Tag Archives: life

Suspended in Time, Love and Kissing the Year Goodbye

 

Sunset_and_Moonset(Photo courtesy of European Southern Observatory (ESO))

The short time between Christmas and New Years is like a plane ride—there’s really no one looking for you, asking you to do much or cares whether you are asleep, reading a book and snacking on salty chips.

It’s a time of in between, when you exhale from over-indulgence and begin to turn your mind, ever so slightly, towards your life and what you’ll make of it the following year.

I am feeling the pull of solitude after so many conversations—the need to think, and let sentences uncoil in my mind and have time to track down where they are taking me. The tug of stories that want to be written is polite but insistent, like children who’ve waited a long time in a lineup but implore you with their eyes that a chocolate bar would do wonders for their mood.

I realize I’ve been damming up my interior self for so long it feels like the sandbags—work, chores, bills, deadlines—have to now give way for some creativity. Of course, what follows after the river runneth is always a scene of me screaming I don’t want to go to work around January 5th, but let’s not talk about that just yet.

Christmas has left me with a new feeling in my heart and this comes from new people in my family. It’s amazing how a culture you’ve never known can suddenly feel so dear to you overnight. My nephew Luke married Jan, a woman he met a few years ago in Thailand and now she is living with him in their smart new place in Kelowna. Jan had her first Christmas in Canada and I was really privileged to be part of it. I noticed how her graciousness and respect for family was paramount and my role as Aunt seemed to have real meaning and significance. Her idea of family is so different from my experience I was deeply touched when she intimated that I should live with my son in their apartment building as well. After all, why wouldn’t we all live right close by one another?

As we struggled over language and culture barriers, the snow came down through the pines, and we ate tins of German cookies and watched the fire, sharing stories and opening gifts and while I’m not yet sure exactly what the new feeling is—hence the need to have some solitude to sort it out into a poem—I do know it feels wonderful to be loved. That’s what my Christmas gave me and isn’t that, I mean really and truly, such a gift?

I think so.

In the meanwhile, I’m going to detach and focus on some poems for the coming year, ponder my recent acceptance into the Creative Writing graduate program at UBC (very exciting), and how I might make the most of this gorgeous suspended time, between what was and what will be.

I hope you find yourself suspended in your own cloud of yearning, looking up into the night sky, kissing 2015 goodbye and falling into the arms of 2016. xo

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The Unwanted House Guest

I was talking about my constant waking up in the middle of the night with a friend the other day and he said, “Mags, we’re getting old.” I laughed but inside I winced just a little. I don’t like being included in that club.

It seems suddenly—though let’s be honest, it isn’t sudden, not really, you just don’t notice the incremental changes—I am noticing my age.

Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with genes that belie my age. Up until a few years ago I used my son’s age as a kind of party trick to gasps of ‘surely you don’t have a son that old! Did you have him when you were 14?’ which I took as affirmation I was beating the age game.

But lately I have noticed it, particularly in my yoga class as I look over longingly at the taut young girls in  their power poses, their lean long abs with muscle highways running up and down and their dewy skin plump and glowing. I used to look at shoes this way. What is happening to me?

I am aging. It’s a fact. Let’s not be coy about it. What to do about this unwanted house guest? I’m figuring it out. I’m getting into gear. I’m a factory of ideas. I’m all over it. Life, I hear you okay? I won’t fool around. I get it, the time is now. My time. Is mine.  What will I do with it?

Get binary. This or that. This is the gift of age. Suddenly, you’ve built your own personal emotional garbage sorting bin. This is out. This is in. Simple really. Why haven’t I done it before? Lots of reasons. Low self-esteem. Relationship issues. Family issues. Child issues. Financial issues. Yada yada yada.

Forget all of it.

Get binary. Simplify. Yes or no? Want to have in my life or no? The chatter gets quiet, and the age question seems irrelevant.  Just the way it should be.

The Unwanted House Guest

It’s catching up to me

like a slow seeping morning fog

some mornings it catches me

and I wake with sore hips and

eyes so dry they gasp for air

like a dying fish.

 

Am I dying?

 

Suddenly, age is a house guest

worse than any one night stand.

She gives me cruel reasons to wake up—

3, 4, 5 am nudging me awake to

my sleeping bag of worry

where I am zipped up in a tight bind of middle age

as though I were camping in my own night

my own bed my own life my own pajamas

my sleeve of anxiety good till 40 below

or in menopausal flashes of heat.

 

I look askance at my guest in the mirror

she’s fooling around with my face leaving

a pattern of lines and furrows and constellations

of spots that are no longer adorable

When did I stop being adorable? 

Never.

Never!

Fuck aging.

I tell her to stay in

the guest room and not come out

‘till the funeral.

 

 

 

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Three stories that might change your life or at least cause you to read through the night

I have just finished reading All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. In fact, I did so at around 3:34 am, just after my new 3 am waking time, give or take 6 or 7 minutes because apparently something is very important that I need to wake up for at that time. Every night. But nevermind me, let’s focus on the brilliant Miriam. I cried several times reading this novel, not out of sadness as in a linear kind of translation (this happened oh how sad) but rather from Miriam’s ability to tell the truth. The truth of life just exactly as it is in all its absurdity, its terrible exactitude and inestimable love and attachment. The fumbling kind of truth, the kind we never read much about or see in television shows or in news media, the vulnerable truth we don’t show anyone, the hidden layer of our foiled, failed selves—this is what Miriam gently teases out in every scene.

She reveals elemental truths about love, death, family in such a nuanced way that you are in no way convinced it is fiction and yet entirely desperate to stay in her fictional world, if that makes any sense.

I don’t like novels or movies or plays that dress up life, that dramatize it to get a reaction or manipulate an audience with an obvious eye to who is sitting in the front row. The protagonist, in fact all the characters in All My Puny Sorrows, are so genuine that you find yourself often putting down the book and weeping as they remind you of someone you once knew and a scene you had with them in a hallway or in a grocery store lineup or when you last spoke with them before they died and you were meaning to tell them how they’d always been in your heart all along and were sorry it didn’t work out. Death bobs along on a resilient wave of hope that nearly drowns continually through this precious novel but is fished out of swampy humanness by the main character—Yolanda— and her various family members throughout the story so that one is left with a real desire to go and shake one’s child up at 3:34 am and tell them they love them and how special they are and how there’s no one else like them in the universe and how lucky I am that I get to have you as a son.

Speaking of my son, he and I have overly sensitive bullshit meters and can be hard on media we consume. There’s a fair amount of poking holes in storylines at dinnertime. While I likely can’t get him to read All My Puny Sorrows (he’s obsessed with Ghengis Khan at the moment) he did watch Broadchurch which is an English series on NetFlix about the murder of a young boy in a small, tightly-knit rural community. We both agreed it was uncharacteristically like real life and particularly with regards to grief and how grief really behaves and shows up in people when something wretched happens like losing their child or brother. Grief is not an aria sung once with feeling, it winds itself around you and through you like smoke, sometimes thickening so you can’t breathe other times clearing and thin like a vapour gently enveloping you but it is always there. Broadchurch delicately weaves its tale with immense attention to the subtleties of sorrow and human dependence and love. Trigger warning on this one of all kinds including sexual abuse.

And then there’s Eve Ensler. Oh Eve. I said to myself after I finished her harrowing book In the Body of the World, non-fiction will never be the same for me. It likely won’t until she writes another book. Saying Eve is a ‘force’ is like saying the wind sometimes erodes things or the ocean has been known to get angry. In this book she tells the story of getting stage IV cancer and surviving it but it is so much more than that. It tells the stories of women all over the world that she has met through her activism, stories of unspeakable horrors of rape, incest, violence, degradation and emotional bludgeoning masked in marriages or families. She doesn’t lay out suffering like a buffet for the reader, instead she pulls you into her own, private discourse on what it means to question our worth, our physical identity as a woman, to unpack the lies we tell ourselves as women to be accepted, loved and cherished and the cost of those lies in our day-to-day relationships. It makes you wonder who will show up for you if you are ill? It causes you to dig down into your own moral set of rules and chuck out those that don’t serve you anymore, ones that might be leftovers from a family that never really loved you, or a marriage or friendship that subjugated you, squashed your voice, killed your creativity. Eve pulls no punches—she’s on the mountain speaking names, she’s fearless, she’s a warrior, on fire, alive—she is truth. And yet so human and fragile and imperfect, just like life. May she live forever.

These are stories that have changed me. I know something is percolating from all three, something to do with my own truth, my own voice and finding fearlessness to express it. I hope I have nearly enough courage as these creators have.

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September

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You notice the cooling of the air, just a brush against your cheek and you turn, as though someone had called your name but there is nothing–only a slight shaking of the trees, as though they know something you do not. They always do. You begin to have a sense of missing something, someone. There is a slow tide pulling out. There is a conspiracy happening, ancient, sure of itself, and inevitable. It doesn’t ask your permission. It doesn’t care that you remember the night you fell in love, thinking it was still summer, wearing a short black cocktail dress–a dress you never wore again–believing everything was touched in the last long lapis blue of an August night. Only, it hadn’t been August and the blue was a reflection of neon and a city heaving its last hot sigh of summer.

 

It’s an in-between place. Everyone rushes to the park, to the air mattress, the pool, the lounger, for one last long bronzing afternoon of feeling carefree marked by sandwiches in a small cooler and warm soda.

Jericho 2014 (30 of 77)

 

The gold of early September isn’t tinny or plastic–it’s a burnished, warm, oozing gold that saturates the horizon. It’s giving you its best. It knows there’s just a few more days and it will be gone again. It rolls along the coastline, painting beach bodies, lifeguard chairs, cardboard fish and chip containers that tumble out of city garbage cans, and crows perch, pecking at leftover fries while the sand soaks it all in, humming its last summer song before it goes to gray.

 

Everyone longs for the summer nights to go on, even knowing they won’t–with absolute certainty they know they won’t–still they long for it, lean towards it, gathering together to twist out of the rays every molecule of warmth, as charcoal smoke blots out the dying sun, and small dusty feet run towards grandparents who have seen in the distance a leaf float and drop and feel relieved. They alone wish for the coming cold.

Jericho 2014 (1 of 1)-2

 

Summer and fall meet at the beginning of September and for a short time, have a kind of exchange–silent, done at night, finished by morning. My son was born after one of these nights and we woke to a deep cloud, the forest shrouded in fog and the first cold rain. His birthday is always a day I never want to end. He, deeply tanned now with a single lock of blonde dappling his forehead, shoulders strong from early morning weight sessions and ocean swimming, with a new tattoo that holds secrets I will never know, doesn’t care as much. He shrugs, accepts it is time to wear pants again. Me, knowing it is time to let go, stand in the sunset and listen to the shore sounds, now quiet as fall brings in faint whitecaps and wind, and I realize the way forward is always like this–a receding tide, a falling leaf, a new season.

Jericho 2014 (74 of 77)

 

All pictures and words © Margaret Doyle 2014

 

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List it

Last year I made a list of things I wanted to do in 2013. Funny how few of them have any relevance now. I think there’s value in setting forth intentions, however, so in no particular order, I’ll take a crack at a list for 2014:

1. Take one long deep breath before I react.

2. Let go of self-consciousness, playing small to accommodate, minimization of self.

3. Methodically increase my skills that will better match up the stories I tell to the stories I imagine.

4. Take a train to Montreal.

5. Honour the early hour, ignore the discomfort, and take the body to the gym.

6. Unplug and run away–into story, into the forest, into friendship–one day per week.

7. Attend a meaningful storytelling conference or commune–doesn’t matter–where I can really dweeb out with my fellow story hounds.

8. Attend to shoring up healthy boundaries.

9. Finish. The. Damn. Novel.

10. Let go of sugar and carbs that are fair-weather friends at best.

I think I’ll stop at 10. Seems kind of manageable but knowing me, I’ll likely add to it until it topples over like a Jenga game but for now, it seems orderly and so, I commence my intentions for the new year. Please share yours too, maybe we can keep each other on track?

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Fall for all the right reasons

On a stormy, sodden, Pacific Northwest fall day, I ventured up to Whistler to escape city life with one of my oldest girlfriends who was in need of a reconnect to nature–in a luxurious way of course! Thanks to a dear friend I was treated like a Travel Queen (yes, that’s a proper title) at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Since Whistler is less than two hours away from Vancouver, we were out of the bustle of downtown and into the forest in no time.

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Thoroughly soaked after a long walk, we were thrilled to come back to the hotel room to find a lovely welcome awaiting us.

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Reframing Whistler for both myself and my girlfriend as a place we could enjoy sans boyfriends or partners was totally liberating. We’d gone there carrying a lot more baggage than an overnight bag and had left lighter and freer with a detailed itinerary planned out for our next trip to Los Angeles.

Over breakfast, I said to my friend, isn’t it wonderful not to be wondering where our relationship is going? We both had a good laugh. We never had to second-guess our friendship. We knew it was for life.

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Dreams come true, just not how you ordered them

For years I worked towards being an entrepreneur. I called it ‘entrepreneur’ because in my mind, it looked like nothing that I was doing all day as a job. Then I became an entrepreneur–for the third time in my life–and it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I was supposed to be creating digital stories and working on new forms of storytelling when in fact, I was just looking at other people’s tweets all day. I wanted to bang my head against a wall some days after spending 16 hours looking at 1800 streams of Facebook posts, Pinterest pins, Tweets, Infographics, Foursquare check-ins, and links, links, links. I guess I learned a lot. I did bang my head. I also realized that the one thing I wasn’t doing anymore was story. Which is death for a writer.

Then along came the perfect job, at one of my favourite places in the world, and a gorgeous place to live as well. And just like that (insert snap), I had a new life. I’m still shaking my head at how it all happened overnight but I’m clicking my heels that it did. I’m writing. Getting paid for it. Creating stories. Getting paid for it. And teaching. Getting paid for it. Oh, and hopefully, I’ll invent some new story forms while I’m at it. Here’s a few pics (from my iPhone, sorry for the grain) of my first few weeks of my new chapter.

Just today, I could clearly see I got what I had wanted all those years ago, it just wasn’t in the form I thought it was going to be. Life is weird like that, eh?

(If you click on a picture you can scroll through the larger slideshow.)

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