Monday, April 19, 2010

It's over.

You and me, we've been together a long time. You've always been there, for as long as I can remember. Sometimes you walk beside me, and other times you hide in my shadow. Most of the time, you're one step ahead, tripping me up at every turn. People have come into my life, and they've left, but you're always there. You sleep next to me every night. You wake up with me in the morning. We laugh together and cry together. We play and cook and write and run together. You come with me to school and work, and you've interfered in every relationship I've ever had. You've made it difficult to be open, and to trust, and to love freely. You have been suffocating me my whole life. and quite frankly, I've had enough. So that's it. I am breaking up with you.

I know I've said that before, but this time it's for good. This time, my eyes are wide open to the costs of keeping you in my life, and I refuse to do it any longer. I have let you hold me back for so many years, but it's not too late for me to shine. It's not too late for me to be happy.

So you know what, asshole? We're through. This time, I'm putting that shit on paper. For a long time, I felt that I was safer with you around, but I know now that there's nothing that could come my way, without you IN my way, that I can't handle. All I see ahead is possibilities for amazing things, and you aren't going to mess that up for me anymore.

So you stay right here. I'm moving forward without you.

Finally free,

Friday, January 29, 2010

Jann Arden

I don't know if that's her full name, or even her real name. I don't know where she was born or the details of her life and family. I don't know anything about her interests, hobbies, passions or desires save for one thing - music.

She writes lyrics, and she writes music, and then she puts them together in ways that often make me feel like she has taken the words right out of my heart and made them public for the world to critique.

Many of her songs are sad, sad songs, and when I think about how much I relate to her music it makes me feel kind of sad for myself. But pulling myself out of that slump is easy - I can do it by listening to more of her music. It would seem counter intuitive, but I know that she gets it. The sadness in a broken heart. The desire to run. The madness in my head and all around. The waiting and long and begging and pleading and crying and forgiving.

And the music. Ahhhh...the music. All those minor cords and low notes. Acoustic, not electronic. Raw and real at the back of a smokey bar. They sing to me. The perfect chariot to carry her words.

I imagine that Jann and I would be great friends. We would be kind to each other while being self-deprecating. We would make fun of our families with our inhales and profess our undying love for them with our exhales. We would drink coffee in cafes and laugh and lament over loves we had and lost. And we would make music together. We would write lyrics and music and she would tell me that I'm a diamond in the rough and that she loves my art and she works with me so I can shine like she does.

A white diamond she is not. She is a deep, garnet red. Full of fire and passion, maybe looked over at first glance for something more obvious, but to those who take a moment to look just a little deeper, she is a rare gem indeed. She is tough and fearless and tender and giving. She is me, unafraid. She is me, with head up and heart open and willing to accept defeat to live her dream. She is the me I so want to be, and she can show me how. Just follow the music.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reset 2010

Yesterday afternoon, I found a notebook in which I had written my new years resolutions for 2009. Suffice it to say, save for one, I pretty much bombed in the keeping resolutions department. I don't know what the hell I did with my time, but it didn't include a writing schedule, music-playing schedule, running a half marathon in under 2:05:00, and a litany of other things. So the motto this year is Reset 2010.

This new year brings with it some adjustments to the resolutions, but they're in the same realm. They include:

- run the Mississauga Half Marathon in under 2:00:00
- ...okay, this is a hard one...keep that commitment I made on May 14 and have that damn show. It may not be the show I originally had in mind, but it's me, on stage, peeing my pants and singing my heart out.
- stretch
- eat less sugar
- author the feature article in an issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Or at least, author something that people will read aside from this blog.
- worry less
- slam

"Don't let mistakes me so monumental and don't let your love be so confidential and don't let your mind me be darn judgemental and please let your heart be more influential." - Michael Franti

Friday, November 27, 2009

For Taylor

A few nights ago, I went to see someone fulfill a dream that had been in the works for 23 years. The show was called "Mirabel Sings the Blue - At Last", and it was just as it described. Mirabel had a dream to sing. 23 years later, she fulfilled that dream, finally letting go of the fear which had held her back for so long. The venue was intimate, and the crowd was small, all friends and family who love her. She sang her ass off, and she was really, really good.

I met Mirabel in the bathroom before the show. We had never met, but I introduced myself to her, and told her how much I admire her for conquering her fear and doing what she had always wanted. She told me the story about how she got there, and encouraged me to put my own fears aside and follow my heart.

And it made me think about Taylor.

On May 14, 2009, we went for a walk, and ended up at a downtown bar that was featuring several local musicians. The first one up was Taylor Mitchell. An 18-year-old guitar player/song writer/folk singer who knocked our socks off. She wasn't doing anything complicated. Simple songs with simple melodies. She seemed to understand what Neil Diamond said: All you need to write a song is three chords and the truth.

I sat there watching her and thought, in a rare moment of fearlessness and clarity, I can do that. If she can do it, I can do it. I will. I asked the bartender for a piece of paper and wrote on it, right there while she was singing:

At The Silver Dollar

May 14, 2009: Taylor Mitchell

May 14, 2010: Anne Shirley

I spoke to Taylor and her mom after the show. I bought Taylor's CD (which had been released less than 2 months before), and left the bar feeling excited about what I was committing to do. I went home and hung that piece of paper on the refrigerator, and then on the lamp on my desk, where I would see it, and always remember this young girl, how she inspired me, and a moment where I was totally fearless. A moment where I really believed that I could do it.

On October 27, 2009, Taylor was killed by two coyotes while hiking on the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia. She was on an East Cost tour to support her album, and had taken that morning to hike through what is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in the world. The attack was one of those crazy random events that just makes you shake your head, because it is so far out in left field it is almost unimaginable.

This amazingly talented young artist is gone.

Mirabel waited 23 years fulfill her hearts desire.

You never know. Don't wait.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I think this little exchange pretty much says it all.

Me: Today would have been my fourth wedding anniversary.

Him: I'm really glad it's not.

Me: Me too.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Side of the Story: The First

I don't remember meeting her, but there she is, in my old class pictures starting in Kindergarten. It's like she was just always there. I don't remember much about our friendship until the third grade. There was a Grade 3 class and a Grade 4 class, and mid-way through September, the school decided that some of the Grade 3 students would be moved to the Grade 4 class to make a 3/4 split. I was home sick the Friday that they announced which students would be moving, but I remember R coming home and telling me that I would be in his class starting on Monday. She was in that split class too, and that's really where I remember it beginning.

We would go on through grade school, with a larger group of friends, but there was something special between us, even when we had other friends who we spent drifted more towards at any given time. We often walked home together, splitting up at the end of the path that ran through the park - she went north to the home with the porch that her father and uncle had built, and I went south to the home that I grew up in - the one my family lived in for almost 30 years.

In the 7th grade there was a shift. All of a sudden, we weren't in the same class anymore. She had a different homeroom - and a different math, english and science class. We went on an week-long camping trip that fall, and I ended up bunking with someone in my own homeroom. She said she was fine with it, but on that trip, she broke down and accused me of leaving her - leaving her on the trip with another roommate and leaving her at school by going to another homeroom (which was not of my own doing, but she was clearly having a moment). We got through that, and from then on, it was her and me. Me and her. If I was without her, people would ask, "where is she?" and vice-versa. It wasn't friendship, it was sisterhood. There were other friends who would come and go from our group, but it was always the two of us first. We didn't fight. We had each others backs. We shared lunches and homework and hair clips. We walked to school and home together every day. I decorated her family Christmas tree with her. She baked me shortbread cookies drowned in icing sugar at Easter. It was us and them.

In the 11th grade, we had a blowout and didn't talk for several weeks, maybe even a month. I don't remember exactly what happened - I just remember that she started purposely excluding me from things, and when I finally called her on it in the hallway of our high school, in front of my locker, she blew up at me. I couldn't tell you what she said or what I said, but that rift was the talk of the school for a while. In the end, she apologized, we made up, and went right back to where we were before. Her and me. Me and her. We sang in the choir together. I visited her family restaurant. She came to all my basketball/volleyball/soccer games. Us for each other first, and then, everyone else.

In our last year of high school, I started dating someone who was in University at a school about an hour away. He came back to Toronto on alternate weekends, and I'd spend that time with him. Otherwise, it was business as usual. Or so I thought. Till one day in January when she phoned me up, screamed at me for -- I'm not sure again -- something about picking him over her, and hung up on me. She wouldn't take my phone calls later that night. Apparently, she had talked to a couple of other friends about how she had been feeling about this, but not to me. So we didn't talk again. Our friends tried to get us together, but we weren't having it. I don't remember how we made up from this one, but I'm sure it was her who came to me. We cam back to where we were, but it wasn't the same. I felt betrayed. We never fully healed from that one. We were going in separate directions that fall - me to Hamilton, her to Windsor, and we ended up just drifting apart when that last year of high school was over.

During my first winter away at University, I had a dream about her. I don't remember it now, but I remember that it was that dream which was the impetus for me to e-mail her, ask her how she was doing, and try to reconnect. She responded, and from then we kept up an inconsistent communication until the end of University.

Graduating from University was a tough time for me. We met once for dinner right after graduation. I remember she had a beer, which I thought was weird never having seen her drink before (we were a pretty conservative bunch in high school). Shortly thereafter, I made a quick decision to leave the country for the summer, and I did. I spent two months in London, and when I came back, I sent out an e-mail inviting friends, her included, to a birthday party I was having in a few days. I received a scathing response from her. Something to the effect that I hadn't bothered to let her know I was leaving the country, so why did I think she would want to come celebrate my birthday...

After that, we only had very sporadic communication on and off over the years. Fast forward several years - and lifetimes - later, and the world of social networking ended up putting us back in touch. She eventually suggests we should get together for a cup of coffee, which we do. I'm more nervous than I've ever been on a first date. We meet, she gives me a big hug, we sit down, and she starts to talk. And she talks. And talks. And talks. And I realize that she's a different person than the friend I once had. But then, so am I. 15 years ago, I talked. She listened. This time, she talks, and I listen. It's not deep, or emotional. We're not sharing our personal feelings about our lives and about our relationship and what happened to it. For so long I missed that friend, and I thought maybe this evening over a cup of coffee may take us back to the place where we once were, but I realized quickly that it wouldn't. Because we're not those people anymore. We said goodbye with hugs and promises to do it again soon. We both knew we never would.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A House Is Not A Home

I was sitting in the living room of a friend's apartment last Sunday, and it got me thinking. She lives in this place by herself. She moved to this place when her marriage ended. I don't know her most personal feelings about all of it, but I do know that she loves living where she lives. And all I felt was this overwhelming sadness and sense of loss.

Three years ago, one of my lifetime dreams came true when my name was officially signed onto the deed of a house. But it didn't take long to realize that a house is not a home, and that house never felt like home. Not for one minute.

Then I moved to a much more modest apartment, and for the first time in a long time, I was home. My home. All mine, and no one else's. I loved loved loved every minute I spent there by myself, and sometimes in the company of loved ones. I never regretted or lamented that I was there. I never took it for granted, and I repeated over and over to anyone who would listen how everyday when I went home, I just wanted to put my arms around that little apartment and hug it because I loved and appreciated it so much. A place where I could think, and sleep, and come back to who I really am. Home.

And then for reasons beyond my control, I had to leave. Leaving that apartment was harder and sadder than leaving my marriage, by leaps and bounds. I didn't leave because I wanted to, I left because I had to. I left because he made it so I couldn't stay. It would have been different if I had left of my own volition, but he didn't really leave me with any choice.

So I bucked up and moved on, and have now landed in a place that feels like home again. But something about being in her living room last Sunday brought it all back, and it was almost more than I could bear. It made me angry at him all over again for doing what he did to me. It made me sad that I had to leave a place I loved, kicking and screaming and crying on the inside the whole time. It made me long for the chance to do it again and have the choice to leave, when I want, to where I want, on my own terms.

Then I had a good cry in the shower and closed that chapter for good.