Friday, 3 February 2017

It was just a dream

I’ve been harboring something. Like an unwanted parasite, I’ve tried to clamp down my borders, my boundaries, to keep it out. Or in. Because sometimes I’m not sure I don’t need it.

At first glance, it feels like a grudge. Looking deeper, maybe it’s more of a regret, an emptiness, a wasted life.

Okay, maybe that last one’s a little dramatic. Maybe it’s just a normal part of the grieving process when you have to let something go. Something that was so instrumental, monumental and pivotal in your life for so long. Gone.

The thing I keep circling back to and feeling a bit embarrassed about is that it wasn’t a person. Not one individual at least. It was an experience. A job. One I loved and longed for before I even knew it existed and sunk my whole world into for eight years.

Eight years.

When I think of where Katie will be in eight years, suddenly that feels like a very long time. And it was sometimes.

Looking back, I can see my job became my full-time reality. It was like my child. The focal point of every waking thought, every conversation. You get to the point where you’re squeezing in your own wedding, regrettably missing a loved one's funeral or wedding, birthdays and holidays. But the job’s important. It’s bigger than yourself. And it seemed that way, a lot of the time.

Maybe that’s why I feel like it still owes me something. Like I buried myself in that work, sacrificed so much for too little return on investment. Certainly financial at least. Experiential was a different story. Sometimes—most times, really. But as soon as I walked away, it felt like it had never happened. Like it was a mirage. The sheen, the mystique and the pride quickly washed away. You build what you think is a legacy just to learn it was far from it. You were just a cog in the wheel until you weren’t.

All of those feelings are probably compounded by the fact that my former job is still in my face. Turn on the TV, and there it is. So I got rid of my sports channels. Walk through the grocery store and there are posters and people wearing jerseys. Scan through Twitter and there are faces that used to be yours or used to be your family. But they’ve moved on. They’re in the thick of it still. You’re just a blip in the past. ‘What was that Mormon girl’s name that used to bring us those game notes?’

It’s like seeing an ex who’s happily moved on and you’re still single and sucking at the dating scene.

Nobody wants to be discarded or forgotten. Maybe that’s the mirage. Maybe it wasn’t all for nothing and I’m the one that’s discounting any impact I had. Maybe my worries that I’ve become a distant memory—an outsider—maybe those are ill placed. The problem with perception and reality is that a lot of times, they’re not the same. But sometimes they are. And you cling onto that. At least I do.

So what? I’m sitting on and island, a world away with a lot to be grateful for. And I am. So what do I want? What do I expect? Some statue on the arena plaza saying I was there? I mattered? No, it was just a job. That part is gone but the relationships I cultivated aren’t. Or at least they shouldn’t be. Except it feels like they are—just another part of the mirage. People I shared some of the biggest moments of my life with and now I don’t even know where they’re at in life. I couldn’t pick up a phone and call them if I wanted to. I went too far off the grid and lost contact. Lost contacts.

I’ve moved on—physically. Now I just need to move on mentally. Not leave it all behind but stop losing sleep worrying it’s left me behind. There are times and seasons for things and that one’s passed or at least paused for now.

We build bridges in life. Sometimes we walk away and tear them down. I’d rather leave it as it is in case I have a chance to cross it again some day or maybe just to know it's there.

As always, there are takeaways. What are mine? Don’t let a job define you, let it develop you. Let it direct your paths but don't let it become your path. And remember relationships are never one sided. If you’re feeling rejected or out of touch, reach out. It’s a two-way street. And sometimes you just need to learn to let things go. Let the memories shine, not shred you apart. Believe it or not, you can live in the present without forsaking or forgetting the past. Just don’t let it mire you in what ifs and could have beens. Leave it where it is—what was and what has been one heck of a ride.






Friday, 4 November 2016

No Means No...in some circles

When I took Katie to the public health nurse for her six-month vaccinations, the nurse handed me a thick booklet. A how-to on raising babies to toddlers to wildly successful humans or something like that. I started off reading carefully through each age range to make sure I was helping Katie hit her milestones and was surprised at one of the entries. It said to avoid saying ‘no’ except for situations that are dangerous.

I can think of many reasons why you wouldn’t want to introduce that word to a toddler’s vocabulary but despite my best efforts, she’s picked it up. She uses it quite readily actually.

Last night during dinner:

“Would you like some water?”

“No!” (shakes head furiously)

“Would you like some more chicken?”

“No!” (more head shaking)

“Are you done?”

“No!”

“Do you like daddy?”

“No!”

Now I know she’s misusing the word. This little girl is obsessed with her dad.

Bless her little heart, I hope she doesn’t ever stop saying no like she means it. When she means it.

Maybe it’s a grown up thing, maybe it’s a woman thing but I have a hard time saying no. So when I do say it, better believe I mean it.

But apparently everyone doesn’t realize that.

Over the weekend, I decided to finally install a drainage pipe in our front yard to take care of the soggy bog that results from our sloping driveway and yard (and the copious amounts of rain we get here).

We had to run to grab some gravel for the project and happened to be right by a Mazda dealership. Our car had been acting…differently…of late so we decided to just pop in and see what pricing we’d be looking at if we did need to jump into a car in the near future.

They were all very pleasant even though I was covered in mud from my outdoor project. We got some pricing and returned home, happily informed but in no rush to jump on a deal.

Well, at some point during the process we must have given them our phone number because come Monday morning, the dealership was calling. Were we ready to jump on a great deal? Today would be our last chance since it was the end of the month.

I called Sterling at work to talk it over. Would we really bite the bullet and buy a car? A new car? On credit? I’d never financed a car and wasn’t about to even at 0% after we’d just gone to one salary never mind adding a mortgage and a little person to our family in the last year and a half.

We hadn’t even test driven a car while at the dealership so it felt way too rushed. After many calls back and forth and considering ditching Katie’s first real Halloween to go test drive cars, I let the salesman know we weren’t interested at this time.

It was harder than I thought but there, I did it. I said no thanks.

But he called back.

He said if I just gave him my credit card number, he could put a refundable deposit on the deal and it could still be honoured if we changed our mind in the next three days.

Now we had skin in the game.

I didn’t sleep more than three hours that night. Katie’s teething combined with my racing brain didn’t help. In the middle of my restless night, I started messaging Mazda dealers across BC. Did you know there’s someone online at 3 a.m.?

I was able to get several quotes and one was so low, I thought if we were going to go with a car, that would be the one.

Armed with that new, low offer, we went to test drive the car we’d been eyeing to see if it was worth a trip to the mainland to capitalize on that steal of a deal.

We test drove, were satisfied enough and went to say our goodbyes. Of course the salesman wanted to close the transaction. After lots of back and forth for over an hour, I told him we had a better offer elsewhere and unless they could match it, would be going with that offer.

He balked at the offer and said it wasn’t legit. I said I’d rather hedge my bets and see if it’s legit than buy a car for $2400 more on his impression that a better deal wasn’t possible. Thankfully I had somewhere to be and was already super late so I made a quick exit but not before we promised to check in with him the next day.

So we did. We sat in that little office far too long, well after the dealership had closed. Well after we should have been there. I finally just threw my hands up and said I didn’t feel good about buying the vehicle without at least checking in with the dealership on the mainland. Sorry, but we’re not buying this car today.

I looked at Sterling, hoping he’d echo my sentiments but he just sat there. Was I being foolish? Was I being unreasonable? Should I just suck it up and jump on this opportunity even if it wasn’t the best deal?

No, I’d thought about it. All night long. Two nights in a row now. I’d done research, compared quotes, talked with friends and neighbors, prayed about it even. It didn’t feel right.

At one point I even referenced my hockey pool to try to hammer home the point that I was walking away because I didn’t want to get burned again. I’d had a guy offer me over 30 trade variations for a player I told him over and over I didn’t want to move. One afternoon, after what felt like the 30 millionth trade offer and after 13 days of sleepless nights thanks to freaking molars coming in, I declined his offer but sent a counter proposal. I thought he wouldn’t take it but I just wanted to shut him up. And I also felt bad for rejecting him over and over again.

He took my deal and I’ve been sour about it ever since. It was a stupid, one sided trade that didn’t benefit me at all. And I offered it to him!

So, armed with that fresh memory, I said my last firm no and walked out into the lobby.

But Sterling stayed and somehow we walked out of the dealership with a deal in principle. We were buying the car.

They were technically closed so they had us sign some forms, confirmed our financing and sent us home in a new car. Well, Sterling took it home. I wanted nothing to do with it.

The next day, we headed back to the dealership to officially buy the car. There was a whole other process. When it came time for the warranty up-sale, I was in and out of the room chasing Katie. Sterling and I hadn’t discussed the added warranty but have an overall disdain for warranties and insurance in general. When I learned it would be $2300 to extend the warranty to year seven I balked and said a quick no. The salesman looked at me like I had two heads. He tried three more times to sell the warranty, even saying you’d be dumb not to get it. I said no each time.

He finally threw his hands up and said okay. I felt like garbage.

I started thinking about all the times I’d said no to deaf ears. The reporter who would not listen to me when I said he couldn’t take a press box seat for games he wasn’t working. We had that conversation for two seasons before his boss finally fired him. The salesmen. The fantasy hockey poolie. The bank who wouldn’t close my account after standing at the teller counter for over an hour trying to do so.

I felt like crap then and now. Over a nice car.

Then I thought of other people who say no. Even though it’s hard and can be uncomfortable because so many of us are programmed to please others at all costs.

I feel like garbage over a car deal. Possibly losing money. How about rape victims? Geez, that must torment them to no end. I’m writing this at 5 a.m. because I can’t sleep over a car. A car!

There are takeaways here though. The biggest one for me is to make sure Katie never loses her unabashed ability to say no. Even if it’s a misguided no, it’s hers and I respect that. I just wish others would too.


Sunday, 15 May 2016

Faulty Programming

I was back in another dimly lit mother’s lounge, where by some miracle three rocking recliners are crammed into a space the size of my bathroom.

I often feel like I don’t belong in there. You’re a mother? And an adult, female, aunt, daughter, wife and many other things by definition but still feel like a fraud at one or all of them from time to time.

Often, I walk in to find other people in these small rooms. Sometimes they’re just in there to escape from the crowded isolation church can bring. Sometimes they, like me in that moment, are in there to nurse or rock their baby to sleep.

Today I was greeted by familiar smells sadly rather foreign in my church experience: coffee and cigarettes. She reminded me a lot of my youngest sister as she sipped her latte. Nose pierced, a few visible tattoos, a quiet confidence that seemed to masquerade an underlying uneasiness. Maybe she felt the judging eyes around her. Maybe I read her totally wrong.

Across from her sat another woman. As I took my seat in the last recliner, I saw a baby about Katie’s size draped across her arm. The baby’s ivory skin contrasted with a dark sleeve of tattoos.

I love storytelling and wanted to hear both ladies’ life stories right there. Instead I settled for some nuggets of wisdom.

The woman without a child in the room had kids too and taught me about empowering kids to make choices and giving them room to express feelings.

I soon learned that the baby in the other woman's arms was Katie’s age and that she was her ninth child. Nine pregnancies. Nine deliveries. Nine terrible twos. Nine teenagers. Nine incredible human beings to love and learn with.

Now I really wanted to hear this woman’s story. I soon discovered she was just two years older than me. And had birthed and raised nine children. Mic drop.

But thankfully she didn’t drop the mic there. She shared some wisdom, borne of life experience. She liked having a year between kids. It was her favourite gap. It was a huge struggle at first but as they grew they became best friends.

I always ask parents of multiple kids that question. My research has shown there’s no magic number. No magic gap. Sounds like the rest of parenting in my experience.

Then she shared that each time she lamented that her new baby was more useless at breastfeeding than the last one until she’d realize it’s just hard out the gate for most babies and takes time, like all skills, to perfect.

And then she did what other parents have done before when they meet Katie. She told me she wished her little girl was as active, mobile and socially engaged as Katie.

I laughed inside. I wished Katie was sleeping soundly like her baby. I wished Katie would power down sometimes and be content to just sit still. I wished she liked to cuddle or have her back rubbed. But she doesn’t. And I’m learning it has nothing to do with me.

At times I’ve felt a need to take responsibility for Katie’s shortcomings or credit for her achievements. As I sat in that mother’s lounge today, I realized it really doesn’t have a lot to do with me.

I don’t get to wear a badge of honour because Katie has four teeth and a kid her age has none while another has a dozen. Maybe I get a participation ribbon for surviving weeks of tears and sleepless nights as the teeth came through but if I had more say in the process, those teeth would have been in much sooner and with much less fanfare.

She’s been waving at people for months now but not because I repeatedly waved until she got it. She’s loved people and social outings practically since birth. She certainly doesn’t get that from her mom, the hermit. She gets parts of it from her dad, certainly we nurture some of it but, spoiler alert: she was born this way. She came with her own personality.

Unlike her mom and dad, she absolutely loves cats. She also came with a temper (okay, that she gets from her hermit mom). My badge of honour will come when I lead by example and teach her to control her temper.

Before she was born, Sterling and I would muse over what traits of ours she would inherit. We isolated our best traits and hoped she’d get all of them and none of the bad. I can understand why studying genetics is a thing. Nobody wants to see their worst parts in their offspring.

Yes, she has parts of both of us. Some bad, many good unveiled almost on a daily basis. She is our child but she is not us. Not a carbon copy. She’s her own person. She’s not going to be the same as other babies her age. She didn’t walk at nine months like I did. That doesn’t mean she’s a failure. It means I have more time to enjoy her crawling phase and can help her progress to walking when she’s ready.

There’s a propensity to compare and contrast, I find, as a parent and as a human really. With those comparisons come a floodgate of guilt and disappointment more often than gratitude and pride. But today, in that little mother’s lounge I think I got one step closer to shutting those rushing waters out.