Four years today…..it doesn’t get easier, living without you. The intensity changes, that’s all. In many ways, the grieving becomes sweeter. Memories become more saturated with sound and colour. When I think of you, they’re not thoughts so much as feelings associated with those thoughts. Joy. Laughter. Reflection. We did alot of just being together, not really talking too much. We were very similar in that respect. I was happy just being with you, tagging along. I was happy just being with you, Dad.
And I didn’t hug you enough…….
Love, Chantal xoxoxo
September 28, 2007
September 26, 2007
And I have my hot little hands on it! For a most excellent review of the Foo’s latest, go see http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/aznightbuzz/202774.
Life is good.
(added to Thoreau’s Got the Beat page in sidebar).
Love, Chantal xoxoxo
A while back, I read a post written by my intriguing blogfriend, Hawk, over at Hawk’s Place,(http://whatisitabout.wordpress.com/2007/08/25/hows-your-metal/ ). It got me thinking alot about inner strength, about how external factors and events shape the person you become. It also made me think how the way we process those extraneous things help in determining the possible outcome of events in our lives.
And my mind kept going back to questions raised in that post….how do we temper & hone ourselves to deal with what Life hands us? The analogy was with the fabrication of Japanese swords, but my thoughts kept returning to the gauge of my skin rather than my metal: was I thick-skinned or thin-skinned? Or somewhere in between?
Like everyone else, I’ve gone through some events in my life that should have thickened my skin, made me wary and mistrustful. In the past few weeks, a whole mess of stuff seems to have surfaced all at once, not anything major, but stuff that needs to be dealt with nonetheless. And this whole mess of stuff kind of makes me feel like I was taking a hit, falling, recovering, then getting back up, ready to take the next one, and so on. I’ll try to say this so that it makes sense: most of my life, I’ve coped by not feeling anything, through isolation, by pretending everything’s ok when it’s not. Thickening my skin, adding layers, protecting, insulating. I wasn’t getting anywhere, just spinning my wheels.
I’m not sure when it started, but I gradually shed layers, literally & figuratively. I kept seeking to be open and vulnerable, not really certain why, but I knew that for me, the answer lay in challenging myself to get out there. The more I did that, the more I found myself to feel, to feel hurt, to feel deep sorrow and pain, on top of the joyful layers of laughter, and pleasure. The more I challenge myself to live externally as much as I can stand it, the more thin-skinned I become. Most people view thin-skin as a deficient character trait. You’re wimpy, wussy, emotional, you’re too soft, you cry too easily, you’re affected too deeply by things that should just roll off your back. And in many ways, it’s very true. I am all of those things. But the more thin my skin becomes, the more my inner light shines & glows. That’s the part I love the best about this thin-skin business: glowing.
Coping with Life’s curveballs has been much more enjoyable now that I let myself be who I am. Ok, enjoyable isn’t the right word…..I don’t want to say easier either, but it’s certainly positive. You would think that being thin-skinned would turn one into a globby mess of jelly. Sometimes, it gets kind of messy, that’s true. Yet I’ve never felt as strong as I do now, and it has alot to do with staying open to others, to throwing down the gauntlet and doing things I never thought of doing.
The past weeks have been like playing Truth or Dare. And I don’t suspect the game to end anytime soon, as my life expectancy is probably another 40 years or so, give or take. Whether facing down those pesky demons that make an appearance on a regular basis, whether making the best of what’s being offered, I’m dedicated to keeping my skin thin. Because you can’t feel anything when your skin is thick. I’ll do all I can to nurture it, smoothing the more damaged parts and admiring the scar tissue here & there.
When it’s old(er), even more thin, and wrinkled & softer to the touch, I want that satisfaction of knowing that I rolled with the punches, I bounced back from adversity, and kept shining on.
But I don’t do this alone. You don’t get through thick and thin by yourself. So this is my repeat prescription of thanks to each person who has given me the honour of sharing in their life, and consequently has helped me to shine. From those who left their imprints on my soul as a child, to those who keep giving me a reason to glow, to those (as yet) unknown encounters that will add seasoning to my life, I say merci.
Love, Chantal xoxoxo
September 23, 2007
My childhood friend, Deborah M and I, were big Bay City Rollers fans.
We had plaid everything, jeans with plaid cuffs, plaid bookmarks, plaid sashes that we only wore while we sang into our hairbrushes, posters of Leslie, Derek, Alan, Woody & Eric on our bedroom walls, we collected all of their albums, we talked endlessly about which Bay City Roller we would marry (she being the Alpha female of the two of us, had dibs on lead singer Leslie…..which was okay because I was partial to Woody…..then again Eric was kinda cute). Deborah actually got to go to a real live Bay City Rollers concert in Toronto with her mom. My dad politely said no to my request to tag along with Deborah & her mom to the biggest concert that would ever happen in my lifetime (an 11-year-old’s lifetime is not the same as your & my lifetime).
Anyhow, Deborah & I talked on & on about their songs and who we thought they wrote them for, and did Ian joining the band have anything to do with them breaking up later? We played their songs over & over, we had sleepover theme nights, where we would dress in all of our plaidness, and sing to every single song on every single album. Then, Deborah M’s mother would come into her room and beg us to please please stop the music & go to bed. So we would, and lie there in the dark, pondering life’s big questions: Does it hurt when you have your period? Who do you think Jamie the cool boy REALLY likes? Do you get what Mrs. Hall is talking about in Health class? What’s it like to have a stepdad? Are we helping your mom make pickles tomorrow? I wish my mom would let me wear lip gloss. What do you think grade 7 will be like? Will you sit with me on the bus on Monday? Pierre said that I didn’t need to wear a bra…..do you think I need to wear a bra?
This was how I spent many a Saturday night with my best friend when I was in grade six. Now, 30 or so years later, I discover that I’m spending my Saturday nights with my blog pondering the big questions, and that my blogfriends are ALSO spending their Saturday nights posting & pondering the big questions, too!
We need to get out more…….
Love, Chantal xoxoxox
I’m reading this terrific book, written by a great woman of courage & sassiness, a book that is providing me with inspiration and perspective. It’s a memoir, and at one point, the woman in question is describing the hard work that it takes to put together a fundraising & awareness campaign for the particular deadly disease that she is facing. Now please keep in mind that I am right into this book, I whipped through the first 100 pages like it was nothing, I was completely engrossed in this woman’s account of her life. And I will continue to read it with equal enthusiasm…….as soon as I get this off my chest.
I quote: ”…..(we) were already building (this) project from shitdust….you’ll excuse the French….”
Whenever I hear this expression “Excuse my French” or “Pardon my French”, it immediately sets something off inside of me that I can only describe as akin to fingernails on a blackboard. Now before you get your knickers in a knot in wonder at why I can’t stand that expression, let me explain something.
I’m French. French-Canadian. A Canadian who is French. I speak two languages, French and English. French is my mother tongue. I live and work and love in both languages, I read books & listen to music from both cultures. Frankly, I think I’m pretty lucky. But there are those that feel threatened by my Frenchness, I guess.
I’ve been called a French Frog, (more when I was a kid, less as an adult). Being called a French Frog doesn’t really have that much of an effect anymore, especially to my generation of Frenchies. That racial slur was a big deal to my parents’ generation, but we’ve sort of appropriated it for ourselves, which kind of takes the wind out of the sails of those who need to hurt others with their words.
I’ve also been told on several occasions to “speak white” or to “speak Canadian”. This reveals alot more about the narrow-minded speaker than it does about me and the fact that I speak two languages. In the course of conversations that I’ve had with people, they would comment that so-and-so is ”so French”, like it was a personality trait disorder, and realizing that they said this to me, a French person, they hastily add “Oh, but you’re not like them.” Which, to me, translates as:
You are French, but lucky to be “not like them”, because you are like us, you’ve assimilated yourself into our culture, you speak our language without your French accent. So you’re ok, because you’re like us.
When people say this to me, I don’t take offense, it’s futile to be offended by stuff like this. It would take much more than this for me to go all Zidane-like…..however, it does diminish that person in my eyes a little. But I love ‘em anyway!
When I hear the expression “Excuse my French”, and read it in a book written in this day and age by a person who by all accounts is highly intelligent and thoughtful, makes me wonder at our progress in human evolution. This saying comes from the English, who would use it to pass off swearing, and to make the use of foul language more acceptable. It was used to demonize the French, with whom they were engaged in long-standing wars that spanned over a century. Guess the Hundred-Year War spilled across the centuries and continents……
I don’t wish to make this into a big deal. But these niggling little things that we continue to do to each other only translates into perpetuating racism and intolerance. In fact, while I was thinking about writing this post, I examined my own assumptions about people, whether racial or sexist or ageist, and I thought about the words and expressions that I use myself to see how I continue to prolong negative connotations about people. And I do it sometimes without even realizing I’m doing it.
Which is why I’m a pretty good cutter of slack when it comes to stuff like this. I feel we get further ahead in our evolution as human beings if we extend tolerance and seek to create within ourselves a sense of understanding. Maybe when others cross our paths, they can feel free to express themselves while being led to the realization that we can all be insensitive and sometimes downright racist, that it’s not okay, and that sometimes we need to go back and edit ourselves.
It’s okay to be mindful of others.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, Her Royal Frenchness has a book she’d like to finish reading……
Love, Chantal xoxoxox
September 18, 2007
What happens when the father of American literature collides with an Italian designer of elegance & sophistication in Northern Ontario?
P & I went to the drugstore on Saturday, to print some photos. In order to get to the print centre, we had to walk through the fragrance department, with its gorgeous displays of flacons and scents, and beautiful young women standing at the ready, samples and smiles doled out with equal enthusiasm. I love fragrance counters. All the expensive scents that I’ll never buy but still get to try out, that feeling of being worldly and sophisticated, being slow & deliberate in my meanderings, looking, picking up one bottle & putting it down, then moving on to another that catches my eye & spritzing it on my wrist….then waiting, and letting the scent waft around me. Closing my eyes and going “mmmm”…..then walking away, to the chagrin of the salesgirl who thought she’d be making a sale…..but no! Anyways, I’m getting carried away here…..
As we were walking through the fragrance department, we happened upon the display for Nina Ricci’s new perfume, aptly called Nina. I would buy it just for the beautiful bottle it comes in:
P & I were so enchanted with the display & the colours, we actually ooo’d out loud. I picked up a bottle & spritzed some on, and I immediately fell in love. Not being familiar with the concept of testers, P was shocked that I did this, until I explained to him that I wasn’t doing anything illegal by spritzing on perfume from a tester. I showed him the tester sticker on the bottle; he nodded his understanding, but I could see that the more he learned about the world, the more he found adults hard to figure out (he discovered this week that I am really Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy). Anyhow, I spent the whole day smelling Nina-licious….even the kids kept snuggling into me every chance they got to inhale this apple-musky-vanilla scent….
So what does the new Nina Ricci fragrance have to do with Mark Twain? Probably not alot, really, except that the fragrance Nina is inspired by Fille d’Ève, created in 1952 by Madame Ricci, and I’ve just finished reading Eve’s Diary, Mark Twain’s witty interpretation on how Eve might have lived her first days in Eden. A romantic masterpiece if ever I’ve read one. Written about 100 years ago, it’s thought to be Twain’s posthumous love letter, to cope with the grief of losing his wife. That, in and of itself, is reason to read the story.
In the Christian tradition, Eve is the one who ate the apple, who tempted Adam, who also ate the apple, thereby setting in motion the concept of original sin, and the whole world went to hell in a handbasket from there. Or did it? I think Eve gets a bad rap from humans. She was created with desire, that’s part of woman’s nature. The apple she ate is her fearless daring at satisfying her desires. But she couldn’t have known desire if she had not experienced loss. Only from loss does one feel desire. And because loss manifests itself as a wound that must heal, you can only heal by desiring to love again.
Eve’s Diary is about a woman having a difficult time adjusting to her surroundings and dealing with loss. Sound familiar? Mark Twain could’ve called it Chantal’s Diary, or Philomena’s Diary, or Sarah’s Diary, or Everywoman’s Diary…..you get my drift. In reading Eve’s Diary, I was reminded of my own journey through a marriage that ended in divorce, at my own bewilderment and sorrow at wondering where I went wrong, then making the even more sorrowful discovery that I had actually lost myself in the process.
To love again…..that’s something I desire, most certainly, and more than I care to admit. The loss of love is something I need to heal from. And so I suppose that having experienced this loss, the way to healing it is to desire to love again. Which I do. I do desire to love again, as opposed to what I used to think, which was that I wasn’t worthy of loving anyone, let alone be loved by someone. So that’s part of the healing. Good. I’m on my way.
However (and you knew this was coming), some losses require a little more healing than others. My mother passed away a few years ago, and the last year or so of her life was the most gentle time I had with her. The preceding 36 years were not that great, marred by events in my childhood that rocked the house, ours and the Lord’s. Some aftershocks are still felt after all these years, but they’re minor now. I am, after all, an adult. Thirty-some years is a long time though, to be carrying around hurt and rage. I lost my mother physically, yet it’s not that loss that I find I need to heal from the most. It’s my sense of value and worth as a daughter, as a child. I wanted to matter to my mother, that I was worth protecting. I wanted to feel that in her eyes, I was a shining star. That I mattered to her more than anything that she had going on at the time.
When I look at the relationships with the men in my life, with my friends, with my sisters, with my children especially, I see how I’m trying to find a little bit of the mother I lost in that 30-year time span. Subconsciously, I’m looking to be special to someone. That sounds really pathetic, wimpy, and kind of self-centered. And I’m sure if another woman would tell me this, that she wants to be special to someone, I’d probably frown, raise an eyebrow and think “We’re all special, you ninny, now get a grip and move on!” I wouldn’t tell her that, of course. Let someone else burst her bubble. Because as much as that might sound weak or whatever, it’s kind of courageous to be so openly (stupidly?) vulnerable.
If I would send a secret to PostSecret, that’s what I would write on my postcard: I need to feel that I’m special to someone. On the postcard, there would be a picture of a mother from the ’50s, all smiling, in a fabulous dress & apron, a freshly-baked pie in one hand, a bible in the other, and her back turned to her daughter. The daughter has this look of longing in her eyes as she looks to her mother to give her sustenance….just a little.
I miss my mother with all my heart. That last year was our year to forgive and give love. I don’t begrudge her the choices she made, but I am still angry and hurt. The discovery of the year? Even though she’s gone, the rage at the emotional losses can still heal. They heal with my desire to love again.
Just like Eve. By eating the apple, she had the courage and desire to live the pain as well as the joy, she listened deeply & heard the whisperings to love again.
Love, Chantal xoxox
September 12, 2007
This Sunday, my son & I are participating in the annual Terry Fox Run. We’ve done this for the past three years, in memory of my father, who passed away 4 years ago September 28. If you’re interested, please visit this link www.terryfoxrun.org, which will give you loads of information on what it’s about, if there’s a run organized in your part of the world, details about Terry (WHO, BY THE WAY, IS ONE OF THE GREATEST CANADIANS), and about how his Marathon of Hope back in 1980 has sparked great leaps in cancer research. The statistics are hopeful.
At the run site, there’s usually a banner set up, where people can write messages or thoughts about loved ones who have passed away from cancer, or who have survived it, or who are currently in the battle of their lives. It’s one of the most moving things to do the run with hundreds of people in your community, then at the end, you stop and read this huge banner that’s the length of about 5 picnic tables, teeming with all of these heartfelt messages of love, sadness, profound grief, yet always punctuated by hope.
My goal here today is not to hit you up for money for the cause (if you want to do that, you can go directly to the website & donate your coffee money there). I’ve already got my pledge sheet at work, and the generosity of my co-workers has been outstanding once again. No, my goal here is to create a little instant karma.
I’m hoping that the organizers will have the remembrance banner set up again this year, as my list of people that I want to write about on that banner is ready to go. I call it my Terry Fox Heroes List. If you have someone in your life who has died of cancer, if you know someone who has survived it, if you are a survivor yourself, if you are battling this disease or are accompanying someone who is, here’s what you can do:
Leave a comment on this post with the person’s name (full name, initials, nickname, doesn’t matter); you can include as many or as little details about them as you want. I’ll check back Sunday morning before leaving for the run, and will add any names that have been left here to my list of heroes. Once P & I will have finished, it will be our privilege to write all the names from our list onto the banner.
This doesn’t seem like much, I know. Writing names on a banner. And the point is…..?
The point is this: it’s about making a small gesture to remember people who have fought a big battle, and whether they have surrendered or whether they are victorious, we need to be in the presence of their courage. The person writing on the banner, the person reading the banner: both will be changed in a small but very significant way that will pay it forward. Our actions, however small, help to shape the bigger picture. In this case, the bigger picture is Life, of which suffering and death are a part of. Coming together at events such as the Terry Fox Run gives people the chance to celebrate life in the face of disease and death, to feel warmth and support from others who have had similar experiences, and to meet everyday heroes. It’s all about the links……
I remember being with my father when he passed away, my sister and I surrounding him with as much gentleness as we could, holding his blue hands…..his courage throughout his life, and especially at that moment, is one of his legacies to me. Including his name on that banner brings his courage to others as well. He’s my own personal Hero with a capital H.
May we all shine on…..
Love, Chantal xooxoxo
September 9, 2007
I’ve re-written my About Me page (go see). I had been thinking about it, because life changes and so do we, and I thought maybe some things were no longer relevant, or maybe I wanted to say things in a different way. And now that I’ve been in the blogosphere for a little while and have had the opportunity to view others’ About Me’s, I thought it might be good to refresh it a little.
One thing I hadn’t really thought much about, was that in my original About Me, I had tried to give the basic details about myself, you know, kids, age, marital status, my occupation, why I started this blog.
And then Charlie, from Charlie’s Place (see my Blogroll), asked me why I defined myself as divorced in my About Me page. He’s a clever man, that Charlie. He has the ability to get to the heart of something, hold it up for you to see, and in the most forthright and caring manner, he brings you to a new realization, whether it’s about yourself, or people around you, or your circumstances. He does this to me all the time on his blog with every post he writes. I always come away with something positive from Charlie’s Place, whether it’s something to help me as a parent, or to be a better human being, even (and especially) being in a relationship. I say “even” because I’m not in a relationship, and relationship can sometimes be a not-too-nice four-letter-word. I say “especially” because I want to believe in what he writes about relationships, and that I might get to feel that one day. But that’s a post for another time.
Today, we talk about defining yourself. Or defining MYself, actually. When I say I’m divorced, I’m actually wanting the other person to know that I’ve been married. Saying I’m divorced clears up alot of future questions the person might have, and lets them know that yes, I’ve got baggage, I’ve gone through a serious life-changing experience, and I’ve come out on the other side. When I say I’m single, it implies that I’m looking for a man. Period. That’s all people see, and that’s what they assume, regardless of what you follow-up with. This is a fact of life that you learn real quick. So these are my thoughts on why I identify myself in this way. Now for the better question, which Charlie asked in his comment:
How long does the divorce process linger?
So I thought about this. Alot. With the thinking emphasis on LINGER. And here’ s what I’ve come up with.
Divorce is a process that ends a marriage. My marriage has been ended with the process of divorce. C’est fini.
The divorce process lingers because I allow it to. I allow it to linger by playing the coulda/shoulda/woulda game. I allow it to linger by pulling up a chair for Mr. Guilt and letting him play his lousy tunes (I get the feeling, Charlie, that you were wanting me to change the darn channel already!). I allow it to linger by letting my resentments towards M take up so much space that I can’t see over the fence anymore to where my dreams are waiting. I allow it to linger out of a misguided sense that I, and only I, am wholly responsible for my children’s happiness AND for their unhappiness.
This is not who I am, this is not who I want to be. Divorced is not how I want to be perceived, any more than I want to be perceived as Single. By continually defining myself and prefacing who I am with a marital status definition, I’m enabling the process of divorce to linger. And the longer it lingers, and dawdles, and keeps festering, the less I become. The…… less ……I ……become.
Think it’s time to allow this lingering to die out. Time to let more of my inner light shine through my thin-skin. Time to explore where I want to go on this road that I’m building. Time to give to myself and to others what’s really important, and it ain’t divorced or single.
Love, Chantal xoxoxo
(thank you, Charlie….)
September 8, 2007
The following will link to an excellent rant from my bloggerfriend, One Female Canuck, who inspired me to start this blog. I’ve written about her before, and I probably will again. Anyhow, she just posted this rant on emotional head games some women play by calling it ”dating” or “being in a relationship”. It’s really a sad commentary on how some women go through life eating up their soul for breakfast.
Love, Chantal xoxoxoox
September 7, 2007
Act III has been reworked and is now complete.
Act III, Scene I
In the last scene, the two principals had taken leave of each other.
The two principals have not returned.
End of Act III
The management of this playhouse would like to thank you for your patronage throughout the year, and for helping make this play the success that it is. Unfortunately, the writer and producer have decided to call it a day, and what was originally billed as a play in 16 Acts has mercifully been reduced to a play in 3 Acts. No refreshments will be served.