Monday, February 17, 2020

i'm 51 days away from my 40th birthday and i feel like i have nothing to show for it.

it's family day, after all, and i'm sitting in my empty living room, alone.

the good news is, i made it through half of the day already. i played my favourite word game, listened to music, cleaned the bathroom and made myself some lunch, and, as as i was reminded of last night as i went for a walk at sunset, every day comes to an end. the seemingly never-ending drawn out ones, too.

but i'm sad, y'all. with my siblings living three and five hours away, i feel sad, and without a family of my own, even sadder. what's the point in family day when you have to spend it alone?

now all of you married folk are probably rolling your eyes as you read this.

"she doesn't know what she has; i wish i could have a day to myself! heck, i would settle for being able to go to the bathroom alone without someone needing me", and that's valid. i hear you. most of my closest friends are married and i've heard similar things before, but hearing that they're tired, overworked, underappreciated etc helps me (try and) understand where they're coming from, feel for them, and be able to lend a hand where needed.

that's the point in sharing where we're at, isn't it? so we can support one other when needed?

of course, some burdens are too heavy to carry and can't merely be 'fixed' by a dinner being dropped off at your front door. i get that. but it helps; at least for a moment it helps.

i was telling a close friend the other day how painful it is for me to think about the idea of not being able to have children of my own. the truth is, as mentioned at the beginning of this blog, i'm getting old with no hope of marriage in site. my body isn't what it used to be (although i am in better shape now than ever) and i fear, like any older woman would, that my body won't be able to handle what i've been created, in part, to do: bear children (something my body painfully reminds me of each month), and that stings. especially today.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

i am more than comfortable doing things alone; i've eaten at restaurants alone (what up table for one?!), go for walks alone, and occasionally, a movie alone (mainly because i don't have to share my popcorn that way), but i hate walking in and out of church alone. i don't know what it is, either. maybe it's because it's the one day of the week where the fact that i don't have a family of my own gets unintentionally rubbed in my face, or maybe, just maybe, it's because being in church reminds me of the importance of community and leaving it by myself feels counter-cultural and wrong. i don't know. all i know is that this particular sunday, the day before the anniversary of my mom's death, was harder than the rest.

not wanting to go home quite yet, i stopped in at my favourite pizza joint, pizzaiolo, to get some lunch and cash in my gift card.

at first, i was okay; the cashier was especially friendly to me that day and i scored the window seat. i never score the window seat.

and so i sat at my preferred table and enjoyed my slice of heaven (no, really, you need to try 'the sonny'!) as i watched the beautiful, thick snowflakes fall on the other side of the window at majestic pace. it was picturesque, actually, and i felt overwhelmed with thankfulness.

but then i looked across the table from me only to see an empty seat, and all of a sudden, as dumb as this may sound, i was overwhelmed with grief and sadness.

i wanted to pick up the phone and call someone, but being sunday afternoon, i didn't know who to call. and so i did the next best thing when i need community; i looked to facebook.

"i eat alone and grieve alone", i wrote.

was it true? at that moment, yes. and as i ate my pizza - the pizza that i was grateful for - tears started streaming down my face.

and then a comment came in. truthfully, i don't remember what this person said word for word, but it was along the lines of "paula, you need to learn to be thankful for the small things in life."

was this person trying to be helpful? maybe. but was it helpful? absolutely not.

the truth is, as i have most recently learned, you can be thankful and sad at the same time. you can be thankful that you have good people in your life, food in your stomach and beautiful snow to watch fall from the sky and still be sad that you're eating alone or because you have an orphan sized hole in your heart that, at times, appears to be bigger than the organ itself.

the truth is, contrary to what my well-intentioned friend said, you can carry both.

as some of you know, yesterday marked what would have been my mom's 74th birthday and a few friends of mine had been kind enough to come over and celebrate 'mama linda/LC" with me. i whipped up a nice dinner and created a cake out of her favourite white donuts and as i went to sit down to say grace, i found myself welling up with tears caused by nothing but thankfulness. i was so touched that my friends wanted to celebrate my beautiful mother with me and felt comforted by their company.

before we lit the candles on her 'cake', i facetimed my youngest siblings so that we could continue the tradition we started last year by eating a few donuts together in honour of mom's life. i tell ya - i laughed harder than i have in a long time as i watched my siblings - in true castrucci fashion - rub white powder on their face in hopes to make one another laugh, and it worked. boy, did it ever work!

but then, a few hours later, my friends left and i found myself almost instantly ugly crying myself to sleep, because, well, you can carry both gratitude and sadness in your heart at the same time, and i do.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

i've never been good at goodbyes. at my best, i just plain hate them. at my worst, i suffer from separation anxiety.

i felt this way every time i left my mom at the princess margaret lodge while she was in town getting treatment. i would jump on the GO bus every night when i finished work in mississauga and make my way to toronto to meet her for dinner. at times, i would just sit with her as she gratefully ate her hospital food, and other times, we'd walk to the nearest subway a few blocks away for a treat.

but eventually the clock would hit 8:00, and, as per her orders, i would have to start my journey home.

"it's getting dark, honey", she'd say.

and so i would (very reluctantly) get my jacket on and walk the long and dreadful hallway until i reached the front door, treasuring every step i got to take with her along the way.

"love you, mom" i'd say as i kissed her cheek.

"love you, too, paula", she'd reply. "get home safe."

and that was that. another dinner date gone, another day of radiation complete.

but without fail, i would turn around at the end of the sidewalk only to see her waving at me through the double-paned window.

and i would wave back with tear stained cheeks.

because, well, i've never been good at temporary goodbyes, either.

Monday, January 20, 2020

"somewhere along the line, someone has handed you a bat and you've been beating yourself with it ever since", she said to me over the phone. "and i want to help you put down the bat."

not only was my friend smart enough to use my favourite sport as an analogy, but she was right; somewhere along the way, i've learned to be super hard on myself.

anyone else with me?

you react poorly and hide. say something dumb and replay it over and over. experience deep emotion and feel abnormal and ashamed.

the thing is, i don't know how not to replay stuff i've said, react poorly at times and hide, or how not to feel deeply, but i tell you, i so badly want to know how not to.

the word i've adopted for 2020 is 'reset'; to set, adjust, or fix in a new or different way:, because frankly, holding this bat hasn't got me anywhere, and neither have some of my thinking patterns, namely, and especially, when it pertains to my self-worth.

i hide it well, but i battle self-hate on more days than not.

i wrestle with the world's view of beauty and find myself hideous, unattractive and unworthy of love.

i hate that i feel so much and loathe my blood boiling temper.

i dislike my ability to zoom in on what's going wrong instead of what's going right.

i disapprove of the way i react to certain things and the fact that i'm prone to withhold love when i feel rejected, and the list goes on.

and so this year, i've decided to put down the bat and pick up a shovel; to dig through what needs to be dug through and heal. to discern when i need to process and sit in my pain and when to chuck the shovel across the yard and find a new yard. this year, i'm being intentional about using my stubborn, innate ability to be hard on myself for good and for growth and learn to love myself the way i ought to.

who's with me?

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

let me tell you about a time when i needed strength.

my mom and i had just spent the night in emerge. her stomach had filled up with fluid again and the only known pain relief came in the form of an all night draining process. she reached for my hand when they put the I.V in and i didn't let go until they pulled it out five hours later.

she was drained (literally and figuratively) - we both were - and be it 5:00a.m. when we left, we were more than ready for bed. only my mom didn't have the strength to climb the one - normally very small step - on the front porch, and i didn't have the strength to help her up.

that's what facebook reminded me of today; the time when i didn't have enough strength to help my mom up.

what seemed like an hour later, my mom made it up the front step and found herself falling asleep on the white plastic chair at my sister's front door. you know the kind i'm talking about - the kind you pull up to the campfire when all of your good, comfy chairs are taken. i wanted more than anything for her to be able to fall asleep in her bed, but unfortunately, there were stairs in the way of that, too.

so i sat on the bottom step, put my head against the wall, cried out to God and told him how tired i was and how i wasn't strong enough to 'do this' anymore, and stayed watch until my mom woke up a few hours later. she made it to the couch later that morning, and i laid down on the one beside her.

facebook also reminded me that my Champ of a Mom conquered the 14 stairs required to make it to her bed that night. i tucked her in, kissed her forehead and said goodnight, to which she replied, "goodnight, paula. i hope tomorrow's better."

"i do, too, mom. i do, too", i said as i flicked off her light.

and it was better. tomorrow almost always is. almost. but when it's not, let God be strong for you like He was for me that day (and every day since without her.)

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (psalm 46:1)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

shame: a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.

ever feel like that? ever feel humiliated or in distress because of a choice (or a series of choices) you made?

any time i feel this way - and i have this week - i go back to the garden.

it's there i picture adam and even frolicking in the most beautiful garden. i picture the colourful trees and flowers, the animals, the peace. i picture how pure their relationship with God must have been and how incredibly fulfilling their relationship with each other must have been. they had everything they needed. everything.

but then entered the serpent.

"did God really say, ‘you must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden’?”

she was certain he did, but once that stupid snake informed her that she would be able to gain knowledge she never had before, she caved in, took a bite of the fruit that looked so aesthetically pleasing, and gave her beloved husband a bite, too.

though conniving, the serpent was right; in doing so, they had gained superior knowledge, but they had also disobeyed. once they realized they were naked and full of shame, they ... hid.

that's what shame does, doesn't it? it makes you want to hide. it causes you to avoid eye contact and people, and at times, if we're not careful, can be known to be the breeding ground for even more dumb choices.

of course, we know that this isn't the end of the story. if we read further (and i encourage you to), you'll see that there's grace and reconciliation and freedom all wrapped up in one person (the greatest story ever told!): Jesus.

but sometimes, just sometimes, we don't get there right away; sometimes, just sometimes, we choose to cover ourselves in fig leaves, hide behind a big ole oak tree and wallow in our sinfulness for a bit.

Friday, October 4, 2019

he pulled his shoe off and propped his injured foot up on the chair in between us.

"are you any good at bandaging wounds?", he said as i reluctantly looked at the puss soaked bandage in front of me.

"i'm not a doctor, *john*, but i'll see what i can do."

i tried to take the bandage off with care but i soon found out that he preferred the 'rip off the band-aid' approach.

it didn't look good. to my dismay, he had a nickel-sized hole in his big toe. i covered that baby in polysporin, bandaids and bandages and recommended that he get some real help as soon as he could. he promised he would do so the very next day as he hobbled his way to the homeless shelter where he planned to spend the night.

what i didn't tell you is, how, as i was, again, very reluctantly playing doctor, he was telling me of his frustration with his current 'housing situation' and how it wasn't fair that he couldn't find a place of his own.

that's the thing, and the very point of this post; under every bandaged foot lies a deeper need & underneath every social justice issue lies a busted, broken, unfair system.

so what do i (we) do with that? i'm not entirely sure, but i will keep bandaging feet until i figure it out.