when we feel so very sorry

At the top of her concession speech, Hillary Clinton apologized.

“This is not the outcome we wanted or we im-sorryworked so hard for and I’m sorry that we did not win this election for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country.” Hillary Clinton, Nov 9, 2016

It was reported that, in modern history, she is the first presidential candidate to apologize in a concession speech. This is not surprising. As all women, she took the world on her shoulder and felt apologetic for letting people down. I understand. I, for one, am a chronic apologizer.

When I began having a good enough handle on the English language, its many expressions and confusing rules, I gratefully picked up “I’m sorry”. I had found a perfect, short and sweet description of my feelings being in the world. It became so familiar that friends grew annoyed with my constant apologies. While at times, it is a handy catch all phrase, it can be rather unnecessary. In my case, it was more than being a courteous Canadian.

In my short and very unscientific study, men don’t use the three word contracted sentence nearly as much as the opposite gender. Why? Why do women feel sorry so much? Not all women are as liberal with the apology. Some go through life sure of themselves with no real doubt in their abilities. They are a minority.

One morning, sitting with a friend at a small awkward table, I apologized for something I had not cause or had any control over. The friend with whom I was having breakfast confronted me: “Why do you apologize so much?”. In a fleeting moment of vulnerability, the first and only thought crossed my mind: “I’m sorry I exist!”. I have to admit it was the first time I put thoughts together and understood for what I was apologizing. Fear of being an inconvenience. Fear of being “too much”, taking too much space. Fear of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Fear of taking in too much air. My case may have been extreme but, isn’t there a part in each of us that perhaps feels way?

The mental pressure we put on ourselves is invasive. Between kids, work/school, homework, marriage, relationships, volunteer hours, pets, extended family, holiday preps… (I could go on for an entire blog) there is little brain power left for ourselves. As we get spread thinner, the feelings of accomplishment are few and far between. Then, we begin apologizing for not doing it all or doing it all well. I’m sorry I didn’t buy the right kind of cereal. I’m sorry I don’t have the energy to talk. I’m sorry I can’t meet for drinks. I’m sorry you can’t go to the 3rd birthday party this week end. I’m sorry I cannot meet this deadline. Like Hillary, as much as she hoped to uplift women and finally giving us the ultimate voice, I’m sorry I cannot change the world.

At nearly 35 years old, I am, most of the time, no longer sorry I exist. I try to take some space. I make a point to have my voice heard. In the last couple of weeks, I have met and heard from so many women whose eyes get wet when we discussed what we almost had or at the lingering ache from the punch in the gut. The future seems bleak for women and minorities. As the White House administration gets filled with older white males, it may feel like 1966, not 2016. I find myself angry most of the time and looking for a way to channel the anger into something positive. I want to help. I want to be an active member of society. I want to be heard and seen and I want mine and all the little girls to feel like they CAN exist. I want them to celebrate their existence and NOT apologize for being who they are: humans with super powers.  *Nasty Women*

My pledge: I will try to apologize less. Speak up and speak out for what is right and what feels wrong. For me and for others. Fear cannot get the best of me now. I aim to be a fearless leader so my daughter and sons will know what a privilege is being woman .

Love, Maman M.

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when the fire is burning

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8am. Nov 8th, 2016

I sit at my kitchen table, listening to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, looking back at a week no one could have ever expected. This is where it all lies: Expectations. I remember going out on a Saturday morning with my three year old daughter. I left behind independent boys and my husband. While I was away, I fantasized about how much he would get done around the house. I was imagining a clean kitchen, tidy play room and shiny floors. When I returned home a few hours later, the house was upside down, just how I had left . At first, I was very angry. I couldn’t think why it had not been cleaned. I stayed with the feelings long enough to realize it was rooted only in my fantasy. In the expectation that my husband would take the opportunity to clean the house. I had not asked him or communicated my wish for a clean house. Therefore, the anger had to be directed at my expectation NOT at my husband.

In the weeks leading up to the 2016 US Presidential Election, I found myself emotionally enthralled. I watched all of Hillary Clinton’s rallies. I compulsively researched controversies and conspiracy theories right wing reporters gratefully spread. I listened to podcasts and read her books. She, as all of us humans, has made some mistakes. Some greater than others. I watched polls closely and anxiously waited the moment the glass ceiling would shatter. When girls and women could look to the future as bright and endlessly possible.

Last Tuesday evening, I made myself a stiff drink and sat in front of the television waiting for the results to roll in. Once Florida and Ohio went red, I went to bed. Through the tears, I whispered to my husband: “They always win.”

I spent the last week in mourning. Feminism got a great big blow to the teeth. Equality for women was pushed off the playground. Sexual abuse, racism, bigotry and bullying has, once again, been normalized. “They always win.” But it didn’t win. SHE won. More people in America voted for a well prepared, intelligent, well spoken and experienced woman. I try to find solace in that.

I also decided to remove myself from Facebook after I noted a friend’s post claiming Canadians are to remain without opinion; we don’t get a vote. Let us be very clear: we will NEVER quit speaking the truth and point out abusive behaviour.

Today is Sunday. The only tear I shed was over Kate McKinnon’s rendition of Hillary Clinton singing Hallelujah. I am still heart broken over what was lost. NOT who lost.

To the Trump supporters: the election is over. You won. There is no benefit in resoundingly reminding us of what has happened. We saw. We heard you loud and clear. What we are doing is making some space for the sorrow and the loss. We are not “pearl-clutching” or dwelling. We are devastated. Devastated that over 50 millions Americans felt they needed to remind all women, African American, LGBT, and other minorities not to think for a moment we are equals. What we are doing is tightening our bra straps, protecting our vaginas and looking inside our deepest selves to channel the anger. When we are ready, we will get off the floor and fight like hell. As poised Hillary reminded us in her most difficult and gracious concession speech, “never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.” 

To all the women who saw themselves in Hillary, I get it. I understand the transference. A brilliant woman losing to a rich white man who says whatever crosses his mind. I understand how watching him lurk behind her during the second debate triggered old feelings. How the mention of grabbing women by the genitals being dismissed as “locker room talk” is a reminder that it is easier to stay quiet. Well, I am DONE. I will not be quiet anymore. I will speak up. I will act. I will fight.

Let’s give ourselves time to heal. Let’s keep an eye on those whose healing might not come and let us help them. Let us love. Let us love those who are not so easy to love. They most likely need it desperately.

To Hillary Rodham Clinton: Thank you. Thank you for lighting my fire which was put out so many years ago! This election was personal for many of us. You proved we are worth fighting for.

I am Nasty. I am raising a Nasty girl and some Nasty loving boys. Love WILL prevail.

Maman M.

 

that shameful thing

Mindsight_LGI think overall, I am a decent parent. I feed, I love , I clothed, I listen, etc. I question my every move. Each decision, each comment, every little compliment is weighed. Whether before it is verbalized or after. My eldest son’s favourite come back now is “we all say things we don’t mean when we are angry”.

A very important notion in our family is that emotions are allowed, granted and celebrated. Not only the ‘fun’ emotions. All the emotions. If my children are never angry or sad, they will never be happy. However, in spite of how strong an emotion gets, the consequences of our actions live on forever. An insult to a beloved brother or too much talking back to a parent. If it makes the journey from your brain to your tongue and is delivered, it is out there. We must all live with it. Yes, it is physiologically known that when we “flip our lid” (Siegel, 2011, p.27) as Dr. Daniel Siegel explains so well in his book ‘Mindsight’, the brain connections working to regulate emotions don’t exactly fire properly. Still, it has a 99.9% chance of hurting someone we love very much.

So, I preach. I preach kindness and auto regulation. I preach to them, but I mostly preach to myself. Because when I ‘flip my lid’ (Siegel, 2011, p.27) and the ‘limbic lava’ (Siegel, 2011, p.27) starts to boil, I scream. I feel I must put it out there for the whole world to see. I am a screamer. Those sweet babies whom I nursed and cajoled and baked for all these months, they get the worst of my hot blooded self. My  wonderful psychotherapist likes to remind me I have European blood and I am ‘unique’ in certain aspect of personality. However, accepting my failure in keeping cool is oh so difficult. After all the neurons reconnect, I look at their little tiny faces and my heart sinks. I want to cry and hold them tight. I apologize for raising my voice but maman is just so tired and a bit frustrated repeating the same thing 100 times. School has been on for 5 months and when I ask them to get dressed and brush teeth in the morning, they look at me like I have 2 heads and they have never accomplished that task before.

So, I put heavy blame on myself and my ability to raise these little humans. I put more money aside for the therapy they will one day need. I watch from the corner of my eyes all the other mamas dropping off their kids at school and whispering sweet nothing to them. While I get out of the car, weary and filled with guilt because of another morning I didn’t handle with poise and calm. And, I know I am not alone.

There, I said it. This mothering business is difficult. It is a test. When I kiss them in the hall and watch their little backs walking away from me in to a life of their own, I wonder if they are happy and if they remember the apology that came shortly after the loud words. I pray they remember how much they are loved and utterly brilliant beings.

I will try again. Every. Single. Day.

Love,

Maman M.

References
Siegel, Daniel J. Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation. New York: Bantam, 2011. Print.

Seventy Seven Times

chick swimmingAt different moments throughout my childhood, I was severely bullied. The nuns were certainly oblivious to it and my parents were not able to deal with it. It began in grade one when I was ignored, mistreated and disliked by my teacher. Her name was Olivette. She had a bunch of cats and only liked the boys. My best friend at the time was a boy who lived in the house behind us. We played together often and were very good pals. When we began first grade, Olivette took a liking for my young friend and definitely did not appreciate his friendship with me. There, it began.

My parents sent me to private school and assumed the nuns would run a much tighter ship. They did. God blessed me with the very best teacher. She was suited perfectly for my needy-child personality. I adored her. For some reason, each year, she would teach a grade up. She was my teacher for four years in a row. What a blessing. I never doubted she cared for me. That was good.

The other children in the school did not share her feelings. I was the chubby, strange girl. Thankfully, we wore uniforms so my fashion choices were not against me, yet.

Then came the unfortunate days of high school. I try to forget them. I had a look and mind of my own. My personality didn’t jive with all the other thirteen year olds around me. I was called all the names in the book, pranked, ridiculed, and on. It was excruciating. It took me about three or four years to come in to my own. I have always been chubby but I lost some weight over the summer of my second last year. I joined the student council as Communications Chair and made the best of it.

The damage had been done. Years of emotional abuse left me with little to no self esteem. Functioning through the days was painfully scary. At eighteen, I decided to leave it all behind. Leave home and start fresh. New town, new language, new life, new friends. Best. Thing. Ever.

The scars are still there. Passing a group of teenagers on the street still makes me uneasy. However, I have managed to hold down decent jobs and make wonderful life long friends who love and respect me. I met a marvelous man who became my husband and gave me three beautiful babies. This is when it all changed.

Fighting for myself, trying to fit in where I didn’t and looking to belong was more than any child could handle. But when my babies were born, God blessed me with courage and unconditional love. God handed me three little miracles, along with the great responsibility to raise decent, loving, respectful and genuine human beings. Part of my role as their mother is to teach them to respect themselves and others enough to be able to withstand the abuse and cruelty our world bleed. I will not raise bullies and will not stand to raise victims.

Recently, I experienced a grown up form of bullying. I often wonder if certain levels of sarcasm and jest is simply accepted bullying. As adults, it is a serious offence to bully others. In the workforce, bullying is rarely tolerated. When you see it, across the table at a dinner party, it may take some time to digest. I am not one to have a quick reply when faced with a conflict. I always walk away thinking of a dozen brilliant things I could have said at that moment. It is often too late.

I didn’t confront the school yard behaviour. I retreated and pondered. The more I pondered the angrier I became. The attack on my children, my heritage and my most precious people was incomprehensible, from the mouth of a fellow Disciple. Thus far, I had been disappointed with our interaction but had accepted the cold shoulder. Then, I was mortified, outraged. My reaction stemmed from my own life’s journey and feelings. I was burning up.

Much prayers led me to Matthew 18: 21-22 ” 21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Although the attack was hurtful, I have sinned much, and many have forgiven. I am to do the same, in spite of the pain and raw soul. Few know my story and I know few stories of my brothers and sisters. We are all broken in ways that only our Lord knows.

I am currently studying the book of Matthew with my local Bible Fellowship Study. This truly resonates with me. Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I forgive as I have been and will be forgiven.

A little touch of pink

When I was 9, my mother gave birth to a bouncing baby boy! He was everything I had ever dreamt. I had imagined what it may be like to have a sibling. For nine long years, then nine long months, I waited and planned. I watched pregnant women my mother knew and thought they were the most beautiful. I felt they had to be strong and caring to be able to carry such weight and love in their swollen bellies. I wondered if they were anxious to hold their babies in their arms and be able to rock them and love them. I was obsessed with babies. It hasn’t changed much.

When I was 25, I gave birth to my first son. He was nothing like I had dreamt. Those pregnant ladies I had watched 15 years before, could they have felt that same strong love for their baby as I was feeling for this little miracle. My entire self changed that New Year’s day! I, the little girl who fantasized over the mommies to be, had become a Maman. The Lord was trusting me with this amazing little life. I spent days, weeks, months just watching him, smelling his head, watching his fingers on my heart as he nursed. He was and still is perfect, 5 years later.

During our sons first year, we were thrilled to learn we were expecting yet another miracle, someone else to love and cherish. Unfortunately, we now have 2 angels in heaven, watching down on our family. We look forward to meeting them some day.

Finally, our fourth pregnancy ended on a cold and sunny day in January and our second little boy was born. He also was perfect and not only were we, his parents, over the moon with this little train fanatic to be, his big brother, who takes after his mom, would sing him to sleep and try to hold him and kiss him every chance he got. We were whole.  We were a family, overflowing with joy.

We are now a family of four. We have two little boys, full of life and attitude. Full of love to give and trouble in which to get in. Two boys who love each other even if most of the time they want the same toy at the same time.

We are still counting our blessings for our perfect little family as we are expecting number three. Three miracles.

This is pregnancy number five and it has been the most challenging twenty two weeks of my life. Somehow, I do not see in the mirror what I saw back then. Pregnant women are still beautiful, I just don’t happen to be the glowing type. However, the Lord knows best and I should not waver from my trust in Him.

Adding to the blessing of another life to love, we will be bringing pink to our family. Sometime in February, I will be holding in my arms a sweet little daughter. I am ecstatic yet petrified. I do not know girls. I am a woman who was very uncomfortable as a girl. I have only raised boys. They are all I know!

Although the thought of having a lifelong shopping partner, a head full of hair waiting to be braided and ballet recitals to attend has me dancing around with joy, the idea of having a daughter has me terrified!! I never questioned my capacity at mothering my boys. I educate myself everyday on parenting but I don’t challenge my ways or decisions. Will I be able to raise a self confident, self respecting woman?

All I can do is pray.

Dear Lord, you have entrusted me with another life. The life of a little girl who one day will choose a career path, a husband, her Faith. I pray that you will guide me in showing her your ways. I pray that you will help me be strong enough to make her believe she can do anything. That she will be able to conquer any obstacles. I pray that she will know, everyday of her life that I love her, unconditionally, with all that I have, with all that I am. That I will support her dreams and sometimes have to knock sense into her. I pray that she grows up to be a kind, humble, dedicated, genuine and gentle human being, like her daddy, and that she will teach me ways
I have yet to learn.

To my little girl, growing happily in the dark corners me. You are loved more than you will ever understand

Maman M.