not worth rehashing here but I re-live them in my head. A disagreement, a misunderstanding. Everyday things that happen every day.

But it makes me wonder (again). Why can I remember the difficult times so clearly? I can remember the nuance, the look, what was said and left unsaid. The ‘bad’ memories rush back so much more quickly than the ‘good’ ones.

Is it just me? Am I the only one who does this?

It’s like I etch these moments so deep in my mind that the good memories have less room to stick – and instead fade so quickly.

I remember words said in anger, criticisms that made me flinch, sighs of exasperation and looks of frustration. I remember the 2 things I did wrong; but not the 8 that I did right.

Tonight will be a good night, I’m sure. And I will try to hold the memory close, the sound of the laughter, the feeling of connection, and hope that it stays.

I will try to colour over the last time with new memories and maybe, just maybe, they’ll stick.


They’re finally in bed.

The battle that started 90 minutes ago with my first request to get in the shower has now ended with their last ask for a glass of water.

Tonight – like every night – I’m not sure who won the war.

Turn off the lights.

Check the lock on the door.

Up the stairs, a bowl of cereal balanced in one hand and a glass of juice wedged under my forearm.

Into the bedroom.


The blissful sound of the door clicking shut. Checking the box on another day.

Baseball game on in the background. Flipping through the hangers for something to wear tomorrow. Something, anything, as long as it doesn’t need to be ironed. I just don’t have the energy.

‎A spoonful of cereal. A few pages in a magazine. My mind wanders – to all the things that didn’t get done.

Oh well.

I’ve gotten better at letting things go. The perspective I often lack in the daylight hours at least cuts me some slack in the dark.

Pajamas from the bottom drawer. The ones with the hole in the leg that I should throw out but can’t bear to part with.

Teeth brushed, contacts out. Then stand back and survey the damage in the mirror. Not bad – could be worse. Probably because everything is blurry without my contacts in, but I won’t think about that too much. Sometimes being your own biggest fan needs a little help.

Under the covers.

Head on the pillow.



Is it wrong that my favourite part of the day is the very end?



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.


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.