That’ll be the Day (it’s Raining in my Heart).

img_3061

I’ve been wanting to share this for a while, but have been struggling with what was appropriate.

I wanted to wait until things were a little less fresh, to be sure that I was sharing authentically.

My Dad passed away on November 21, 2016.

It had been more or less expected. I was not by his side.

I have so much to share about him, about us.

I haven’t really talked much about our relationship. Writing about it seems to be the most appropriate way to process and share. And I know that, even though he was a relatively private person, he understood enough about why I write to get it. He wasn’t very comfortable, at first, with me sharing everything with the world, but then I wrote this, which he read, and he understood. From then on, he was one of my biggest supporters.

He would appreciate this too (and does, if he’s here in spirit, which I sure hope he is).

The last day that I spoke to him on the phone, him in Princeton, BC and me in Montreal, QC, was an oddly lovely day. The sadness had been overcoming me for days, if not weeks, but I’d walked through Mount Royal park, taking photos of warm-fluorescent-coloured leaves.

He didn’t see these photos in the end, even though he was still alive at the time. Had he seen them, I’m sure that he would have understood the depth of my delight in those moments, of just being out there, breathing and rejoicing in those colours.

On that day, there was this strange thing where, even though I knew he was going, I realized that I was happy. I was incredibly sad because I was losing him, but at the same time, I was so glad that he’d taught me the importance of seeing through the suffering in the world.

In this instance, it would have been seeing through suffering by capturing a glimpse of colour in nature. But he also taught me to see though it in different ways—not by ignoring the suffering, but by sitting with it, and still seeing into it.

He taught me what it was to just go out and see the world, to notice (and capture) the texture, the dark and the light spots, the grey tones and the colour.

Since he passed, I’ve been processing grief through a series of personal journal entries to him, things that happen in a given day that make me think about him and feel his presence.

I’ve decided to share them, starting today, three months later.

**

Dear Dad,

I had a great day today. I spoke with a lovely and supportive friend, one of the people who was instrumental in me sharing my writing. 

During the afternoon, I took a 25 bus from Nanaimo station to the UBC loop. The fellow driving the 25 on the way over was speaking Chinese (Cantonese?) to an older Asian woman who had apparently gotten on the wrong bus. I appreciated how he was able to communicate to her.

You would have appreciated that too, I think.

I remember how you told me stories about driving the older generations of women coming to Chinatown to do their shopping in the evenings, how that would be their thing. That’s just what they’d do, every weekend, early in the mornings, they’d pile on your bus and you’d drop them off in Chinatown where they’d buy authentic ingredients to cook for their families on the weekends.

How amazing was that, that you got to carry a piece of this culture, of so many backgrounds and cultures, every day? Your eyes were open. 

That’s one of the many things I loved about you, Dad. Your eyes were open. You didn’t judge, you just observed. I’m sure you judged, at times—we all do. But what you shared with me was about observing, about learning, about tolerance. 

Back to the trail. Even before I actually hit the trees, I felt immediately at ease in the fresh air, in the way that the afternoon held the quiet, despite the construction and traffic noises. I walked north towards the ocean, then took a right along the trail above the shoreline.

I’d spent so much time on the beaches below in the past—Acadia, Spanish Banks, Locarno—-I was surprised I hadn’t walked this trail before. 

How could I have missed it?

img_3016

As I walked, I noticed striking contrasts—you’d know the type, how the sunlight would quickly sink away from the west side of the city on a winter afternoon. When I finally got down to the beach, after having found the quintessential wide-step wooden staircase created so that we could wind our way down the steep earthy banks, I saw the most spectacular sunset reflected on the low tide. Then I immediately regretted not keeping the camera you and Mom had given me. I’d given it back because it was bulky.

It had seemed excessive in the midst of my minimizing.

Just today, (and not for the first time), I was captured by the way the tide-cloud-sky patterns created a particular kind of picture on that specific stretch of beach. I looked at the water, at the spectacular moments around me then, and I got it. I got why you wanted to give me that camera. It was so that I could share what I saw even more clearly than I could with any phone camera.

I knew this before, but I just felt it so clearly at that moment. I hadn’t felt clear like this since a day in Montreal watching cormorants by the St. Lawrence, and then the day with the bright leaves in the park. Both times I felt you and what you brought me, how you always encouraged me and supported me in following my purpose and passions. I felt a certain type of clarity and joy that I rarely have before.  

The only reason I even learned how to see that in the first place was through you.

So tonight I was doing dishes when I got home. I put on Buddy Holly and I thought of how two of the last really lovely in-person moments that we would have had together, just us, had to do with music.

One was when we were at the Sylvia and I played you a cover album of Buddy Holly hits. We talked about the cover songs…you weren’t sure about some of them (neither was I!) but the point was that we listened together to this new/old iconic set of songs. The original album would shape your generation in a big way, and it would also shape us in a very personal way.  

The other moment was when I was driving (you were giving me a refresher course, 20-something years after you had originally taught me to drive well), and you sat beside me in the passenger seat of “Raven,” (the car), shrunken and pale and frail, the way you’d been getting for the past couple of years. It was disconcerting, of course, to those around you, but it was the course of life. You were a little sick, but not terribly sick, as it were, at that time, and you were with us, which was such a gift. And then, even when you were frail, there was this certain spark of life that I saw inside of you, those last few times, despite your discomfort and general malaise. I know it got worse, and I wasn’t there, and maybe I was selfish staying away, I’m not sure.

So there we were, driving along the highway in the Okanagan, singing tunes in your car, the way we had a million times before: Buddy Holly, Elvis. These same albums you’d had in the car since forever. You knew the words, I knew the words, and we’d sing gently together, gliding along the soft sunny curves in the road. 

Those were the best kinds of moments that stood out: quiet and simple and easy. 

*

Music might seen a trite type of connection for some people, but it means the most to me. through music and nature, my Dad made me understand something unexplainable but deep about himself, his life, and the world around us.

And what a part of history he experienced: Hot rodding around Montreal and bopping over to Ottawa to see Elvis in ’57…no big deal (!!).

 

This doesn’t just stick with me; it’s a big part of who I am, because it was part of him too.

I tell my blues
They mustn’t show
But soon these tears
are bound to flow
(’cause it’s raining
raining in my heart). 

~ Buddy Holly

I love you, Dad.

Advertisements

38 Things to do when you Quit your Job (or Any Damn Time)

img_2045
Image: Renee Picard
  1. Go to the ocean

  2. Get a room with a view
  3. Eat fish and chips, mac and cheese, or whatever your favourite comfort food is for breakfast.
  4. Drink vodka, whiskey, red wine.
  5. Wear “too much” or “too little” make-up.
  6. Read Big Magic; choose to abide by it (or at least try really hard).
  7. Start a bucket list.
  8. Write a letter.
  9. Take a long bath in the afternoon with a coffee-grind mask that stains the white bathmat and will make the housekeepers wonder.
  10. When you are tired, pass out to the dulcet tones of British TV shows about antiques.
  11. Remember your Old Life—then let it go.
  12. But check in with the people you love back there, in your Old Life. Don’t let them go.
  13. Know you absolutely can do it in a new way. Then cry, because half the time you don’t believe this, really.
  14. Do yoga despite the heartburn, with a focus on the hips.
  15. Watch TV—but not for more than an hour at a time.
  16. Smile at the old people playing bridge in the lobby of the antiquated hotel, and at the mob of red-faced, navy-blazered Old Boys’ club that gathered around the bar one evening, all bald-headed and jovial.
  17. Smile at the kids playing in the sand, chasing the seagulls…until the mother pulls out bread bits to feed to the seagulls (please don’t feed the birds).
  18. Smile at the arthritic and slightly wet black lab trying to nose into your medoicre-at-best breakfast fish and chips.
  19. Re-do your website.
  20. Share a story in the secret women’s-only Facebook group.
  21. Decide to pug sit in Hollywood over Christmas.
  22. Wonder how one person could possibly be so content.
  23. Wonder how one person could possibly feel so distant from those that she loves.
  24. Go to the aquarium and simultaneously marvel while dipping into a concrete sort of sadness; you want to be with these creatures, but (mostly) not like this.
  25. Take the French lessons you’ve been meaning to take for 2 years.
  26. Practice finishing what you started.
  27. Take a social media/job-search break for 12 hours to read Beautiful Losers and write.
  28. Tell stories about the time you saw a giant tortoise eat it’s own…well, maybe not. It was more the reaction of the other observers that was priceless.
  29. Forget about how the much-younger-but-still-cold-and-overly-formal bartender kept calling you “Ma’am.”
  30. Enjoy the shit out of the complementary tea, custard creams, gingerbread and shortbread that sits waiting in every hotel room there, ’cause they just don’t do that at home.
  31. Don’t worry that you were 2 hours away from Stonehenge with a completely open schedule but still didn’t go and see it. You will be back soon enough.
  32. Turn everything off and just read.
  33. Colour with the window open, sitting on the floor, watching the sunset, with the sea breeze cooling your wine-warmed face.
  34. Wonder (stop wondering) why you can’t seem to be in love with the right person, ever.
  35. Find a new rhythm.
  36. Eat fruit slowly.
  37. Devote yourself to living by the sea in a more permanent way.
  38. Don’t let the cheapness of the combed sand or the too-small aquarium tanks or pier toll sway you from just visiting places like kitchy, old-timey beach towns.  Those are really the best, anyhow.

The Graceful Exit.

shirley-valentine

“Every woman that finally figured out her worth, has picked up her suitcases of pride and boarded a flight to freedom, which landed in the valley of change.” ~ Shannon L. Alder

Something amazing happens when we choose to step gracefully out of a relationship that no longer serves us.

When I say relationship, it could be a relationship with anything or anyone: a partner, friend, workplace, city—hell, maybe even that classic novel that you somehow feel that you “should” read because it’s a classic but you secretly hate it.

If we walk away still feeling desperate, we will fall desperately into the next job, relationship, book, or town out of fear. We will attract others and situations that operate out of fear as well.

I know this may sound a little woo woo—but it’s just about understanding that we have choices in life, and that the harder we exercise that choice, the richer and more fulfilling our lives will be.

If we enter a relationship based on a fear of being lonely, for instance, that is going to show up time and time again throughout the relationship. Same with if we settle for a job that pays us less than we are worth—maybe it’s not entirely about money, but that gesture, that offering, is the company/client telling us how much they value us and our worth, ultimately.

Of course there are those times that it’s still better to have a crap job than no job—we all have to get by. And so, sometimes, we have to accept the less-than-stellar situation—but the key is to only do it for as long as we absolutely have to, and know not only when to walk away, but how.

If we can walk away gracefully, we carry that gesture of strength and resiliency into our next endeavours.

Running away out of anger, wanting revenge, even feeling “betrayed”—all of those have the potential to leave us in victim mode. Then we keep moving through our life in this fear-based mode, thereby continuing to find new situations where our victim selves “fit”—places where we’re not valued, where we’re manipulated or abused.

Sometimes getting angry–really angry–is exactly what we need to get the fires burning. There is a beauty in its ability to free us. So I’m not saying don’t walk away in anger—sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed.

But holding onto that only holds us back. If, after we remove ourselves from the situation, we are still operating out of anger (which is basically just another version of fear), we tend to find others who meet us where we’re at.

Fear attracts fear, and so on.

Taking the high road doesn’t mean “don’t ever be angry”—but the thing is that we generally won’t find our higher pursuit, (the one that serves us), until we’ve resolved the anger for ourselves. This may or may not include forgiveness or reconciliation with the other party.

When we walk away with confidence, it’s this very act of grace, of faith, that carries us forward to people and places that meet us where we’re at: as calm, clear and shining beings.