Friday, January 4, 2019

Focus word: light


To say that 2018 was a confusing year only partly describes how I feel about it. I am still processing my dad's death. While I feel like I am coming out of the fog of grief, I still feel all the things one feels when grief is fresh.
 
I have struggled more this past year with feelings of loss and depression than I have in a long time.

In other areas of life things are better than ever. I was offered two of my favourite church callings in 2018. The first one was Primary teacher of 7 and 8 year olds. This is the age group that is getting baptized; my grandson is in that class. It is a special, terrifying, exhilarating responsibility to teach children, and feels even bigger when it's your own grandkid. 

The other calling is teaching 12-13 year old girls in my church's Young Women program. One of the purposes of this program is to help the girls learn how to apply the gospel in their lives to help them make good decisions, be kind to others, and to strengthen their families and communities.

I feel that in some ways I have barely been present in my life. In other ways, I feel like I have been my truest, most authentic self. My relationships with my family are better than ever. I am happy in my marriage. I have stability and security in every aspect.
 
It is confusing to feel emotionally low and to be the happiest I have ever been at the same time.

I ditched “new years resolutions” years ago and have been focusing instead on one word each year: joy or art or follow through. Looking at my goals in this manner helped me shed the shame of failing at a resolution, and it also allowed me to get a little creative with my goals. I discovered that there’s no pressure when I’m simply focusing on an attribute. For example, the resolution to “lose 10 lbs” feels so overwhelming but if I just focus on being healthier it’s easier. I can focus on being healthier every day. It also helps me intentionally find ways to bring that attribute into my life; often I'll be thinking of how I'm spending my time and figure out that I am actively focusing on those goals but didn't realize it.

It’s a different way of looking at life and goals, and it works better for me than declaring resolutions.

I didn't have a focus word for last year; I didn’t set any intentions, and gave bare-minimum effort in most areas of life. My mind and body are both suffering from the lack of direction and intention. I feel cluttered, physically and spiritually, and depleted emotionally.

 So this year I am focusing on "light''. Here is what that means for me:

  • Light heartedness: creating and allowing circumstances that bring a light spirit into my heart. I want to create music and pictures; I want to read uplifting books. I want to have more joy and laughter.
  • The light of Christ: I want to be a more compassionate, service-minded person, and help others.
  • Minimizing clutter and dirt in my home: I want to get rid of “stuff”. I like decorations and I have a few collections of things – tins, yarn, books, etc., but I also have things in my home that do not bring me joy; items that collect dust (literally! I live in the country on a dirt road and there’s more dust and hay and farm-life inside my house than is reasonable!) and serve no purpose for me.

There’s more, but that is what is immediately on my mind. Light-hearted fun and love. With everything I have learned over the past few years, it should be easy – right?  I’ll guess we will find out in about a year.

Monday, December 24, 2018

December stuff


December is filled with anniversaries and remembrance days for me.
 
The 1st marked my three year anniversary at my job as a full time employee.

On the 7th I was endowed in the temple. As a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints there are a few ordinances we participate in at the temple; endowment is a covenant with God to live my life, and conduct myself, with certain standards in mind at all times. I’m still working on the “at all times” part.

Also on this day in 2017, my grandmother on my mom's side died. She had that terrible flu that went around last year and couldn’t survive it.

The 15th was the birthday of one of my very best friends.

The 16th is the birthday of my first husband, Colin. He would have been 51 this year. I can't imagine what 51 looks like on him.


The 17th marked one year since my dad passed away. I have missed discussing books with him; we talked about so many things- the news and current affairs, our thoughts about life. We would talk about the characters in the books we read as though we knew them in real life. I miss his calm, steadfast demeanor and his unwavering love. I miss last minute Christmas shopping him; darting into the stores for this-or-that and darting right back out. We didn’t need to dally, didn’t actually like “shopping”. After the necessities of Christmas gifts were over, we would go to the yarn store where I *did* like shopping, and Dad would dutifully follow me around suggesting colours and chunkiness (“fat yarn”, he called it) and he would hold my purse so I could put both hands on every single ball of yarn.


After the yarn store we would go out to eat, then to the bookstore. The Christmas shopping would take us about 30-60 minutes. The rest of the day we would chat and browse books.
 
The 19th was my mom’s birthday; this is her second birthday without Bill and I know that is especially hard for her.

There are other birthdays – my brother in law and his wife, both my husband’s parents, many other friends and family. There are other losses as well.

December also has significant religious meaning for me as well. The birth of the Saviour, which has a depth of meaning for me that I can’t even begin to explain.

I have so much joy and so much loss inside me at this time of year, I feel like I can hardly contain it. As though, if I move too much at once, all the feeling I have will combust and consume me and I am lost as to how to keep it from spilling out.

Merry Christmas, I guess.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Books



A few weeks ago my mom gave me some book store gift cards; cards my dad had been given that he didn't spend. So I took myself off to the book store for some free books, courtesy of Dad.

I love book shopping. It's one of the few things I truly enjoy shopping for. It was something Dad and I did together every year at Christmas - except last year, he was too sick to go shopping. I've been to the book store without him, of course, but it was sort of our thing. He would get a coffee and I'd get hot chocolate and we would browse together, talking about our favourite authors or books we really hated. He would always buy me a book - a secret pre-Christmas gift. Not that we had anyone to keep it secret from.

I had a little cry and I missed him terribly but I got some cool books. And in the category building weird memories that don't entirely make sense, whenever I make soap I'll think of Bill and the book he bought me.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Book review: The Glass Castle


Book: The Glass Castle
Author: Jeannette Walls
Genre: Memoir
Dates read: April 3-7, 2018


It’s not often that a book will have me crying and laughing, from one sentence to the next. Jeannette Walls takes us through a life sketch that is beautifully horrifying, written in the way that people who live with dysfunction normalize those experiences.

From catching herself on fire during unsupervised cooking at age three to facing hunger, poverty, and abuse as a young woman, we are taken through her lifetime of being dragged from one place to the next by parents who refuse to put down roots.

The Walls family is nomadic at best. They suffer a father who drinks what he earns and has grandiose plans that are never realized; their mother sees herself as an artist and writer but remains direction-less and seemingly out of touch with reality. It is easy to despise the parents; while reading this I was at times enraged by their irresponsibility, their lack of planning, their disregard for social norms and basic necessities.

Rex Walls is an alcoholic; he gambles and lies, and he doesn’t take responsibility for his actions. Mary seems sweet at times, but expects her children to be grateful for what they have, when in reality they have nothing. Often living in ramshackle conditions in homes that are falling down around them, Mary refuses to work for much of the time, claiming that she can be a successful artist if she just had the time to devote to her paintings. They rarely have money for food or shoes without holes, but Dad always has cigarettes and booze and Mom always has art supplies.

As we read more about the family and Jeanette’s experiences, I am struck by her perseverance. And despite the deep flaws in her parents, I am reminded again and again that people aren’t just one thing.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Broken things

My dad loved gadgets. Computers, cell phones, game systems, VCRs... anything with a hard drive and a power supply. He liked them when they were new; he liked them when they died and he could take their brains out and bang around on their insides. Whenever a gadget quit working, it would go into dad's pile of dead electronics. He claimed he could get anything working if he could figure out what made it tick- all you had to do was tighten up some screws or replace a something-or-other on the inside, and it would be all fixed. He never fixed anything, but he enjoyed tinkering with old electronics.

He also liked it whenever anyone got something new. I have an affinity for accessories, and would routinely change out my phone case. Every time I had a new case, he'd ask me if I got a new phone. He never seemed to be able to tell that it was just a new case. Every couple of months for 4 years this would come up. I would roll my eyes and laugh and explain it was the same old phone in a new case.

But if I did get something new, I would always want to show him because he would oooh and aaah in just the right way. Over the last few months I've had a few new things; I got a new cell phone and I felt sort of sad that I finally had a new phone and couldn't tell him. I think he would have had very strong opinions about facial recognition, and that would have been fun to debate with him.

I also got a new laptop recently and while he would have liked to play with it, I think he really would have just wanted my old, broken one. The touch screen and mouse were both broken and I think he would have enjoyed pretending that he could take it apart and fix it, and I would have enjoyed pretending I believed him.

It's sort of funny how when someone dies and suddenly everything in your life reminds you of them, of their mannerisms and attitudes and their sense of humour. My dad's way of being just a little silly might be one of the things I miss the most: how he'd set his jaw and insist that he could fix something that was broken when we all knew that he couldn't really.

It's been 105 days since my dad died, and the conversations I need to have with him are piling up. We are going to have so much to talk about when we're together again.

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