Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Inside a Marriage After an Emotional Apocalypse - 2

You may remember my post on marriage after loss from a few months ago; it was one that I was particularly proud of.  It was honest and raw and offered a look into an intimate part of my life.  I know things can get heavy around here, but I promise, it's not all bad, all the time.  I've mentioned before that Dave makes me laugh a lot.  I'm pretty lucky I married such a funny guy.  We also share a lot of similar interests and we can spend an evening watching movies we've seen a million times and repeating the dialogue verbatim, or going out for a nice walk in our neighbourhood.  Despite the fact that we are very comfortable with one another, we do have a lot of fun together but sometimes, it just requires so much effort.  Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of losing Isla has been trying to get our mojo back.  We were there together during those awful days in the hospital and he was right by my side as I pushed our daughter out.  He knows the depth of the loss - he was all up in it.  So of course, when we're sad, we automatically turn to each other (and sometimes, against each other) with our grief.  This can sometimes make for periods of anger and guilt, and sometimes, we can say hurtful things to each other, but I have never doubted the depths of Dave's love for me.

That's all to say that we can still have fun together.  Last year we took a couple of trips together - to Washington and to one of my favourite cities in the world, NYC.  We travelled there by bus (never.again) and stayed in apartments we rented through AirBnB and had a great time getting lost in these American cities.  We are excellent travelling companions that can spend all day walking through museums and historic sites and talking subways to find the perfect hot dog.  Lately, though, we've fallen into a bit of a slump.  Blame the cold weather and living on one income, but we have been some hardcore homebodies.  We are now trying to get out more in our adopted city of Toronto and we started last weekend.   We met up after work, still in our professional finery (Dave currently has a temporary contract) and went to the Royal Ontario Museum.  It was fantastic.  They have one of the best dinosaur collection I've ever seen as well as ethnographic exhibits (the Native and African ones were the best) and the best thing was that Fridays are cheap nights.  Fab.

After a couple of hours wandering around through history, we took the subway AND the streetcar (God almighty, I hate the streetcar) and headed to Queen St. East to eat at Prohibition for Winterlicious (Winterlicious is one of the those fabulous things in the city.  There is also Summerlicious which we have been going to each season.  Many restaurants offer menus at prix fixe which would give you the opportunity to try new places.  Some of the best restos in the city participate.).  It was a solid 7/10 (oh the curse of being serious eaters/cooks!) and we just enjoyed ourselves.  It was like dating again.  We talked things over and agreed that it was a feeling that we would work at reliving over and over again.

Totem Pole from B.C at the ROM (it was massive)

Headdress (I'm sorry, I can't remember the tribe)


Museum subway station


Duck poutine as a starter!!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Perspective and Gratitude

It all started with a sleepytime tea a few days ago.  I anticipated having trouble falling asleep, so I took a Melatonin and put the kettle on to make myself a cup of tea and settle down with a borrowed copy of O.  Little did I know, I would be having my turning point during a particularly emotionally fraught week.  This particular brand of sleepytime tea has little pieces of advice attached to the tea bag and mine happened to say "Gratitude is the open door to abundance."  It was exactly what I needed to see at that moment of time and since then, I have been counting my blessings and feeling so grateful for all the things I have and even for the things I have lost.

  • I feel grateful that my latest health setback was not so serious.  The tumour wasn't cancerous or especially large and damaging.  I was lucky because a careful dentist and a concerned surgeon decided to investigate further and ultimately save my jaw.  (Ther perspective in my title came when my surgeon informed me that an earlier patient receive a diagnosis of tongue cancer.  She is only 27 years old).
  • I feel grateful that my husband is feeling positive these days and that old twinkle in his eye that I fell in love when we were both at our happiest is apparent much more frequently.
  • I feel grateful that I have a demanding job that keeps me occupied and busy so that I don't dwell too much on what we have lost.
  • I feel grateful that Isla was alive for an hour, that we got to breathe the same air, that her skin was warm when I held her and that she heard my voice outside my body.
  • I feel grateful that my sisters and mother are healthy and they love me.  I feel grateful that my husband's immediate family are healthy and love me.  I feel grateful for the super friends I have who call and text and email to check up on me, giving me hugs across vast spaces.
  • I feel grateful for Downtown Abbey and how it made the hours fly by while I was recuperating while simultaneously reminding me of the good memories I have from Britain.
  • I feel grateful for having an amazing boss and working with caring people who were concerned enough to send a beautiful arrangement of flowers with a card that said "We miss you.  Get well soon". 

When I started thinking about what I was grateful for, it opened up the door to the many good things I have in my life.  And that's probably the biggest thing I am grateful for.  Thanks to sleepytime tea.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

20 Months

As much as I love this quote, I don't think in times of strife that being strong is the only choice you have.  You have a few.  You can fall apart.  You can be angry and bitter.  You can quit life and end it all.  Well, those are my choices, anyway.  I have been strong a lot of the time, that's true.  I choose to do so to honour my baby's life and to be there for my husband, mother, sisters and friends.  But it's hard being strong all the time.  Sometimes I consider other alternatives.  Like being angry and bitter.  I wore that crown several times over the last 20 months, but threw it away after a few days because it was too tight and too constricting.

Other times when I feel like being strong is just too tough, I consider ending it all.  To spell it out, I think about taking my own life (wow, that is really hard to write).  I think about departing either by my own hand or walking in front of a Mack truck, disregarding thoughts on how badly I would hurt everyone who loves me.  Sometimes, I just want the pain in my heart to end.  When I look at Isla's box and remember her meagre possessions (her hat, her necklace, her blanket and a card with her footprints and hand prints), it seems too much to bear for the rest of my life.  With this, I go to an ink black place and contemplate my little world without me.  Fortunately, I now have some hope in my heart and dismiss that course of action.

When these options fail to satisfy, I do the only other thing I can do instead of being strong - I fall apart. I cry for hours on end for several days in a row.  The tears I always think have been fully wrung out of me over the last 20 months seem to be in endless supply.  I don't try to stop them anymore.  Sometimes you just need to weep and feel the depth of your despair.  And there's nothing wrong with that. Losing a loved one changes you and you can never be the same again.  And that is mournful.  I think one thing I'd like to shout from the rooftops is that the pain never stops.  It's there in the shade of a sunny smile and at night after a great day.  And while the bright days grow more numerous between the the dark ones, they never fully go away.  To be honest, I don't think I could be strong without taking the opportunities to just go to pieces.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Well, hello there... has been a minute, hasn't it?  I'm sure all 5 of you have been waiting with baited breath to see what I've been up to...NOT.  I'm not sure where the last 4 months have gone...oh yes, now I remember.  Shortly after my last post, I learned that a co-worker was quitting to move to Alberta and that I would be covering her job (in addition to my own).  And then I started school again (after a 10 year absence, though on a part-time basis).  And then I learned I had something funny in my jaw and got a referral to an oral surgeon.  That funny thing turned out to be a benign tumor, but one that threatened to destroy my teeth and jaw, so it had to go.  And that made me really, really, really depressed.  And anxious.  And then we went to Montreal for Christmas and New Year's.  And then I returned to Toronto and had my surgery.  And that's where we are today.  I'm recuperating at home, having been put under and had my jaw opened by a roster of talented surgeons (I got really lucky with my team).  I am still partially frozen though, due to some nerve interference and I can feel my stitches like train tracks in half of my lower jaw.  The good news is that my surgeon believes he got it all out and that he was able to save my molars (had I lost them, I would have had to have a bone graft from my hip.  Erm, no thanks.), and Dave has been sleeping better because of it.  Who knew stress and anxiety about your wife's jaw and face could make a man lose so much sleep!

So now it's a new year (and I wish a happy new year to all you) and I plan on being more regular with this blog.  I had thought about blogging several times but let other things take too much of my time, namely work, but I promise not to do that anymore.  It was affecting my health (12 hour days - what am I? A nurse?) and the quality of my relationship so I promised David and myself that I will work no later than 6pm with the caveat of staying no more than two hours immediately before and after a vacation (which we are planning for February).  I like blogging.  I have always expressed myself best through written words, and I want to share my life.  There are so many things people don't talk to because they are embarrassed or feel like they are alone.  I've learned that we all hurt and we're only connected when we are vulnerable with it.  What's the point of suffering in silence or pretending that everything is ok?  I hope I can reach people with my words.  And the very least, it's a platform that forces me to be honest, which I intend to be, with you and with myself.  That's the only thing that feels right to me these days.  We are still here, still living, still grieving, but also, laughing, smiling and loving each other and our Isla.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

People in my neighbourhood

I love my hood. It's tree lined, has lots of old (and expensive) houses and young families, and is, for the most part, quiet. I especially love the fact that most people will smile and say hello. This morning I caught a preteen girl glancing at me and when we locked eyes, she smiled brightly and I smiled back. When she looked away, I continued to assess her and noticed two things: 1) she had a Blackberry and 2) there was a Coach backpack at her feet (I didn't even know Coach made backpacks!). It made me smile. These are the people in my neighborhood.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Inside a Marriage After an Emotional Apocolypse

When Dave and I met, he was 22 and I was 27.  We met in one of the most foreign and beautiful countries on earth and we fell in love.  We had fun.  We laughed.  We swam in oceans and ate delightful things.  We sent long emails to each other and talked about life after Japan.

Then we moved together to England.  We had a transitional phase (read, we fought a lot) then we adjusted and grew into each other.  Adjustment gave way to confidence and acceptance and we became engaged.  We travelled to Rome and I discovered Europe.  Again, we ate breathtaking food, walked hand in hand all over the country and met Chuck D.

When we moved up to Scotland, the ease that had accompanied us in our preceding 3 years together disappeared and tension was a more constant companion.  He hated his job, I didn't like mine.  We lived in a good flat in a bad part of town.  I commuted 3 hours a day and hated it.  But the love was still there and while we had no social life, we loved our time together.  We planned a beautiful wedding and had a mini-moon.  But our hearts were not as happy as they had been.  Despite this, we planned for a baby.  Perhaps it wasn't the best of times, but it worked like a charm and we looked forward to her while being sick of life in the town where Dave was born.

Then she died.

And we've been tripping over our feet ever since.

The last 15 months since we lost Isla have been so indescribably difficult from an emotional, physical and psychological point of view. In regards to our marriage, we never dreamed of being where we are when we sunned on rocks by the river in rural Japan.  There have been times over the last year where we have been sick of each other.  That connection we felt so sure of has been strained by our grief.  It's a strange thing - to be simultaneously comforted by the person who understands you and your loss better than anyone else in the world and also want to be as far away from them as humanely possible.

The old us have gone.  We are completely different people.  There are shadows of our former personalities we can illuminate when we need to, but fundamentally, we are strangers to ourselves and to each other.  We have had some raw discussions, words and feelings that feel like bare-knuckled hits to our hearts.  Dave's eyes are no longer as shiny as they used to be.  My self-confidence ebbs at a low level and consequently, I need him to prop up my ego in a way that embarrasses me.

Marriage is hard, yo.  People say it all the time.  It's true.  It's about give and take, being high when he's low.  Watching your words.  Being kind even when you want to choke each other.  It's about thinking about the other person all the time and loving him all the time (liking him all the time is optional).

We're not going to get a divorce.  That's simply not an option nor has it ever been a consideration.  We're just starting over.  We've been together in Toronto now for 4 months.  We've transitioned for the last time.  There is no talk of "when this happens" or "when that happens".  It's just now.  We're working on ourselves and our relationship because it's the most important thing to us right now.

I finally read "The Happiness Project"as per Anna's recommendation and because my boss had a copy.  I didn't love it  because the author was already happy; she just wanted to be happier.  I think I'd be more pleased if it had been written by a person who had been devastated then learned a few things to be happy again.  I did, however, take away a few tenets that I've moulded to fit my life now:
1) Be brave.
2) Be kind.
3) Cut people slack.
4) Be selfish when you need to be.
5) Breathe.

I have been trying to remember and applying these things every time I talk to my husband.  He in turn is relaxing more which makes me relaxed.  We hug each other longer and sit closer together on the couch.  I'm listening to him more.  He's the father of my daughter and my partner in life.  I vowed to always save him the big piece of chicken and to be his safe place, and he vowed to unball his socks before throwing them in the laundry basket and to love me always and forever.  I love him more than anything.  I've decided to add his last name to my own.  We are a family.  I couldn't imagine going through all this with anyone else in spite it all. 

Thursday, 18 August 2011


I couldn't find the right image, so just remember the episode when Homer decided to suppress his rage.  You remember the one - when Bart drew a cartoon called Angry Dad because of Homer's episodic bouts with anger.  In an attempt to control his emotion, he decides to swallow it and as a result, he grew lumps that turned out to be boils.  His anger was manifested through these boils.

Now that I've set the scene, I can say that this is basically what has happened to me my whole life.  My pain, my anger, my stress manifests itself through my body.  I'll spare you the details, but I've had a very traumatic life.  I don't like to think about it or talk about it, and therein lies the problem.  I met with a homeopath for the first time tonight and we talked about a lot of stuff.  She took my history and said "ooh" and "ahh" and promised to get in touch with some remedies in a few days.  I don't usually think about all the terrible things that have happened prior to having Isla, but unfortunately, they're all connected.  My latest physical issue is connected to the birth and a culmination of how I deal with stress and trauma.  When she made this assessement, something clicked.  She said I'm intellectually capable of expressing myself, and I do a good job of it, but I'm emotionally suppressing and there is enough evidence to connect the dots that the mental, emotional and physical are all connected.

Of course, this can all be conjecture.  Of course, I can be so desperate for a "cure" that I'm willing to grasp on to anything.  I guess, we'll see.

I had a bad day today.  I really toughie.  I reached out and D caught me.  It's so hard sometimes, going through this thing.  Thanks for being there for me D, my sista from another mista.  Love you.