When I was in my early 20’s and my Grandmother was still alive, she tried to impart her best advice to me.
She knew what she was talking about
It’s too bad I was scornful. But that’s mostly because she was very old and extremely proper and exceedingly capable. In other words, we were nothing alike (though she was my favourite person in the whole world)
I wish she was still alive because back then she was talking about stuff that didn’t at all apply to my crazy, 20-something, hard-livin lifestyle. But now as I go about my day, I can’t tell you how many time, I stop, slap my forehead and say, “So that’s what she meant.”
I remember one Sunday dinner, when I was around 12.
I tried to help my grandmother as she bustled around in the kitchen, cooking a stuffed chicken, baking homemade rolls, setting the table and prepping dessert. While, my grandpa, her husband, sat on the sofa reading the Globe and Mail. Like he did every Sunday. In that same tradition, he’d frequently shout from the living room: “Dinner ready yet?”
Grandma turned to me and said, “Never get married.”
Later she amended that advice to – “Only marry someone who’ll divorce well.”
Now that so many of my friends are separating from their husbands and life partners, I understand that advice to mean: “if your chosen mate shows a hint of vindictiveness – use him for sex – but never, ever marry him.” Watching how shitty people can behave when divorcing, I believe that unsolicited advice is absolute genius. I will impart it to my daughter…but only after college.
She said a whole bunch of super intelligent shit – most of which I remember. When I repeat these little sound bites with anyone in her 40’s or older – I sound super wise and insightful. (thanks, Grandma. I couldn’t have done it without you.)
Here are some of my most repeated examples:
- Poor people can’t afford cheap stuff
- Three things you should never cheap out on:
- Food, shoes and mattress. (She once said in way of a caution: “Every time my mattress started to sag in the middle, I got pregnant.”)
- A lady always knows when it’s time to go (If only I’d taken this advice after drinking
- A wise woman always knows when to keep her mouth shut (if only I’d EVER taken this advice)
- Gardening is the best stress reliever – nothing beats unmercifully pulling weeds, for working out aggression
- Money is never a reason not to do something important (so when I use that excuse I know I’m really freaked out about something else)
A few years ago, I volunteered at Hospice. Sylvia MacNeil asked me to write her life story. She was 94 and dying from breast cancer. I won’t go into the details except to say that her life was inspiring and remarkable. I felt very lucky to have known her.
As Sylvia got closer to death, I could sense she had something she wanted to tell me. One day, when she was drifting in and out of consciousness, he waved me into close so I could hear her hoarse whisper. She said, “Sex in your 80’s kicks the crap out of sex in your 30’s.” And then she fell back on her pillow, unresponsive.
If it hadn’t been for the nurse in the room, I would have grabbed Sylvia by the shoulders and shaken her awake, yelling. “What do you mean? For God’s sake. How? How?”
Photo credit: Jean Malek
But I’ll never know exactly what she meant.
Although, after some thought, I think she was talking about gumming.
What good advice were you given that you’re only really getting now?
It was unusually chaotic this morning. Which really got things off to a good start.
In retrospect, this day was a by-product of human error.
Beginning with the ill-conceived idea that my husband and I could get a few moments to enjoy a small luxury – like coffee in bed, maybe a little light petting -by putting on the Wii and letting the kids play a tank game.
I know… We are the worst people in the world. Within 5 minutes I’m forced to race into the living room, topless, in full view of the street below and condo windows across the street, to pull my son off my daughter, who was just going for his eyes. All while my husband runs around screaming that someone in the building will call Social Services for sure and have our children removed from our care. Naomi begins to have an anxiety attack. Just as Felix decides to teach us all a lesson about what the future will be for us all if we don’t side with him over Naomi: He starts hyperventilating. Yells something he knows will be very offensive, then starts shrieking,”No. Daddy No,” while running down the hall into his bedroom. All because my husband has finally lost it and yells, just behind our thin front door, that Felix had better stay in his room or risk being killed. Maybe for real.
Poor Brad Pitt. I am instantly filled with gratitude that we cannot afford to have staff since one of his staff was certain to have reported his “child abuse” to the LAPD. This is a complete reversal from my earlier position, which was that the only thing standing between me and complete happiness was shortage of staff.
Brad before people found out that he is a normal parent
I have to accept a ruined Sunday morning as punishment because really this was all my fault. For breakfast, I allowed our daughter to finish off the last of Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie (Sure. Take as much whipped cream as you like). And Felix pretty much finished off half a box of cinnamon buns, under my direct supervision. Just because I was just a tad hungover (just one double gin and tonic – I hate getting old) and didn’t want to make anything for breakfast or do the dishes after. So how can I be mad at the kids for my own idiocy?
To celebrate this amazing mental breakthrough, I reward myself by leaving. (Don’t judge me. I made eggs first)
“Bye. Just running to the store. Love you. Take care of each other.”
Since Amsterdam, I have been orchestrating and savouring these moments of true Freedom.
I float down the street to the chocolate shop so I can shoot the shit with Heather, the owner and my new life-coach. She has an idea, easy to execute, that will make me look like a rock-star with the PAC for my kids’ school. I just love her.
Then I wander up the street to the grocery store, where I try all the samples. And also pick up the ingredient I need to prepare a glorious Family Sunday Dinner, which is going to become a weekly and mandatory thing – but hopefully in a happy, quality time sort of way.
As I walk home, I look up and am rewarded again with the most beautiful cloud-shaped shades of grey and purpley black. I let the rain patter down on my face, soaking up all the negative ions. Feeling my heart open and grow patient again. Feeling the tightness in my neck and shoulders. Then holding onto a tree trunk for a little stretch. I drink in calm and the beauty of a peaceful, glimmering city by a gorgeous body of water. Thank you. Thank you. My church rocks!! I just have to figure out how to incorporate a little sip of wine during my service and a little more “body” (if you get my meaning…) And I’ll be ready to apply for tax-free status.
I invite you to join my congregation and take a little time away to savour something that makes you feel free. (and make it a news-free day. Unless it’s John Oliver, then it’s ok.)
Please share a time you’ve found magic in the mundane…
And also I’d deeply appreciate it if you’d subscribe. This way I can send you this new thing I’m trying:
I’ve got two lines of snappy little quotes you can print off and stick on your fridge…
1) Unsolicited Advice 2) Weird Shit I Overhear
I can also let you know when I’m doing a storytelling gig near you and want to crash on your couch.
You haven’t heard from me for a couple weeks. This is because I’ve been lost in a morass of self-doubt and fear. I think I was waiting to find a funny angle before I could write it out, but no matter how I tell it, there just isn’t any humour there. The timing couldn’t have been worse because after my last blog, my loving and patient husband laid down the law: “Every time you write about me, you make me seem like such an asshole. Really? You don’t have anything else to say?”
I realized that I didn’t actually. And this was enough to create a huge writers block.
Desperate to pull myself out and keep my blogging momentum going, I tested out humorous versions of this story with Alice, who berated me for trying way too hard.
“Why not just do something to change your focus. Do something that makes you feel good.”
She convinced me to join her at the Synagogue.
“But, Alice, we’re not even Jewish.”
When we got there, Alice insisted we sit in the first row.
“Trust me, you’ll thank me later.”
A few minutes later a shortish man with just the hint of a receding hairline walked out and stood at the front of the room. His head was lowered and his demeanor, meditative. “Oh shit,” I thought. “A fucking religious self-help talk.”
Now I get the attraction to organized religion
But then the man raised his head and began to chant. I couldn’t understand the words, but in a moment it was clear why Alice brought me. She always has the best ideas.
The man’s voice was deep and completely filled the room. When he hit the low notes, the resonance of his voice hit me right in the clit. I looked over at Alice. She had her eyes closed and a little smile. I then glanced around me and noticed that the first three rows were entirely filled with women.
“So this is why people get into organized religion…” My last thoughts before I allowed the sensation to overtake me.
Today, I feel much better.
In a much better mood today
This morning I talked to my husband about converting to Judaism, but that’s another blog post.
So. You may remember that I quit my shitty job. Well, you’ll be happy to know that through my amazing powers of manifestation, I managed to land two great contracts. I’m feeling all like I’ve totally mastered the “Power of Now,” because I can see that I’ve made a brave choice, processed all the lessons I needed to learn at that place and have now moved on to a better position as a more evolved person.
Ta Da, MotherFuckers!
But then it turns out I actually have a whole new set of personal challenges and limitations, which will create all kinds of unhappy shit in my life until I figure that stuff out. I have no idea where this originated, but whenever someone yells at me or uses some I can’t believe I thought you could be trusted, voice, I completely crumble. I forget that there were well thought out and reasonable, even smart reasons why I made the decisions I did. Instead of just pushing back and saying all that good stuff, I get apologetic and start flapping around trying to please everyone and of course, pleasing no one.
I know this is unacceptable, but before I take any real action, I must first complete my ritual of self-flagellation. Which I’m in the middle of doing when I get a call from my husband.
Now before I continue with this story, I must tell you that because I’ve been making my mid-life crisis look so fun, my husband has decided to have one of his own. He quit his job and has also rejected all oppressive tasks that just keep him trapped in old ways of thinking, like cooking and cleaning.
I would be completely fine with this if he used his time wisely by getting really very good at sex. But no, my husband has decided to fully dedicate himself to our children’ s competitive swimming careers and also to doing all the fun, cool stuff I used to do with them – back in the day when I had time and energy.
Do I sound selfish and bitter? I know. It’s one of my many faults. I don’t get a total monopoly on irresponsible behaviour. I know this mentally, but inside I can feel something beginning to bubble.
So today, after a week of harsh lessons, my husband calls me from the car. I can hear the kids fighting in the background. Someone is screaming.
“You’ve got to get home now! The kids are starving and even though I’ve asked Naomi to stop using her high pitched, screechy voice in the car, she won’t stop and I’m sick and tired of being….”
I just hung up the phone. I turned it off. I then crossed the street and settled myself into a seat at the nearest patio bar and ordered a double gin and soda. I pulled out my journal to sort out my thoughts. Since I couldn’t, I called Alice.
“What the fuck am I supposed to do?” I wept into the phone.
“I’m going to text you a number. Call it and tell her that I sent you. You CAN NOT tell anyone about this. But she’ll help you out. Just call her.”
So I called. “Tell me what the problem is,” the voice said over the phone. I could hear a child talking in the background. I told her everything. She asked several probing questions and then told me, “You want to know how to improve your current situation so you can have more time for your family and be more patient with your husband.” Yes. Yes. That’s pretty much what I want right now. She grew silent for a while. I could tell she was walking. Once I heard the sound of a door closing, she explained:
“Ok the way I work is like this: Tonight when I’m mastrubating, I’ll weave your wish into my fantasy. I can’t tell you exactly what this will look like, but the more detailed and exciting, the better the results. Then at the moment when I cum, an answer will come into my head. I’ll call you with it tomorrow.”
“How much do you charge?” I asked without thinking.
“Jesus! Nothing. I’m not a whore.” And she hung up the phone.
Yaletown has a sexual psychic. You’d never guess to look at the shimmery high rises, manicured dog parks and abundance of sports wear worn as normal clothing – that somewhere behind one of those windows a woman is solving my life’s problems armed only with a vibrator and some great imagination. Somehow it makes me feel comforted – even connected to another, more ancient time.
I got her call early the next morning. “When you find ways to say No, your life will open up. You must find your voice for the right situation and everything will fall into place.” She hung up.
“She’s always right,” Alice tells me when I relay the experience. “She’s got a real gift.”
I wonder if this gift is just isolated to her or if it’s something every woman can access if so dedicated to learning this craft. None the less. I’m thinking of suggesting a gift certificate for our next school silent auction. I think it would make a killing.
How are your truths revealed to you? Don’t be ashamed if it’s all perverted, illegal or just weird. It’s obviously all, all good.
My kids are six and eight years old. I am aware that this is considered the “sweet spot” in the whole parenting journey. This is the time when they’re independent, but still love to cuddle and hang out with me. Now they’re getting into cool stuff, have interesting conversations, while still believing all my lies – we can just enjoy each other’s company.
I know this and yet, I continuously choose to be overly concerned by how they’ve only eaten half the pizza on their plates, leaving the crust and all the actually nutritious bits – rather than adding my two cents to the debate over which is cooler: Nerf water guns or the rocket launcher looking ones from the dollar store.
Why do I care so much if my kid goes to every single one of his soccer practices (“Do you have any idea how much those classes cost?) Or if they’re late for Kindergarten? Really who gives a shit??? And yet, I continuously choose to make this the focus of my attention – over just enjoying their crazy and wonderful little minds.
The problem stems from my brain getting fucked whenever I try to be too responsible. The pressure to helicopter parent is turning me into someone I don’t like and that asshole is raising my children. I know this, but my awareness is so delayed, I only realize my missed opportunity after I’ve done it all wrong.
I am ready to admit that the only way to prevent myself from turning into a tight-assed, lame parent, lies in the responsible usage of marijuana. I have a legal prescription for medical-grade pot to address my anxiety and insomnia. But I find it even more effective as a parenting tool.
For those of you who are judging me or who are reaching for your phones to dial Social Services – consider this: what would it take for you to get on the floor with your six year old son to play dinosaurs versus lego ninjas – and actually really enjoy yourself? The answer for me is two long hits on a vaporizer.
“Mom? Is Jar Jar Binks bad?”
“Well,” I answer thoughtfully. Because now I’m his intellectual equal.
“He’s good in that he’s supposed to be a Jedi Master, but he’s bad because he sucks and his stupid character ruined the entire movie.”
We spend the rest of the evening lying on the floor philosophizing about Jedi powers and the proper and effective usage of them, while dinner dishes go unwashed and wet laundry moulders in the machine. It is also hands down my favourite night in recent memory.
These days, I’m experimenting with a new medicine. Its ingredients include: one thinly rolled joint, two cups of epson salts, some relaxing music, a copy of Vanity Fair and a hot tub of bathwater.
Last night, I barely wait for both kids to get into bed before I indulge. A feeling of deep relaxation and bliss begins to wash over my tired muscles and over-taxed brain when I feel someone in the room staring at me. Felix is standing just out of reach. Normally, I would start hollering threats. “Get to bed now or I’ll….(fill in the blank).” But he’s aware that the effects of my medicine have kicked in. He knows nothing he does will pull me out of the tub, so he sits on the toilet and asks,
“Mom, where does inspiration come from?”
In my current state (hell, in any state) I am powerless to ignore this line of questioning. So we start to talk. Suddenly it’s 11:30pm on a school night and I realize that little fucker has totally played me.
Normally I would be mad, but I’m pleasantly medicated and so I decide just to enjoy. And anyhow it’s my husband’s turn to get the kids ready for school the next day.
What’s working for you right now??
It’s the eve of my fifth wedding anniversary. I like to begin some mental preparation in advance of the actual date because every year I create little secret amendments to our wedding vows.
This year I’m wondering why we didn’t rewrite the originals to swap out “from death to us part” or “cherish and obey” to “I will make every effort to initiate exciting and surprising sex until we can no longer physically have sex.” Or “When I feel a relationship rut coming on, I will use this an opportunity to deepen intimacy between us in some cost effective, yet lovely way.”
I know it’s a total boner-killer to announce that these are the new relationship objectives and then demand my husband do his bit to meet them. (sometimes it would be so much easier if my marriage was much less democratic) But it’s also foolish to think that I can get anywhere without his buy in. I also notice that I’ve got to renew my own spiciness before I can bring it into the bedroom (or the shower, or the kitchen table).
For these sorts of things feng shui is the most useful tool I’ve found so far.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, feng shui is the ancient Chinese art of placement. Although I’ve noted that every culture has their own form, I believe feng shui is the only formalized, widely practiced version… Please, tell me if I’m wrong.
Anyhow, it basically operates on the idea that our homes are a direct metaphor of our internal landscapes. For this reason, changes made to our living spaces, impact our energy, feelings and attitudes, which then attracts things, opportunities and people who reflect back your own energy, feelings and attitudes. Basically, it’s a very powerful tool for manifesting.
All you have to do is lay this Bagua Map over your floor plan. Line it up so your front door opens into Knowledge, Career or Travel. Then choose one or two areas you’d like to improve.
First, I look at what’s there and how it makes me feel to look at it or be in the space. Then I make an objective assessment if this is an accurate reflection of the quality of my experiences in that area.
For an example: This is what my relationship corner looks like this morning. It used to have our pee-stained couch in it, but we had it taken away and now the space is filled with this nearly-broken lamp and an assortment of kid’s toys. Next to the basket of toys, is a table which houses our cable box and iTV.
Can you detect a problem here?
Looks like Charlie Brown’s lamp — and I’m certain that guy wasn’t getting any action.
So clearly there are some issues.
Now, I’ve got to create a space in my relationship area that makes me feel the same quality of energy I want to create in that area of my life.
It is also possible to fuck this part up. Alice called me over to her place a few weeks ago. She was feeling intensely frustrated by the men she was currently dating. “They either put me up on some insane pedestal and then get all pissed off when I turn out to be human or they are just super immature. It’s like they’re looking for someone to look after and mother them.”
Alice had three framed pieces of art work hanging over a single arm chair.
When I asked her how the paintings made her feel, she said, “Sad and lonely, but they’re so beautiful. I just love them.”
Turns this is exactly how she felt about the men she’d chosen.
My space feels neglected and pieced together, but it is in transition. So I’ll keep you posted.
What’s in your relationship corner? Is it an accurate metaphor?