To think about

To think about

The name of the blog

"It was never just an affair" needs to be in quotations, because it was something my ex-husband said to me early on in the break-up. I guess he thought it might make me feel better to know it wasn't just a fling per say, it was real love? It didn't make me feel better. Him ending the affair and being willing to work on the marriage would have made me feel better.

Monday, 22 December 2014

The Melancholy of an Existential Crisis

I have been graced by the loving touch of God, this I know. 

I had a near death experience and now I believe in a higher power with all I have. 

I lost control of my sports car the other night on the highway in very heavy rain at a speed of around 110 kilometres per hour. I was driving far too fast for the road conditions because I was late for dinner with a friend. I was in the fast lane accelerating so I could pass a car and cross two lanes because my exit was upcoming. As soon as I started changing lanes my wheels caught a rut full of water and I started hydroplaning.

As my back end kicked out first one way and then the other, and the car smoothly swerved this way and that across the three lanes hydroplaning, I had this detached thought of "fuck I have lost control of my car and this is how I am going to die".

The song that was playing was Don't You Worry Child by Swedish House Mafia. The lines were "don't you worry, don't you worry child, see heavens got a plan for you." That freaked me out and I will never forget hearing that so clearly. 

Then my car was facing the wrong way in the traffic and going into the ditch. And I thought, “the car is going to flip soon and start rolling, but it won't hurt too much. You are going to be okay.” I spun around and around going up and down the berm, and then the car stopped. The car had stopped perfectly aligned within the space of the shoulder of the highway, facing the correct direction. The car never flipped or rolled, which is a blessing unto itself because I drive a soft-top convertible and it surely would have killed me had the car rolled. 

My car

I sat there for a minute really stunned trying to figure out if I was actually alive and it was over. At no point in those preceding few seconds had I been scared despite thinking I was going to die, nor had my life flashed before my eyes. It was over so fast, and I am not even sure what happened in those few seconds between when it started and when I thought I was going to flip. I think my mind lost a few seconds of the event.

My car started, so once my hands stopped shaking I carried on to my dinner, crying and thanking God for sparing me. 

I do not imagine I will ever understand how I walked away from that single car accident, and how my car is essentially unscathed, other than to submit to the idea of a miracle, or divine intervention.

I cried on and off for the rest of the evening I was so shaken up, so grateful to be alive, and so thankful I didn't hit anyone else when there were cars all around me. I was/am so incredibly grateful that I have another chance to hear my sons voice, to love, and to experience all that living has to offer.

For the rest of the night I kept thinking about my thought that it wasn’t going to hurt, I was going to be okay. Immediately after the accident I told my girlfriend that because I had thought I was going to die, I was telling myself it would be quick and I wouldn’t suffer. Yet on reflection I was so calm, I did seem to believe I was going to be okay despite how it probably looked from the outside. Today I wonder if that was even my organic thought or was that God speaking to me? If I believe that the Universe or my soul will speak to me by putting a thought into my mind in response to a question, why would God not be able to put a thought into my head? 

During the 36 hours before the accident I had been a restless and cranky bitch over the never ending legal divorce bullshit I am dealing with, money, the delays with my kitchen, and my frustrations at finding a job. None of those frustrations matter though when you believe your life has been spared from death. 

Earlier during the day of the accident I had forced myself to go for a walk to try to break that pissy mood. During the walk I had a talk with the Universe/Soul about my frustrations and the answer came back instantly and clearly: patience. Nothing ever goes away until it teaches you what you need to learn. I acknowledged I needed to learn to be more patient, more accepting of things that are out of my control, and I needed to believe more strongly that everything would happen when it was meant to happen. I have made baby steps in those directions in the last couple of years, but I have a long way to go to be the blissed out, laid back yogi I want to be. 

And then just an hour and a half later I was getting so impatient while driving, my conversation with the Universe already forgotten. Everyone was driving really slowly because of the heavy rain, poor visibility, and flooding roads. By the time I had cleared the back roads and got on the highway I was fully agitated, and late. Moments before I lost control of the car I was thinking to myself, as I sped past another slow driver, “it’s just rain asshole, it isn’t going to kill you.” 

I heard you loud and clear God. I have never heard anything more loudly and clearly in my life. Never before has anything been so explicitly clear to me. I snubbed you, and nature’s power, and you had had enough of my bullshit and put me in my place. 

I need to slow down, let go, be grateful, and exercise patience before I kill myself, whether it is through a stress induced illness or a car accident. Thank you for getting my attention. I am eternally grateful for another chance. 

I was so exhausted after my ordeal, and recounting the amazing story on Facebook and to my son and boyfriend, and then reassuring same that I was okay, that I assumed I would sleep deeply that night. Not so. There was an epic wind storm that raged until about 5 am shaking the house. At one point I wondered if heaven and hell were raging a battle over the soul that had just moved from one camp to the other. 

I didn’t sleep until about 5:30, and then got up at 7’ish to Skype with my boyfriend. Then back to bed for a few more hours of restless napping. And when I woke up today I was filled with melancholy. It was the strangest feeling. I guess I thought I would be overflowing with joy and gratitude at being spared any pain, suffering or consequences. My first thought upon waking for the last time that day was the usual mopey “what will I do with myself today," followed instantly by “you almost died yesterday”. And that set the tone for my mood for the next few hours. 

Here is the mental struggle I sat with uncomfortably the day after the accident: In my almost 43 years of living I have never believed in God, heaven or hell, sin, or any Western/Christian beliefs. In the last couple of years as I have developed spirituality, I have leant towards a bit of Buddhism, a bit of Hinduism, and a bit of Canadian Aboriginal spirituality; the closest I have come to acknowledging a higher power is to believe in the power of the Universe, of energy, of fate. I am comfortable with those ideas and that terminology.

I am not comfortable with the title of God, simply because of the packaging that comes with that title. I have long held the belief that organized religion is responsible for many of our woes in the world today. I have long believed that organized religion is responsible for millions of unnecessary deaths through holy wars or spreading homophobic messages. I cannot, and will likely never be able to, accept some of the practises of certain religions that celebrate God such as being pardoned for your sin because you said some Hail Mary’s after a confession. The baggage I associate to organized religion won’t easily let me feel comfortable in its home. 

I believe that a higher power saved my life yesterday and gave me a massive wake-up call. Do I call that presence God, the Universe, Fate? Therein lies some of my discomfort. 

My Balinese boyfriend at temple
It isn’t as though I despise religion or am intolerant of people who practise.  My son believes in God. My boyfriend believes in God and I loved going to temple with him in Bali and watching him pray. I found it comforting and beautiful even though I was a by-stander to his practise. I went through a cleansing ritual with him that involved me praying. He counselled me beforehand that I could talk to the Universe rather than God. My ex-husband believed in God, Heaven and Hell. One of my mentors is a Reverend and I have been to church to watch her give a sermon. Whenever she said God I substituted the word Universe. One of my best friends is religious. Point being that although I have never personally believed I did not discount other people’s right to believe what they want. I was comfortable with their beliefs and use of the word God.

The Healer Ketut and I, Ubud, Bali, April 2014
When I was in Bali in early May of this year, I saw the famous Healer Ketut, the same man featured in the Julia Roberts movie Eat, Pray, Love, based on the book of the same name by Elizabeth Gilbert. Ketut didn’t tell me a lot, but he did say that I would face a near death experience. He didn’t give me a time frame, so I figured it was far off in the future and would be a cancer battle or something similar. In the December prior to visiting Ketut I saw a local psychic who told me I had an incredibly unique life line because it splits in two, as though I die and am then reborn. At the time he said that was not suggestive of a physical death, it could be a metaphorical death. Was my scare on the highway what both of these intuits were seeing in my future? 

I dearly hope so; I do not particularly want to face my mortality quite so intimately again anytime soon. I hope to live a long and happy life full of adventures, which will give me plenty of time to integrate my new found belief into my lifestyle and find a comfortable way of addressing my higher power. Last night I prayed, hands clasped to my forehead, and I spoke to God for one of the first times in my life. I will be speaking to God/Universe on a more regular basis from here on in.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

More gratitude, less expectations - Part I, the Christmas Edition

Christmas is two weeks away as I write this, which means the hectic festivities most people seem to experience are well under way around me. This also means my melancholy would normally be well under way too. This year I am actively challenging my thoughts though, and I have only had one rough day of feeling sorry for myself and lonely. Which I acknowledge came during my monthly PMS week. This is a personal win for me over past years. I attribute this improvement in resilience, outlook on life, and self-control to two emerging mind-sets that I have been strengthening of late: more gratitude and less expectations. 

Practising gratitude daily falls into the top activities that I preach have saved my life and completely changed my perspective about any number of things during the last two and a half years. For well over a year I wrote in a gratitude journal daily at bedtime to help frame my state of mind as I rested. I no longer need to write in it daily, but I still reflect and offer thanks daily. No matter how bad a day has been, you and I can find things to be grateful for. Even when I was on my knees, I could still list: my eyesight, my ability to talk, my hearing, my ability to walk and have functioning limbs, my son, my ability to read and learn new information, my ability to write, my computer and the internet, my freedom to get into the car and go somewhere, and my pets. And just how strong has my ability to find the good in any situation become during my short time of practise? 

Here is the example I gave my son when speaking to him about how practising gratitude really can change your life: During my last vacation I got very sick. In the middle of the night, about five hours after the body wracking nausea had set in, I finally started throwing up. Something you need to know about me is how much I despise throwing up and what a baby I am about it. I will do anything in my power to avoid it and I always cry during and afterwards. Maybe it’s the same for everyone, I don’t know. This was one of the worst bouts of purging I have ever endured. And in the middle of that awful experience, I thanked my body for knowing how to heal itself and I actively thought of how lucky I was to be getting the poison out of my system. There is no way I could have felt blessed in that situation two years ago.

If I can find a way to feel blessed when vomiting, then surely it is easy to find ways to  practise gratitude even during a challenging holiday? It is, once you start actively looking for blessings. And like any exercise, the more you work that gratitude muscle the stronger is gets and the easier it becomes to feel grateful. The active challenge I have right now is confronting my expectations around Christmas and finding the reasons to be grateful. 

You might have a host of holiday expectations you aren’t even aware of based on traditions you experienced growing up. I think most of us in North America associate Christmas to having a tree, getting presents, maybe having a stocking on Christmas morning with some chocolate and an orange, family get togethers and a big turkey dinner; does that sound familiar? Here is where another of my top lifesaving activities comes in: mindfulness. I need to assess and recognize what expectations I hold from childhood or the past about Christmas and challenge their usefulness in my adult life now. I need to be mindful of the thoughts I allow to dwell in my sub-conscious. 

My natal family is/was quite dysfunctional. I think my mother was a bit of a martyr which was most evident during the holidays when she undoubtedly worked her ass off, but then yearly would blow up at the rest of us for how ungrateful we were. Which we were, I know. So Christmas Day, with the pretty tree and all the presents, yummy food, treats and all of those positive things, was also often fraught with crying and screaming, or the silent treatment. And as soon as my brother and I had both passed the age of 18, my mother became a Buddhist and Christmas ended in my family, because it truly was my mom doing all the work for the holiday.  

At the age of 20, as a newly single mom living on her own, I was suddenly left with no one to celebrate Christmas with, and a host of established anxiety around the season. For the next nine years as I raised my son alone, Christmas was a lonely time for me as I did my best to carry on the traditions I grew up with. Everyone else had family to eat with, friends to celebrate with, family that bought them gifts or called to wish them a Merry Christmas, and parties to go to. Not I though, which further perpetuated my negative association to the season. 

By the time I started living with M at the age of 30, my Christmas angst was all-consuming and started in November. I soldiered on every year really disliking the season and sent out cards to people who don’t send me cards, phoned my family to pre-emptively strike their lack of a phone call, ate dinner with his family who I strongly disliked, and so on. The first year we collectively boycotted Christmas was 2007 when we went to Hawaii. I thought being away would negate my seasonal sadness. It didn’t work; wherever I go, there I am. 

Last year, the first post break-up Christmas and the very first Christmas I lived entirely alone, I participated in the holiday minimally. I bought presents for about five people. I sent out fewer cards. I received one card in the mail. I didn’t put up a tree or decorate at all. It was probably the worst Christmas I have ever experienced. And that was the rock bottom I needed to hit to create change. 

This year I haven’t done any decorating yet, although I bought my son a poinsettia; coincidentally he bought me one the same day. I was so grateful for his thoughtfulness and that gift. I might put up the tree this year, although I haven’t done it yet. I have mailed out a total of six Christmas cards. I have offered to wrap anyone’s Christmas presents because I thoroughly enjoy that activity. No one has taken me up on it, but that is okay, because I am managing my expectations. I will probably get the same one card in the mail that I got last year from my financial advisor, and if that doesn’t come I will be okay.

My expectations about Christmas, rather than positive, are incredibly negative. I anticipate feeling lonely or ignored by my natal family. I am aware of the cultural expectations about the holiday, and because I don’t have that, I have always felt like I was missing out on something. Expectations can be overt or subliminal, positive or negative. The problem with expectations is pre-judging a situation and pre-establishing an outcome. 

The big difference to years past and this year is how I am managing my expectations for the season. My family isn’t going to change at this time in their life. They will never be what I want them to be and I have to work on accepting that and being grateful for any acknowledgement of Christmas I get from them. The marital family is gone and it is back to being my son and I. I am not the only person who will be away from their significant other during the holidays. None of that is what I long for, but accepting and enjoying what I do have, rather than moping about what I do not have, is the path to peace. 

We might all do well to focus on the positives rather than dwell on the negatives. I love my son more than anything, so I will be grateful to have time with him, no matter what we do or do not do on Christmas Day. I expect to get presents from no one, so if I get a gift, I will be grateful that someone thought about me and cared enough about me to part with some of their hard earned cash. Nobody owes me anything and I am not entitled to a certain number of cards or gifts or invitations; those childish expectations need to be challenged until they disappear. And I need to practise gratitude daily for the many blessings I do have during the holiday season and throughout the year. 

Is there a holiday expectation you have that is actually holding you back emotionally or mentally? Can you replace your expectation with thoughts of gratitude and blessings? 

An article specifically about your family and the holidays:

An article about gender expectations during the holiday season that I in no way agree with; I think the author is being a martyr:

An article about being the “ringmaster” of the “holiday circus”:

An article with suggestions if you are single this holiday season: