I always thought of blogs as being narcissistic, business related, or as my sister's, a way of keeping in touch or memorializing.

But, by necessity, I am learning a lot about myself. I find I need to get my thoughts out, and it helps me to know that someone else will read them. So I have created this little space for myself, to express the things I have trouble saying (be it emotional or physical trouble), to share what I'm going through, and what I'm learning through it.

I absolutely welcome comments. It's nice to know how people relate to what I'm saying.
To send me a private message, please e-mail me: flylittlewordsfly@gmail.com
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Saturday, 30 July 2011

Tree of Life - not a movie, an experience to savour

For the first time ever I actually stopped eating my popcorn partway through a movie. Let me explain the significance... In my first year of university as a film student, I quickly realized that watching a movie for fun and watching a movie for school could be completely different experiences, but I had a hard time disconnecting my student self. My friends made it abundantly clear that they did not appreciate an intense and intricate analysis of whatever movie we were watching. Soon enough, I learned that eating popcorn during a movie was a way to quiet the film student, because when watching movies for analysis, in class, there was no popcorn - we were too busy taking notes for that (yes, I can still kind of write in the dark). So popcorn became this signal for my brain to let go and fall into that "suspension of disbelief" state that allows one to simply experience and enjoy the movie.

But somehow, this movie engaged me at a different level, throwing me for a loop when it took a path so different from any I've ever experienced, and I got so lost in it, that there was no need for an external trigger to disconnect. And yet, my analytic side was just as active, watching how the editing worked with the music, and just enjoying the lighting and the skill it took to evoke such feeling in me.

Tree of life is not a movie for everyone - it's really not a movie at all, but a film (pronounced in two syllables: fil-uhm, please). It is not a story. There is little plot, and that is even secondary. But what an experience.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Giving up on Perfection - Big Mother in the sky

I have always been a perfectionist. When we first moved to Canada, I refused to speak a word in English (or French) until I had the pronunciation just right. When I knit, or make a piece of jewellery, I'd rather undo and re-do as many times as I need to than finish something not quite right. That's just the way I've always been.

So big surprise, right, when I became a mom, that I strove to be the elusive perfect mom, knowing full well that I could not be, because no such thing exists. I read the deeply psychological parenting books that espouse constructivist child development theories. I read almost everything Dr. Montessori wrote, and much of what people since her have written about anything related to her theories. I read about attachment theories of psychology, positive psychology, gestalt psychology. I took what I learned in my Montessori training, and applied it at home. I talked to my son's teachers, and asked a ton of questions, and sought wisdom from my mother (the local guru in such matters - seriously, everywhere I go that is Montessori related in Ontario - "I love your Mom, please tell her I said hi"). I talked to people who grew up in split households, and I talked to their parents. I talked to shrinks, and I learned from everyone and everything all I could about child development, and parenting.

And here's the thing. Nobody worth their salt will ever give you a formula for parenting. They will tell you to engage with your child, to get to know your child, to understand your child. Then they'll tell you to do the same with yourself. Understand where your parenting reactions come from. Are they the automatic knee-jerk do what was done to me? Are they age-appropriate? Are they child-appropriate? Do they come from a lack of understanding of child or situation? Are your expectations realistic? Parenting is a very complicated thing. And I wanted to be as perfect at that as I was at speaking English.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Another Sleepless Night, Another Useless Day

Very early in the morning yesterday, there was a terrific thunderstorm here in Toronto. By 5am I was wide awake listening to the booming thunder and crashing rain, and watching my bedroom periodically light up. Too heavy to move, I simply lay and bore witness. I managed to sort-of get back to sleep as the storm waned, but never really quite made it back down.

Yesterday, however, was a pretty good day. I managed my meeting, as you know if you saw my blog yesterday, I went for ice cream with my son and his Step-mom, even went to the drugstore to buy some required items. It was all topped off by a dip in the pool, and dinner and sparklers at my parents' house.

All fine and lovely. I was well-tired, but not so bad by bed time.

Being that we slept at my parents', my son decided he wanted to sleep in his hidy-hole behind the couch, and being that my Mom said ok, I saw no point in arguing. So I went to sleep.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Synchronicity in School

I am now officially handing over the reins to the Middle School, and as much as it pains me, it is good.

It is synchronicity that makes it feel good. I met the gentleman who is taking over when I was dealing with the issues of possessiveness I was feeling over the program, and he got it in the first interview. After many interviews, when he joined the staff, I started to feel better about the whole thing.

We sat down one day over coffee to start looking at what he needed to do for this coming September, and I came away from that meeting feeling like I could safely hand over my baby, and I told him so. From then on, it's been a meeting of minds in a way that is rare and special. I feel good about this.

Sunday, 24 July 2011


I've had a couple of really fantastic nights that have reminded me how important it is to be sociable, and get out of my house and share ideas with people, because you never know what will come out of it.

Friday night, my parents, son and I were invited to my good friend Danielle's house for dinner. I'm using her real name, because she leaves comments here. Danielle has been working with me for more than a couple of years, but we became close working on the Middle School these last two years. We have, however, developed a far closer relationship outside of school in part because I am now free to go out during the day, and as she works part-time, we enjoy exploring the city together (within my limits of course). So in an odd way, I owe some of our relationship to my illness. Huh.

In any case, my son was picked up by his father at her house, but not before he got to enjoy her wonderfully eclectic and fun art "collection". It was really nice to see him so intrigued by the pieces she and her husband have collected over the years. He was going from one to the other and back again, and just lapping up every moment of the colours and whimsy.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Musings on Death and Fear

Two online friends, and one of my neighbours have all recently lost their fathers.

I fear losing mine. My biggest fear at the moment is losing one or both of my parents. My next biggest fears are losing other members of my close family. After that, I fear all kinds of health-related things.

Funnily, I realized today in therapy, that the one death that does not scare me is my grandmothers - and that is the most imminent. Perhaps because she has been so full of life for so long, or because I can see it coming, or because I really have truly made my peace with her. I know it will come, I know it will hurt, for a long while, and I know I will be ok in the long run. But I don't fear mourning her. Perhaps it is because the fear I feel for my parents, sister, son, niece, nephews and so on is more about my world falling apart than the actual mourning and grief itself.

Fear is a powerful force. It makes us deny things, run away, fight like crazy, and sometimes immobilizes us completely.

Life is full of fearful things. We know fear because of past hurt. I fear grief, having gone through it so many times, as so many of us have, but having gone through it with my eyes open, my fear is so much not a run-away fear, or a fighting fear. It's a fear that comes with acknowledgment - perhaps it's not fear at all, just an understanding that when it happens (because I know it will happen again - for whatever reason) it will be unpleasant.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Self-Help Part 1 - check!

I finished my self-help course this week.

It was overall a good experience. So good in fact, that I've decided to invest another $20 in the next course. Yep. I find I can put my faith in people who are not gouging me, and not touting cures, but hard work and gradual change.

I can't remember how much I shared about the course when I first started, and it's past my bed-time (I already got my Mom's e-mail telling me to go to bed) so I'm not going to go look; my apologies if this is repetitive, but it's an interesting story.

The gentleman who created the course suffered from the same illness I do. He had it for years. Before he fell ill, he worked in hospitals, teaching people how to adapt and manage with long-term, life-threatening, and life-altering illnesses. It's called self-help, because it is aimed at helping us patients take control over our illnesses, and therefore our lives. It helps us to depend on ourselves, and to be proactive in being our own primary caregivers. Very empowering stuff.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Facing Old Age - forebodings about my grandmother

My mother, having lost both of her parents many years ago, gets very frustrated when she feels my father's family takes theirs for granted. My dad's dad passed 5 years ago, at a good age, in a good way. In spiritual terms, it was a powerful death - he went knowingly, and gracefully. That didn't make it much easier mind you, to lose someone as strong and influential to our family as he was.

My grandmother changed when he died. She had to, being on her own for the first time in her entire life. Over 80 years of living under her father and husband's rules. Now she lives according to her values. Since then, she has gathered her whole family around her twice (no easy feat, believe me), and has continued to go on yearly trips to Mexico with her four children. She is fiercely proud of her offspring - all 23 of us, and takes every possible opportunity to brag about us.

Up until now, she has continued to live in her condominium, on her own. Before they moved to Canada, in my father's footsteps, my grandparents were very active, socially and politically in their community. They were very respected, and always involved. When they came here, it was to a different life. They learned some English (more than they let on) and made some friends, but mostly lived within their four walls and a small community of Mexican ex-pats.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Creating Space for Anxiety

I was introduced to the idea of "holding a space" for someone else when I first began my internal explorations, and I found that I was already doing it quite naturally. Those of us who people call good listeners do it without even knowing we're doing it half the time. Things got more interesting for me when I started to learn to hold a space for myself. Have you ever tried this? It's quite amazing. During the course I was taking at the time, we were asked to "stay with our feelings" no matter how uncomfortable. We learned to be, and to give ourselves the time that nobody else can give us. And the amazing thing was to actually feel my emotions and feeling moving and shifting around, and to realize that they are not static, unless we make them that way.

That experience, of holding a space for myself, has stayed with me, and has become a regular personal practice. Most of the time, going about my day, worrying about lessons and assessment techniques, and what to make for dinner, I would forget about it. Life just gets lived sometimes. But, each time I have sought emotional support from another, it is a practice to which I have returned. And it has been invaluable during my illness.

In Montessori, as in chaos theory, we describe it as observing the observer. David Bohm, physicist and philosopher, calls it suspending a reaction, and in his book about dialogue he talks about literally suspending a thought or a reaction - to see it hanging there in front of you so you can better assess it before you respond to whatever triggered it. Whatever you call it, however you describe it, it's a powerful thing. It has been a powerful a tool that I use in order to help myself be more open and gentle in relationships of all kinds. Between friends, family, students... doesn't matter. In education, it's a tool to allow a clearer vision of the child.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

No Soy de Aqui - farewell, Facundo

No soy de aquí, ni soy de allá
no tengo edad, ni porvenir
y ser feliz es mi color
de identidad 

His most famous words will live on.

I'm not from here, I'm not from there
I have no age, no future
And being happy, is my colour
Of Identity

Poignant. Simple. True.

The news of his death just got to me this morning, but it happened a few days ago. I can't call myself a fan perse, because his music was part of the landscape. As much as the Popocatepetl or the Bullfighting arena. It was just there. Part of the general culture that surrounded my early years. His voice followed us North, along with my father's passion for music and his country, where Facundo Cabral was exiled from his native Argentina; Mexico lindo y querido.

"I love life so much because it cost me so much to enjoy it," he told The Associated Press in an interview in 2008.
"From the cradle to the grave is a school, so if what we call problems are lessons, we see life differently," he said.
(from the CBC report on his murder)

Cabral, writer, musician, exile, widow, survivor, wrote so clearly and simply that his words became part of the tapestry of life throughout Latin America and rippled outwards to the rest of the world. I never realized how much of the background music of my life was written by him until today, when I looked him up. So many voices took up his words, and his words are so easy to own.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Altered Relationships - keeping isolation at bay

I met my rehabilitation case worker from the insurance last week, and she echoed what all my doctors are telling me. Getting out of the house and keeping social connections is extremely important to my recovery.

Relationships are crucial to our lives because we are inherently social beings, and I have to alter my relationships so that they still work and work to support my health rather than deplete it. This is a tricky thing.

I see everything in life as an opportunity and a series of choices. I therefore see this illness, in relation to relationships, as a great opportunity to really live according to my own priorities. I have a limited amount of energy, so how I choose to spend it is crucial to my emotional well-being. Coffee with a friend trumps doing the dishes. But I can't go out for coffee every day. Every other day should suffice... :)

The self-help course I'm taking is focusing on relationships this week, and how we of limited energy and horrifically sensitive nervous systems find that they can be a source of tremendous support or tremendous stress, depending on various factors. Negative relationships are a real drain of energy, and aggravate all our symptoms. The leaders of the course suggest a few things to make sure our relationships are supportive. I want to share them, because I think they are really important and valuable, and make so much sense. Plus, they got me thinking... this is really good advice for everyone, not just the chronically ill!

1 - Triage - cull the relationships which are not necessary and are not rewarding, cultivate those which are. So hard at first, but gets really easy once you get used to it.

2 - Changing how socialization occurs - perfectly logical, but not so easy to do, changing one's habits. Good thing I'm adaptable :)

3 - Acknowledge, accept responsibility and show appreciation - I think you will agree I'm pretty good with this.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Cars 2 - Big Rant

Warning: Ranting and spoilers below! 
If you are seeking peaceful thoughts and insight, stop here. Really. I'm pretty pissed, and I'm letting it out here so I don't have to hold it in with my son around. Also, if you don't want to know about what happens in Cars 2, don't read on.

First off, the movie theater is in a mall. Malls are not so good for me. Between the lights, the people, the noise, and everything that is painstakingly designed to attract your attention so you'll buy it, malls are like my own personal hell.

Secondly, seriously people, it's a movie theater, not a nightclub. Why the flashing lights and loud music? If I wanted flashing lights and loud music, I'd be down at the... oh wait... I don't even know what nightclubs exist anymore... because I don't go to nightclubs anymore! And I don't think I would, even if I wasn't sick. But apparently, now all one needs to do to get their fix of crazy dizzying lights, huge excitable crowds (although it wasn't so bad at the time we went) and really bad deafening music, one need only go so far as the nearest neighbourhood movie theater.

So on to the movie. We love Cars. My whole family does. My parents, my son, my nephews - even my niece tolerates it. It's a great family movie. My son does not often want to go to the movies, so my mom and I were really excited to go with him. Thank goodness I had a bit of warning when his friend's Mom told me this afternoon that it didn't feel like a children's movie to her, and that it is very different from the first one. Boy was she right.

What exactly does Cars 2 have to do with Cars? Not much. There is some continuation of characters. And that's about it. The rest is more like Mission Impossible or the Bourne movies, or any James Bond movie than any children's movie I have ever seen in my life - and I've seen plenty.

As my son said, it's really weird how they open the movie in the middle of the ocean with cars we don't know. The opening reminded me of the Bourne Identity: close-ups of crashing waves in the middle of the ocean on a dark night, the camera tight into the water so you can almost feel the motion, especially in 3D. And then as it went on, it was just like the beginning of every James Bond movie where the spy we are not familiar with makes a major discovery and is promptly killed by the bad guys in a deliberate and torturous way. That's right. In the first scenes of the movie, a spy car is killed by bad cars. Not only killed, but ambushed and then crushed - his shell put on display for all to see. WHAT?!?!?!?!?!  WHY?!?!?!?!?!?

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Me, Disabled?

I told my son's stepmom I got a handicap parking pass. She laughed. I laughed with her. The very thought of me, in my cute little blue car, looking as young and healthy as I do pulling into a handicap spot was just funny. Really really funny (perspective: I've been carded 3 times in the last 6 months).

But here's the thing. I do need the permit. And I do use it, when I need to. I don't keep it on the dash - it's hidden away in my purse - and I don't pull it out if there are alternatives. But there are times when using the handicap spot makes the difference between making it home to preemptively rest, and making it home to crash. Which in turn makes the difference between a good couple of days, and a couple of days of immobility.

I may laugh at the fact that I have it, and that I use it, but I have come to understand that there is no shame in seeking any support society is able to offer, even if it is in this form.

It took me about 6 months of this illness to finally ask my doctor to fill out the necessary forms, even though the first book I read recommended getting one as soon as possible. That's how long it took me to accept that I needed the assurance of being able to park reasonably close to my destinations. It took many incomplete trips to the library and a few really difficult afternoons following extra long walks. It took a great big swallow full of pride. I had to change the way I see myself and the seriousness of my illness in order to give in and apply for the pass.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Back Home and Recovering

Well, I did it. I went camping. I packed up all the stuff, and with lots of help loaded everything into the car.

The family we go with every year are some of my oldest friends - she was one of my best friends when he became my first boyfriend, and I was one of their bridesmaids when they got married close to 15 years ago. My son falls between their elder daughter and son in age, and gets along really nicely with both of them. We may not see each other all that often, but they are definitely the kind of people I could call on at any given moment, and on whom I can count for unconditional support, and I'm pretty sure they feel the same way about me.

We started camping together again 5 years ago, with a 4 year old and a 3 year old. Since then, every year in different combinations with different groups of people, we have gone out to the same lake, and it's something my son and I look forward to and enjoy tremendously.

This year was the first year we've had no rain. Lots of sunshine, and stars. No rain. It was amazing.

We go to a place on the Canadian Shield, so we get rocky crags, mixed forests, and marshes. It's gorgeous. It's a land-locked lake, small enough to canoe across the longest part in a couple of hours, and there are no motor boats allowed - except for park staff emergency and maintenance vehicles, which we rarely see or hear. We also stay in the walk-in sites, so we are away from car traffic as well. For three or four days, we use our feet and canoes to get around, and a children's wagon to transport all the gear around. Every year we have encountered the usual mix of "domestisized" Canadian wildlife - racoons, loons, chipmunks and loads of bugs.