It’s ok to not know.

by Alicia on December 15, 2014

Each trip I make out to my hometown, I detour to a stop at a graveyard and that’s really shitty. But you know what? It doesn’t actually feel always shitty. I hate that I have to go there, but I like to have that place to go. I hate what the place as a whole represents, but I like Blake’s little place there. It’s homey. There’s always something a little quirky about it, a friend that’s left the last sips of a beer (or perhaps a cousin or two that do the same…), a golf ball, a random firetruck toy, a big ol yellow smiley face. I touch his gravestone even though it feels weird to do that. I tried once to trace the letters in the last name, but found that I couldn’t keep going. It used to be my last name. I have conversations with him in my head, it’s not very often that I find answers there. It’s painful to see that the grass has grown in.

Sunday night, we went to a Candlelight Vigil for all young people who have passed in our community, put on by the Canadian Mental Health Association. It’s heartbreakingly well attended. This is the first year I took my girls and, let’s just say it was a lukewarm idea on my part. Bella took it really hard. She’s really empathetic, and while I don’t quite think she feels the weight of Blake’s loss on herself, she absolutely feels it on me and watches it wash over everyone else that’s around her. She gets it. And I don’t mind that she does, but it’s hard to say the right thing to her. Hard because I don’t know what that is, and hard because dammit I’m sad and I want to curl up in a ball and be sad myself. I said nothing, by the way. Well, that’s half true, cause I said “it’s ok to be sad” and “isn’t the look of all these candles so beautiful?” and “I get it, sweet thing, I absolutely get it” but I said nothing to calm her or take it away or pull it down to earth,  because sometimes you can’t and you just have to sit with the hard crap and feel it and not understand it. And I wasn’t about to lie to her.

Because some part of us getting together is always going to be a little bit sad. There’s a hole, where a whole person once was and then suddenly is not ever again. I listened to this brave dad get up and talk about building a relationship with his own son who had passed away three years earlier at the age of 18. It shook me a little, the idea of a relationship with someone no longer in forward motion, someone stuck forever at one age, in one face. And he spoke of it so simply that I took it in. Pieces of big events are always a little skewed in my family. Overall, when there’s a get together, we pull it together…we feed the masses, we make toasts, we laugh, we talk about all that’s happened…and we talk about all that’s happened. And I’m proud of us for that. Blake is a part of every event.

At the vigil, while some of us cried, Maëlle walked around just touching everyone. It was such a sweet little funny thing to do and it made me smile and kind of giggle to myself. She found it fascinating to be allowed to hold a candle in a cup with real fire, she handed her beloved blankie off to Bella for support and just took about 6 trips around the outside of the group we were standing in. I bent down at some point to acknowledge Annika’s absolute silence, and to distract Bella. The look on Maë’s face looked like a cartoon, she was so so happy and I was so so overwhelmed because how in the hell do I simultaneously properly parent one devastated child, one avoiding child, and one elated child? And my cousin caught a picture of what I decided to do, which was just kind of huddle in with all three and stare at them and, by saying nothing, applaud them for just whatever it was they were feeling. The picture makes me so sad and so happy all at the same time. I know how I was feeling- gutted. Raw. Lost a little. (I didn’t expect to be so overcome by sadness that night. I really didn’t.) But I think you really can’t tell that I was feeling that way.

CMHA Candlelight vigil December 2014

This picture makes me feel like a Mom. And a good one, actually. In a moment where I felt completely emptied, I still had something left for them. When we talk about Blake, I know they see my face twinge, I know they feel my energy tank, I know they take that all in and aren’t quite sure how to deal with it. Ok. It’s always going to be a little  bit sad. Or a lot sad. Ok. That’s a thing, we don’t have to cover it in fixes, we can just be sad, and feel that and hate it and wish it was different and  be angry and confused and lost. That’s ok. It’s ok not to know what to do. It’s ok to just choose something and try that. It’s ok to be sad, it’s ok to be happy, it’s ok to just let yourself feel that thing that’s stirring inside you to feel.

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Social Media: noun or verb?

by Alicia on December 3, 2014

People have…opinions. I know this because I am a people. I have many opinions. I like them. I don’t mind that you have opinions that you like too. High fives for freedom! However…I’m confused and somewhat fascinated by the question of whether everyone has always had so many opinions, or if we’re just so intensely influenced by the “share/ like/ retweet” community within our social networks? My real question is: do you think you would be more neutral if you read an article that didn’t come with a comment from your social network about their strongly worded reasons for sharing? I’m all for social media. It continues to bring infinitely more good to my life than bad. Personally, I like the feeling of connection and inclusion one step removed from face-to-face interactions. I can consume news at my pace, I can filter out what I don’t want to see, I can save and review what really interests me. I feel in control of the world I have created there, and know that I can step further in or out depending on my mood. My issue isn’t with Social Media the noun, rather it’s with social media the verb. The action of contributing to the conversation happening 24 hours a day.

Wiki House Social Media Icons- by Kathleen DonovanLet me be more specific. You’re scrolling your Facebook news feed, you see an article shared by an acquaintance of yours about Ferguson, Missouri. (If you don’t know what significance that holds, please fire up your Google machine immediately, it’s incredibly important.) Atop the link to the article, your friend has shared their opinion on the issue- positive, negative or otherwise. Whatever they wrote gets you fired up- positive, negative or otherwise. Some of you click the link and read the article for yourself, paying attention to the publication source, and you are influenced by what’s written by the author. You decide to share the article or not, adding your own comments to the post. Some of you use the intense feelings built up from your friend’s comments, share the article without reading because something has compelled you to feel. Perhaps you add a comment of your own, perhaps no. In both scenarios, you now move on scrolling through Facebook. A few beats up there’s a photo of someone’s kid, outside in the newly fallen snow. “Cute”, you think to yourself…then you notice the kid isn’t wearing gloves or a hat. Some of you scroll past, making judgement based on your own experience- positive, negative or otherwise. Some of you submit a comment like “So cute! Hope she’s warmed up from those chilly ears and fingers!”. Onward and upward you scroll through your news feed. You come across a post asking for charitable donations, then another article about protests over a new bylaw, a rant from a friend about their child’s school protocols changing or how they detest the Elf on the Shelf. Each of these posts demands your attention. Your friends want back up. They want your support.

It’s much more simple now to ask for that support, to put that demand out. With approximately 100 keystrokes and a mouse click, suddenly you’ve reached 400+ people. You, the poster, breathe a sigh of relief, you got something off your chest, and with each “like” and comment you’re buoyed with people who agree with you. It’s also less commitment. For you, The Poster, and also for you, The Reader. You didn’t used to know about everything. Your Care-O-Meter wasn’t tapped out by everyone’s mini personal crises because they rarely had the chance to enter your sphere. I hate the phone, everyone in my sphere knows this. So I rarely got the phone call of like “I need your opinion on this”. I didn’t know a lot of what was going on in the daily lives of my friends and family. And I liked that, now that I know the alternative.

If everything is a movement….are we really moved?

What I mean is: if I’m outraged or amazed or flooded with pride on a daily basis, there isn’t really any way I’m actually feeling the true depth of those feelings. And how do I decide what I’m passionate about, truly, if I’m frantic about everything? I can’t possibly have an opinion on everything, I don’t know enough. Or not enough to comment on them. The way I try to approach my outward comments and opinions is this: I imagine someone I respect standing in front of me questioning my stance, and I try to think of what they could challenge me on. And can I defend my views? If I’ve got one line that’s like: “and that offends me because it’s not what I do“, then I don’t know enough to comment on it. I don’t want to be embarrassed, or appear dumb. I’ll say what I know I can genuinely stand behind. And I’ll openly (<- key word) inquire about what I don’t.

I’m urging you to stop and consider before sharing, retweeting and commenting. If you were in fact judged on your social media feeds (you are, FYI), are you comfortable with the image projected of you there? (I teach digital footprinting for a living, I have lots to say about this.) Consider posting the pieces that really speak to you, not just the ones that incite immediate responses. Consider what you’re reading…is the headline sensational? (caution: read further) is it about a very polarizing issue? (caution: read further) has the person posting it gone on for more than like 8 sentences about their personal feelings on the subject contained therein? (caution: read further). We all have incredible and brilliant things to contribute. Everyone knows something I don’t. It’s one of the greatest things about communities, that they build on so many strengths that would never have been possible alone. You can’t possibly be all things and know all things all alone. I’m not sure the science is sound here, but your brain synapses would shrivel up. Or something. Be nice to your brain. Calm down. And maybe that calmness will spread faster than that tweet, we could all use a little more calm right now.

 

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The Pain of Raising Daughters

by Alicia on November 19, 2014

There is very little that touches the particular searing pain of wanting to change something for your kid, but then realizing you don’t have the power to do that. Perhaps the only thing that hurts more, is knowing that even if you do have the power, you can’t use it.

This article on the pain of motherhood got me right in the feels. I thankfully don’t deal with every edge of the author’s particular experience with her daughter, but this paragraph here just gutted me:

“This is the pain I wasn’t prepared for. The pain of wanting to protect my daughter’s spirit, and knowing that I really can’t. I want to help her fit in so that her days will be easier, but I worry that in fitting in, she will be losing parts of her that make her who she is. I worry that, as I did, she might strive so hard to fit in that she’ll realise one day she doesn’t know who she is. “

Isabella and Mom on her 9th birthdayI feel this. So much earlier than I ever anticipated feeling it. I publicly lamented “the teenage years” with my daughters, not realizing that it wouldn’t even take until the teens for Bella to come home emotionally wrapped up in other peoples’ opinions of her. Guh. I envisioned myself being more prepared for this, having laid a red carpet of positivity and self-worth over years of intentional mothering. I hadn’t prepared for the shift in “please follow these rules” parenting to turn so abruptly into “nurture her growth” parenting.

Because the truth is: yes, I absolutely want my kid to fit in. I want her to be beloved. I want her to have so many friends. I want people to speak of her with joy. I want people to crave her presence. I want her to feel the confidence that inevitably comes with acceptance. I can’t create that, she has to. I can’t decide if my work toward that has stopped with Bella, if I have to give the reins over to her now and see how she does.

Because if I hold on too long, parent too hard- she’ll struggle finding who she is. And she has to live with her for the rest of her life. But what if I drop them too soon and she struggles? Those are days I can’t get back.

It’s not even as if I can heave a sigh of relief when she finds herself. The job is not near over. She’ll need reassurance, rebuilding, gentle reminders, acceptance and grace when she changes or falters. And I know this dance lasts forever because I’m still deep in the process of rediscovering myself over and over and over again. Recognizing that in 32 years, my baggage has shifted in transit and I have to readjust. I perceive most of my parenting to be in action- model the behaviour you want to see in them. But what if I don’t have that behaviour yet myself?

Vulnerability is probably the answer. For her and for me.

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Yoga Church

October 28, 2014

On purpose, I am not religious. My adult years have given me a spirituality that I’ve adjusted & readjusted as times change around me. This particular time of my life called for yoga. And I have graciously & humbly found in yoga some of the things I missed about organized religion.  Community: I’m one of […]

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Funny for your Friday

September 19, 2014

So this is a short post, but it’s just meant to be a bit of a funny for your Friday. If you’ve never met Maëlle, I beg you to reconsider. She is hysterical. But the kind of hysterical that just happens without trying. She’s witty and doesn’t even realize what that word means yet. Case […]

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