Life as a Hermit – Day 7

I miss Chet. Even a staring, expressionless punching bag is better than being utterly alone. Well, maybe not. At least I have my dog.

I spent the morning cutting and sanding one of the larch stumps that came out of the cabin footprint when I built it. It sat outside over the winter but has dried up nicely this spring, so it was ready to become something completely new. I’m not sure what it’s going to be yet. At the right moment it will look like something other than a stump, and then I will just follow its lead and take it where it wants to go. If only humans were so prescient.

I will go into town this afternoon. It is time for some human contact, some time on my laptop with free wi fi, and pick up some supplies. Maybe a drink at Charlie’s, then back home for an evening fire outdoors. It is still cool enough for a fire in the evening. I can play fetch with my dog, Kaiju, and tire him out that way.

I am starting to lose that antsy feeling that I should be somewhere or doing something other than what I am doing. I can’t remember when I last felt this way, at least besides holidays. Sometimes I find myself just sitting, letting my mind wander, and minutes later I have been sitting in one spot, contentedly fiddling with a stick, or a flower, or adding wood to the stove. This is one of the things that I am here for: for time to pass at its own pace, instead of wrestling it to slow down or speed up or whatever my whim of the moment demands.

 

Life as a Hermit – Day 6

Chet is getting a little irritating. Even my dog has started to find him creepy, and I have had Chet around for awhile. He just sits there and stares. Chet, that is. My dog is actually animated, as though by a brain. It’s like Chet’s eyes follow me as I walk around the room. But then I look, and it’s like he hasn’t moved…at all.

I miss people. I miss my girlfriends that I used to go for coffee with. I miss the man who broke my heart. I miss my kids who have gone away to university. I miss being part of a world that isn’t of my own making. I miss turning on the tv and just sitting, mindlessly, pretending that I am doing something when really I am just filling my brain to keep it from wandering places I am tired of going.

What would I be doing, if I was back in the city, I wonder. Sitting in my house and wishing I was somewhere else, probably.  At least I have that, now. I’m somewhere else. How long will it be, I wonder, before I begin to accept my new reality. I love many things about it, but it remains somewhat foreign. It’s a little bit like leaving a relationship. You don’t really miss the things that are gone, you don’t really miss the person, but you miss the stability, the constancy, the predictability of your days. Sure, some of them are horrible days, but at least you don’t have to plan them from the moment you wake up in the morning until the minute your head hits the pillow at night.

Get out of bed, try to avoid an argument before leaving for work. Enjoy the job you hate because it’s a break from all the tension at home. Begin to feel that heavy, toxic dread in the pit of your stomach as five o’clock approaches. Think about whether you can have a few drinks every night and still get work done the next day. Cry, wipe the tears away as you drive into the garage. Take a deep breath and wonder what you’ve done wrong today, what you will argue about. The arguments are better than the silence. The silence just threatens to abandon you unexpectedly, and when it does, it’s rarely good.

I guess this silence is good. It is my silence. I chose it. But sometimes it makes me want to abandon it, and see how it likes it. I think I’m going to let all the air out of Chet.  I can’t deal with his staring, accusing eyes anymore. See how he likes being drained, empty, flattened.

I think I’ve been reading a little too much Nietzsche. Even my dog is starting to look at me like he expects my head to start spinning around. I’ll make us some pizza in the cob oven, that should cheer him up. And maybe a trip into town tomorrow for a little lunchtime Jack and Coke, and pick up some new books.

 

 

 

 

Life as a Hermit – Day 5

Today is quiet. Too quiet. I wonder if I should head into town today. It is sunny but cool as spring days can be. I could check on the bees or work on the henhouse but I feel more like going to sit at a coffee shop and letting the idle chatter of other humans wash over me so that I feel like part of their tribe.  It would be nice to have a neighbor. Someone close, but not too close. I could drive over and lean on the fence as we commiserate about the weather, what we will be planting, maybe even what we are reading.  Chet doesn’t really have strong views on any of these things. Or at least he doesn’t verbalize them.

What to do. It’s only been five days without human contact. I don’t even like most people. Why do I miss them? A person can be lonely in a room full of people, or solitary but not lonely. I’m here because I was lonely surrounded by people. Maybe I will stick it out alone today. See how I feel tomorrow. I can always immerse myself in a book. Perhaps something whimsical and fun like Nietzsche or Tolstoy. Or make something out of one of the tree stumps we pulled out of the cabin footprint.

A grocery list to sum up an inspired, serendipitous, unexpected year

I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything since October. I have been back in school taking Creative Writing at the University of Montana. It has been inspiring, fun, invigorating, and, occasionally, still terrifying.

I have met new friends, who already feel like old friends. I have discovered and been buoyed by the support of existing friends to an extent I would never have dreamed. I am living smack in the middle of one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world, and it is home. My family remains batshit crazy, but it is supportive and loving and accepting. This is more than many people have, I think.

I am home now in Canada where I will be able to spend three weeks with my boys. I have time to work on my furniture business, with the goal of increasing sales on my Etsy shop, and regular participation in handcraft fairs and events. I am applying for the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Montana, to commence next September.

I have had moments where I was terrified and ready to give up. But for me, giving up now only means temporarily getting a real job and spending more time in Regina.  This is the magic of having taken the leap that I did. I know I can do it again, start again, detour, pitstop, take a breather, if need be. But I know that I am where I need to be.  And, wonder of wonders, I give myself pep talks. I read through old blog posts, and the confident, accepting, wise person that I sometimes am tells me to keep going, that I have been there before and I will be there again.

I do go places now, not just on trips.

Sometimes it takes a Flashing Neon Sign

I’m in Missoula with my kids, ready to head back towards home. We came here so I could pick out a place to live when I come here in the fall to belatedly complete my English Degree, with a minor in Creative Writing. A separate entry will be required for all of the crazy coincidences that have been pummeling me for the last week. I will deal with just the one here. I am trying to choose a campground or two to stay at for the two remaining days of our trip.

 

Ok universe, ok.   I tried to pick a campground based on convenience to our route home; it should be in the mountains, because what is the point to being in Montana sans mountains;  the presence of showers and a nice lake or creek is also a prerequisite, and possibly activities we would be interested in. There are approximately 17,342 campgrounds in Montana. But the universe keeps leading me back to Wayfarers State Park on Flathead Lake (I fell in love with the location on a previous finding-myself-trip to Montana). Ok. OK! OK ALREADY!!! I don’t know why this is so important to the universe, but I learned when it hit me on the head last year to listen. Maybe I’m supposed to save the world from there, or maybe the zombie apocalypse will break out while we are there, and it is the ideal place to pit in; but clearly I have to go there and camp with my kids.

 

My boys do have an arsenal of new Nerf weapons purchased while we were in Missoula. One of our zombie apocalypse scenarios involves the undead horde’s suprising but useful vulnerability to orange foam Nerf bullets. So in an A Prayer for Owen Meany kind of a way, maybe it is all falling together.

I`ll let you know.

Next entry: The house in old Missoula that freaked me the F out.

Things I wish someone would have told 22-year-old-me

To my younger self,

I know that things may seem difficult, or frustrating, now. You may be impatient for your “life” to begin; you may feel cheated or betrayed by things that have happened, sorrows you have suffered. You think that you know what is important to you, and even what will make you happy. You look at people around you that seem to have everything, and you wish that you could have what they have. You know you are smart, talented, hard-working, and that you have “everything going for you”, even if you know that part is just on paper. You are right about the last part. But let me explain to you what I have learned about the rest.

1.  You live your life in the journey. Don’t roll your eyes at me. I am you: older, wiser, a better golfer, and by the way, better looking and funnier, too, so cut me some slack and listen for a bit. Patience will be one of the hardest won rewards you will earn. But you will find it, bit by miniscule painful bit. Remember when you thought you would absolutely die waiting for Christmas morning to come, or the spring thaw so you could finally get out and throw a softball with Ange? You learned to solder through those interminable waits, didn`t you? Granted, some are more heart-wrenching, and anxiety-filled, and lonely, but with the right frame of mind, you can get through other periods of waiting, too. Waiting for your first love; waiting for your first big tournament win; waiting for news on a health condition, or a case that you ran, or for a particularly savage winter to finally end. And while you wait, as many wise people have said, your life is lived, and your stories are made.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If you spend your entire life waiting, you are wasting those years, sometimes staring intently in the wrong direction. But if you know in your heart that something is worth waiting for, then wait. It may be that what you find is different than what you thought you were looking for, but the process will bear fruit.

2. Everything happens for a reason. This doesn’t mean that you are “destined” to experience or accomplish certain things. But everything that happens to you is a lesson that will serve you well later. You won`t know it at the time, and it will hurt like hell, to lose your first boyfriend, or lose a spot on the provincial team to someone four years younger than you, or find that your best friend has been telling tales told to her in confidence.

Honestly, I don’t know if these lessons only become important if certain things happen later on in your life. But I know that they are important, and that they start to make a strange sort of sense after awhile. If you have a good sense of humour (you do), you will even learn to laugh about it. People will think you’re nuts, but that’s ok. They’re likely the ones missing the boat anyway.

3. You feel things extremely deeply. This is a blessing and a curse. Life from the lens of your psyche is truly a rollercoaster. You will have choices, from time to time, to get off the rollercoaster and board a more gentle, civilized ride. I don’t know what the right decision will be for you. But for me, it was to accept the rollercoaster and learn to deal with the lows. Because the highs make it somehow worth it. And you are a creative soul, and even the lows bear their own bitter fruit.

4. You think that you know what is important to you. You might be right. But I am pretty sure you are wrong, and were wrong for a couple of decades, at least. This isn’t your fault. You are responding to your environment in the best way you know how. Remember, I know you very well. I know that when you face a difficult decision, you almost literally wage a battle inside you between reason and emotion, logic and instinct. I know every decision you have ever made, and I have lived the consequences of them. So believe me when I say: trust your instincts. Always. Even when they don`t make sense. Trust what they are telling you about you, and what is important to you. It may save you from trying to please everyone before taking care of yourself. It may seem crazy, but if your heart keeps telling you to do it, carpe diem and do it. Because if you don’t, you’ll come back around the circle again and face it again later, and the decision may be that much more difficult to make.

5. You think that you know what will make you happy. I guess you know this already, on some level. But you are prone to making decisions that will make you feel secure, and loved, and wanted, and envied, and important. Do these things make you happy, or do they just fill a void? What makes you happy? What do you do when you have complete freedom to choose what to do with your day? Use that as a guide. Hint: it involves being outside, and being around people, and the sun. Always the sun.

6. The people around you that seem to have everything, don’t. I’m not saying that there aren’t things to strive for, but you will never know the burdens that others carry. You might be able to catch a glimpse of them at times, but you do not know what demons they battle. It may be mental illness, or low self-esteem, or a history of abuse, or they may be surrounded by emotional vampires. Try not to wish that you are someone else, because that is a luxury you will never be afforded. Turn your face to the sun each day and soak up whatever happiness is available to you, that day, period.

7. If it feels wrong, don’t do it. Really. It’s actually that simple.

8. You learn from mistakes. Always. That means that you will make mistakes, because you don’t believe it until you see it. But you already know this. Remember this when you start beating yourself up for a big mistake. It’s your way, and you always learn from it, so accept it and enjoy the ride.

9. Don’t do what other expect of you, or make decision to please others. This works for some people, at least on a superficial level. It will not work for you. Why? You know why. Because you are a free spirit and you need to float on the wind, and dance in the rain, and laugh in the face of adversity. This is what makes you feel alive. Try to remember this and be mindful of it every single day.

10. Money doesn’t matter. Don’t stop reading here. This is important. You’re happy right? You sometimes barely have enough money to buy a coffee on the way to class, and you have to save up for that skirt you saw in Club Monaco last week. You have been taught that money is important and that you should feel anxious if you don’t have enough. That is total bullshit. Don’t buy into it. If you want money, go out and earn some. But don’t let it run your life.

11. Don’t burn bridges. Unless you really know that you don’t ever want to travel that bridge again. Then blow that shit up.

12. When you have repetitive bad dreams, it is because you are not listening to the universe. What is bothering you? What conflict or difficulty are you avoiding? Deal with it, and the dreams will go away.

13. Sleep. Sleep at night, nap in the day. I know that you love your bed, the silky, cool, clean feel of the covers as you slide in on a lazy afternoon with the sun shining in the window. You are happy there. To hell with the rest of the world; sleep is therapy for you. So use it.

14. You have a kind, loving, generous heart. You got this from your mom. Don’t roll your eyes at me. You know that your mom always acts from her heart and would do anything for you. You have this in you, too, and it is one of your strengths. Don’t let anyone tell you that it is a sign of weakness, because they are wrong. It will gather wonderful people around you, and it will help you identify who is not worthy of your limitless ability to love. Don’t hide it behind a facade.

15. Swing on the swings, dance in the rain, say things that might get you into trouble. Make choices just because they feel right. That is where the living begins, and that is where the greatest stories are made. And you always will love a great story. And with any luck, some day you will write it as well.

 

Transformations

I have lived my entire life in Canada. Since I can remember, I have known that the climate is not for me. But life offers sometimes inexplicable paths, and today I am prepared to believe that it is nothing more nefarious than that. The path has led me here, after all.

I have struggled. I have struggled with depression; with betrayal by those I have loved; with betraying my own dreams and needs, and no doubt those of others as well. I am blessed, however, with a supportive family, amazing friends (old and new), two amazing children, and a resiliency that I thought was tattered beyond repair.

I still struggle with faith, and with finding meaning and sense. I realize that everyone doesn’t need to make sense of the world. But I do, and that is perhaps my blessing and my curse. But through some miracle I have faith in myself, and a vision of a new life that begins again each day, with a new day. And I am learning to let that be enough.

I have had a lost weekend of sorts, but without the benefit of a Yoko or her personal assistant. I am on what may be the last trip of that lost weekend, before I return to reality, such as it is. And this is what I have discovered in the last 7 months:

1 – I’m the most myself when I’m doing something a little irreverent, a little crazy, a little bit spontaneous, or all of the above. I know this because the people that really know me tell me this all the time. And I think they know it because I have proven it to them over and over again. This is a lesson in surrounding yourself with the right people, the people that make you MORE, the people that don’t want to change you.
2 – I am, as a recent husband told me, a flower that wilts and may even die if left out of the sun too long. Lesson learned. I know this and remind myself every time I breathe the warm air of summer at home, or of the winter somewhere civilized. And if I permit myself to forget this lesson, I will wilt again.
3 – I will either marry again numerous times (two completed marriages so far – I now object to calling them “failures”), or not at all.
4 – Writing is teaching me patience. I write when the mood strikes me; I write what inspires me on a given day. And I don’t give myself deadlines, I just try to write, or even just think about characters and plot lines, every day.
5 – I don’t need to be the parent I planned to be two marriages ago. I will be the parent that follows her heart and gives her children all the love and acceptance that follows from that. I think I will be providing mostly love and adventure more so than stability, but I’ve decided that’s why kids have two parents – their dad seems to be pretty much dialled in on the stability part.
6 – The universe is always speaking. You just need to listen, and sometimes take a leap of faith. Sometimes daily. And if you don’t, you will literally be struck on the head repeatedly until you start to listen. In my case, I had two concussions in two months that made me reassess everything that was left after my second marriage dissolved into a sinkhole.
7 – This will be a terrifying way to live. But I’ve never really been scared of much, so what the hell.
8 – Change is a constant, and ought not be feared. See 8, above.
9 – I’m happy.

That’s a pretty good list of accomplishments in seven short months, I figure. And I suppose on the days I feel like I haven’t accomplished very much, I can just remember how I felt a year ago, look to tomorrow, and smile. Or skip along the sidewalk or go for a swing in the park or have another ice cream cone, should it strike my fancy.

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