Back to Basics

journal
It’s no secret that this winter has been a struggle for me (as all winters are). This year has been the best that I can remember, despite marriage issues and despite this also being the worst winter, weather-wise that I can remember.

The truth is, I’ve been fighting — hard. Fighting against negativity and pessimism. Fighting against the pull into a not-so-great place. Fighting to remember the good stuff and express gratitude for all that I do have. I know that this is an area that I often suck in, so I’ve been particularly mindful of it lately. Especially since CBG flat out told me how negative I was being. Ouch. It hurt to hear, but he was absolutely right.

One of the things that I’d always kept in my personal arsenal of positive mental health is a trusty journal. I was once a dedicated journaler; it helped me get through a number of particularly trying times in my life. But it’s something that has totally fallen by the wayside in the past few years; I simply haven’t made the time or effort to do this small thing for myself.

Back in January I decided that I would start making an effort to journal once again. I bought myself a notebook and I started writing. As I wrote, I forgot about the sweet mental and emotional release that journaling can provide. I wrote until I felt completely emptied out, just like in the old days. Expressing myself through the written word has always been my most effective way of communication.

Since then, I’ve been making an effort to take some time once or twice a week to spill my thoughts and feelings on paper in my old-school journal notebook. It helps me to organize my thoughts, get in touch with my feelings, and just express whatever demands to be expressed in a safe place. No fear, no judgment, no holding back.

In a lot of ways, it’s a relief to go back there. Back to basics, back to something that was once a huge part of cultivating my own mental and emotional health. I’m not sure why I ever stopped to begin with, but now that I’ve gone back, I plan on sticking here for a good long while. It may not fix all of my issues, but it sure as hell helps.

A lot.

The Gift of Motherhood

On Sunday,  Lil’ Mo turned 10 years old. She was at her dad’s on the weekend, so although we stopped by his house on Sunday morning for some quick birthday hugs and kisses, we waited until last night to have her officially family birthday celebration at our house.

Our family tradition is that the birthday person gets to choose whatever they want for the meal. Her pick was home made sushi, which I usually only ever make a few times a year. For dessert, we had molten lava cakes and ice cream.

This year I was particularly excited about her birthday gift. I got a spark of inspiration back in January and decided to run with it. In the past year or so, Lil’ Mo has gotten particularly interested in cooking. Thanks to shows like MasterChef, and particularly MasterChef Junior, she has seen some pretty impressive work in the kitchen by others, in many cases by kids her own age and even younger. I’m a decent cook myself, and for the past few months I’ve been doing my best to teach her a few things in the kitchen we have the opportunity. She’s been soaking up all the information like a sponge, and has shown that she definitely has some natural ability there, too.

For her birthday we gave her a chef’s starter kit: A beginner kid’s cookbook, her own set of chef’s knives, pot holders, a cut-resistant glove (she’s nervous to use sharp knives) and her very own genuine chef’s apron with her name embroidered on it.

When she opened up the gift last night she was over the moon. She was particularly impressed with the chef’s apron (“They’re just like the kind they wear on MasterChef!”) and her own cookbook with lots of recipes and cooking information. I don’t remember how many times she thanked me for the gift, and told me, “This is so great because this is something I never would have thought to ask for, but I love it!”

I think a lot about the adults that my daughters will one day become. It’s still a long way off, of course, but I also realize that who they will ultimately become is being shaped and molded by the things that are happening to them now. It’s not my job to try and force my daughters into certain roles; it’s my job to give them the opportunities to explore their interests and figure out for themselves which direction they should go in.

Perhaps Lil’ Mo will grow up to someday become a successful chef. Or maybe she’ll just like to dabble in the kitchen, making delicious meals for her family. Or maybe in a couple of months, she’ll abandon the whole thing altogether. No one really knows. That’s the beauty of life and the exciting thing about being young; life can go in any number of directions. But you can bet your butt that anytime my girls show an interest in giving something a try, I will do my best to support and encourage it. Eventually one of those things is going to lead to their future passion or future career. It’s exciting to think that I will have helped both encourage that, and given her the space to discover it all on her own.

It seems like every single day I am reminded of what a gift motherhood is.

 

The Husband That I Used to Know

It’s been a pretty rough few months, as I’ve written about previously. More than once, even. The good news is that it feels like CBG and I have finally turned a corner. We’ve both been making a lot of effort — with ourselves, with each other, and with our marriage, and it is obviously paying off.

I can say without hesitation that the biggest improvement has come with CBG’s treatment of his depression, specifically the medication. I’ll be honest — I was never that successful with anti-depressants myself in the past, and I didn’t hold out much hope for how they would help him.

Boy, was I wrong.

It’s like a switch has been flipped in his brain (and I guess in some ways, it has been), and I’ve gotten back the CBG that he used to be. The guy who has a zest for life. The guy who laughs easily. The guy who lets me know every single day how much he loves me. The guy who is willing to get out there and do what he needs to do to grow and become a better person. The guy who is humbly able to look at where he’s falling a little bit short and do whatever it takes to get where he needs to be. The guy who wants to do better, and be a better version of himself — always. The guy who isn’t scared of a little hard work. The guy who brings out the best in me.

He was in there all along…it was just that things got clouded for a while. And I know that we still have a long way to go in terms of his treatment and recovery and when it comes to our marriage, but lately I am feeling something that I haven’t felt much of in the past several months: hope.

CBG was gone for a while, but he’s back. And I couldn’t be happier to see him.

Farewell to an Old Friend

Last night I found out that a former co-worker of mine passed away. We worked together back in the day when I first moved to the city, before I had children. We didn’t work closely together, we never knew each other all that well, we were part of a larger employee group, and our paths crossed regularly.

It wasn’t until we reconnected via Facebook, years ago, that we communicated more. We exchanged occasional messages, and often engaged in silliness and shared risque humour. He was one of those people that I always enjoyed engaging with on social media; I always wanted to see what he was up to and what kind of ridiculousness he was posting on any given day. He was easygoing, loved a good joke, and was always stepping in with some encouragement or some way to give me a little giggle.

I learned last year that he was ill — cancer. He didn’t really complain about it much, at least not in any of the public or private conversations we had; he seemed to be taking it in stride. He continued on with his silly humour and ‘sometimes over the line’ humour. I never really knew how serious the situation was with him, and wasn’t close enough to feel comfortable asking.

And now he’s gone.

It’s such a shock when people die, even more of a shock when they die too young. It’s such a stark reminder that none of us know how much time we have left, and that we spend way too much time focused on the wrong things. I’m guilty of this, I am well aware — of caring too much about things that need to be let go of, wasting time and energy on things that don’t matter in the long run…the whole shebang. Losing this old friend is a reminder that I need to regain my focus. Life is too short, too uncertain, too fleeting to waste.

Goodbye old buddy. I’ll miss the laughs. Thank you for every single one of them.

Focus

Since our argument last Friday and my resulting realization, I have been making a concerted effort to really focus myself on remaining positive. That’s not to say that I’m walking around with a big fake grin plastered on my face all the time…that would just be stupid. And not very genuine. And kind of pointless when you think about it.

What I’m been doing is simply making a choice to not dwell on the stupid crap that comes up in the run of a day. For example: something shitty/stupid happens at work. I allow myself to feel annoyed by it, perhaps even have a minor gripe with a co-worker, and then…I just LET IT GO. I push it out of my mind, with the reminder that dwelling isn’t going to make it better. In some cases, I have even made the choice to not talk to CBG about it (even though he’s a coworker and knows all of the players involved) because it’s something that a) doesn’t directly affect him and b) he can’t change.

And then…after I make the choice to let the negativity go, I make a point of turning my mind to something a little more positive. Like looking forward to the weekend. Or planning a Valentine’s Day surprise for the hubs. Or thinking back to the great morning run I had the day before. Anything other than the stupid negative crap that wants to use up valuable space in my brain.

No, it’s not always as easy as I’m making it sound. But there is something that I am noticing. I feel…lighter. Mentally and emotionally. Negativity is heavy as lead, apparently. And now that I’m letting it go, the space it once occupied is being filled with positivity, silliness and love, which is lifting me up like a hot air balloon.

I know that the real challenge will come on a day when I get beaten over the head — repeatedly — with a bunch of negative garbage. I know that this day will come, eventually, because we all have them from time to time. This will be the true test. At the moment, I am feeling like when it comes, I’ll be ready for it.

But there’s no use worrying about something that hasn’t happened just yet. In the meantime, I will enjoy my new found focus and the positivity that has resulted.

Language Barrier

On Friday CBG and I found ourselves in yet another heated conversation. Actually, calling it a “conversation” is pretty generous. If I’m being 100% honest, it was an argument. Without going into a lot of detail, I will say that the crux of the issue is that we have both been feeling some frustration toward the other this past little while.

Neither one of us have actually been our best selves lately…this much is obvious. It’s like this dark cloud hanging over everything…his depression, my seasonal affective disorder. One of the things that came out during this conversation is that we’ve both been making efforts. But the problem is that neither one of us are recognizing the efforts of the other person. So it feels like they’re really not trying. I pointed out how CBG isn’t really actively doing anything toward getting better. He noted that I’ve been walking around with a shitty attitude. That doesn’t really seem like two people that are trying all that hard, now does it?

It wasn’t until later when I was out for a mid-day run that I put the pieces together. We’ve each been taking an entirely different approach to recovery. CBG has been working on his attitude and way of thinking. He feels that if he can improve that, then the other things will follow. As for me, I’ve been focusing on getting out there and doing things — taking care of myself physically, putting my focus into bringing happiness to others — knowing that this will help to improve my attitude. I’ve been looking at his lack of ‘doing’ and he’s been looking at my still shitty attitude and it seems like neither one of us have been doing a damn thing, when nothing can be further from the truth.

It’s like we’ve been speaking entirely different languages.

Realizing this was like having a lightbulb switch on for me. Things suddenly made a whole lot more sense, particularly the frustration we’ve each been feeling. What we need to do now is respect and trust in the other person’s “recovery methods” a little bit more, and perhaps make a greater effort to speak the other person’s language a little more. I.e. CBG needs to get up and get out there and start “doing” a little bit more, and I need to make a bigger effort on improving my attitude.

The good news is that we ARE both trying. Despite the difficulties we are experiencing right now, we both love each other very much. Love might not always be enough, but love + mutual effort + understanding + compassion just might be the magic formula we’ve been looking for.

Frustration with Life

Yesterday CBG and I had a heated conversation. It boiled down to the fact that I’m feeling “stuck” in life. I’m feeling a definite lack of passion, fun and “interest”. I am feeling bogged down by the monotony of everyday life. The routine of getting up, going to work, coming home, spending a few hours on the couch and then going to bed is getting mighty old. I know that winter is in part responsible for this feeling. It’s difficult to feel inspired by life when we’ve had almost nothing but constant shitty weather for the past two weeks.

During the conversation, CBG was feeling frustrated at me for not being able to offer up any kind of suggestions for what needed to happen, what changes need to be made in order to make the situation better. Trust me, not being able to do that adds to my own frustration as well. I would love nothing more than to be able to come up with a big fat idea that sparks my interest and re-ignites my passion for life.

But so far, there is nothing.

Even the things that I was once passionate about — like writing, for instance — isn’t giving me the same amount of joy that it used to. I am struggling not only to find inspiration, but them to actually sit down and do the writing.

I feel like life is passing me by. I fear that one day, I’m going to be an old lady, not able to do the things I want to do, deeply regretting all the hours I spent watching tv on the couch.

I miss the old Sunshine and CBG, who were excited by life. Since we didn’t get much time together, we were determined to squeeze every bit of joy out of the time that we did have. We didn’t take each other for granted. Now, I know that things change and relationships don’t stay the same. But still…there is a passion missing there. And frankly, it scares me.

I know that depression is largely to blame for this. Yes, CBG is making strides thanks to his medication, but that’s not a magic cure-all for everything. I am working hard to take care of myself over the winter, and while it is helping, again, it is no magic solution.

Maybe things will change come spring, I don’t know. In the meantime, all I can do is remind myself of the love that CBG and I share, and hope with all my might that it is enough to see us through.

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