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.

 

When “It’s quite enough work to go on living.”

My heart is shattered. Much like what would have been the historic glass ceiling, had things not gone so wrong on Tuesday night. 

I cannot find the words to write at the moment. Therefore I read other, stronger women who have been able to find their voice. 

Lena Dunham did it. Right here http://www.lennyletter.com/politics/a608/dont-agonize-organize/

Go on, my loves. Let us feel all the feels. 

when democracy becomes the trigger

clinton-trump-debate2-1476064278If, like me, you possess a wonderful pair of very sensitive antennas, this may ring true.

In a group setting, I am aware, at all times, of everyone’s state of mind, at every moment. I observe, take mental notes, look for changes in position or face expression. I am an expert at reading my audience. I am hyper vigilant. Over my years of hard work, I have been able to remain vigilant without the gnawing feeling of danger, at every moment.  Especially with my husband. After 12 years, my nervous system believes my heart that a threat is inexistant.

In one on one interaction, although not as consuming as having to “watch” numerous people roam around a room, the “watching” is more intricate. Eye movement, placement of hands, level of interest, etc. It makes the focus multi facetted. It can also be highly distracting.

As I said, with MANY years of work on inner life, I am able to relax with people I know and trust. The antennas retract slowly as confidence grows that danger is not so imminent. However, my antennas are not to be fooled. Triggering situations are often unprecedented and they happen when I am least prepared for them. Like, when I sit on my couch to watch a political debate, on television, affecting a neighbouring country.

As I watched the pre debate news coverage, my hands got cold and clammy. Mo mouth became dry. As it began, I reached for the wine I had bought for Thanksgiving dinner. Conflict is definitely not my favorite situation. But, like most of us, I haven’t been able to look away from the train wreck. As the wreckage went on, and DT began walking behind, following his opponent and luring behind her, I became highly agitated and  worried about her safety. Although she remained cool, collected and visibly unaffected. Her self control is astonishing. I am afraid anyone having suffered attacks may not have enjoyed watching as his body language spoke heavily.

I do not wish to speak of politics in this post. I do wish to bring to awareness to the largely ignored, quieted and very present threats we, as women, face daily. Because not all of us are able to be as strong, as confident, as aware of our strength and weaknesses and mentally able to take on tasks such as speaking out about what we believe. Especially when society tells us to smile and look pretty, when often time, we may be dying inside.

Sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual trauma or any given situation where we are made to feel anything but exceptional human creature is just NOT OKAY. Not ONE person has the right to tell us how we should feel. Not ONE person deserves to be quieted.

At this point in my life, I think about my children. My two boys and little girl. I hope my boys will be in that locker room to shut down ANYONE who attempts to denigrate women. I hope that my little girl will remember how her father treated her and me,  like exceptional creatures, and stand up to the less thans who don’t celebrate and applaud her, simply for who she is.

I hope that I will be able to utilize my antennas in the near future to be a great psychotherapist and help those who were treated less than by the less thans. I hope to uplift every girl, woman, lady, mamas I have the honor to celebrate because, not all super heros wear capes. We do have SUPER powers. The power to lead, power to change,
power to celebrate, power to care, power to carry life, power to stand for each other and the power to LOVE.

Here is to my young self and all the young minds of today, girls AND boys.

Love,

Maman M.

keeping count

IMG_3511I was too skinny and my mental health was suffering. I had just turned 18 years old. I knew little. I did know there were feelings I had never felt before and I sort of knew they were not what I wanted to be feeling. There were some major transitions coming in the summer of 2000. Two of my best friends were heading West to better their English skills, others were off to cool adventures with family or boyfriends. I was so lost.

When I loaded my life in a few luggage and embarked on that bus, I took 3 or 4 Gravol. I wanted to sleep the entire way to Toronto. Perhaps I did not want to wake up. But I did. I woke up. At Union Station with the content of my life spread around my legs and those of my mind spread across thousands of kilometres.

My children are nowhere near the age where they want to pick up and go on an adventure. In fact one of them claims he will never marry and live with us forever. At this point, I’m ok with that. I however understand how my parents must have felt. I was to be gone only a few months; a year maybe. Today marks my 16th year as an Ontarian.

It is nearly impossible to remember the first feelings. The first few months living in Orangeville with my aunt and trying to figure myself out. I learned the language and was hired by an airline. I worked, made money and began travelling. As time passed, the world opened itself to me and my views broadened with each experience.

I have found it helpful and encouraging to count each additional year since my big move. However, this time around, it doesn’t bring me as much joy. I am not sad or angry, simply indifferent. I am counting the 5 more years before I graduate, which will mean my eldest son will be 13… a teenager. I am counting 2 more years, where I will have lived here as long as I lived in my home town.

The thing is, those year are passing much too fast. The months, weeks, days, hours, minutes… There is always so much to do and not enough time. I want to hug my kids and play in the creek with them. I want to sit outside with my man and talk about our lives and our dreams. I want to spend time with my beloved friends and all the love they share with us. I want to read all the knowledge I can absorb. I want to make space for all the feelings I am digging up working so hard at becoming a psychotherapist and be able to help people some day. I want to write all I feel and think and one day, look back at this amazing life we made for ourselves and let my mind travel through the beautiful memories. All because I did wake up.

I woke up and the sun rose again. Some days are a little darker but one thing for certain, the sun will shine again.

From here on, I’d like to quit counting and revel in the days, bright and dark. Because I know now, after all the diapers and colic and sore nipples and scratched knees and tantrums and soccer  practice and piano and swimming lessons, I am fully and blissfully awake.

Love,

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.

The Queen

queen of heartsI first noticed her the day she gave a happy dollar for 40 years in business. A landscaping company she and her late husband started when their three girls were small. It is still thriving, so is she, and everything else she has taken on since. I was attending the meeting, as a guest, and someone pointed out that she was to be our next president.

The next time I saw her  was in our office building lobby. I was getting a coffee noticed her talking to a small group of people. It was early and she had just attended our Women’s Breakfast. I lurked and waited for her to end the conversation already in full stride. It didn’t, but she began making her way to the door. I ran behind her and sheepishly excused myself for being so bold and stopping her. I just kept talking, cramming as much information as I could in one breath. As if she was only going to listen for one exhalation. She smiled and I was immediately at ease. She must have hugged me as that is her staple greeting. It is strong and genuine.

Over the next few Rotary meetings, we talked some more and became acquainted. I became an official Rotary member and she became The Queen. She held her kingdom the way she holds her life and career. With dignity, passion and assertiveness. As well as her long standing landscaping business, The Queen runs a very successful art gallery in our neighbouring town’s very chic downtown. She is the mother of three beautiful girls who carry her spirit and the grandmother of eight. Somehow she manages it all. She maintains friendships as if they were family.

I once landed on her front steps in a crisis. She let the tears flow and hugged me, for a long time. She took me in and sat with me. I am still unsure what took me there. Most surprisingly, that she was home. I still dont’ really know why she was the only person I could think of at that moment. I remember the feeling inside. I needed to go somewhere. That afternoon, she saved me. I hope she knows that.

At one point, both our lives took us to a place of immobility. What a blessing. We had a few afternoon visits, sans crisis, where we sat together, drank some wine and talked. For many hours at a time. These moments are cherished gifts. They are never planned.

Behind her incredible strength and positive outlook, I know that life hasn’t always been sweet. She is also not one to take the easy road. But she powers through and she makes it happen. A role model; an inspiration.

During this very numbing stage in my life, about to give birth to our third child, I find myself disconnected from reality. My life is simple. My days are filled with pipi on the potty, attitude correction and macaroni and cheese. I am not glamorous and feel I have very little to offer to the outside world or anyone over the age of five. Occasionally, I long for my thin, funky self. Although my role as a Maman is utterly fulfilling, I wonder if the rest of the world will forget about me. Forget that I have ideas and skills. Perhaps I am forgetting, myself.

The Queen and I lead very different lives. Both extremely busy. We haven’t made time for a chat lately. I don’t doubt for a minute that we will again, and it will be as if no time had passed. I look forward to it.

I thank God for putting her on my life path. I am learning a lot. I am grateful for a true friend who believes in me. I admire T
he Queen. Not only as a business woman but as a mother and a survivor.

Here is to The Queen, may she live long and share more with me as I go through this journey we call life!

Love you KT!

M.