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About Face

A few weeks ago, my sister in law notified me that my face showed up on a Facebook page with someone asking if anyone could identify this person. My image was found on a cell phone I had lost on the summit of Mount Ward in the Crowsnest Pass. It was amazing that they had found the phone as I had lost it descending down on my butt over a mountain side of scree. Here is the remarkable part. I was up there in August of 2019. That’s over 3 years ago. Think back how much has changed in the last 3 years. For me? I lost my mom, I lost my job, COVID happened and I almost lost my sense of self.

As I look at the face staring out from the phone that shouldn’t be working, let alone sporting my face on the cover, I marvel at our ability for resilience. That woman captured is me but yet, is not me. She is restless and ready for change. She is tired and grieving over so much loss in the last few years. She is there with her two great nieces enjoying a warm summer day doing what she loves to do. Exploring uncharted territory and pushing herself to go further and harder.

Phone still works after 3 years!

Sometimes I am not sure where the strength comes from. It just appears and I am always grateful to the universe for providing it to me. I sat on the top of the summit enjoying the sun and view as the girls explored further up and around. I saw 3 crows in the distance. They were making a big racket and circling overhead. I watched them for a bit then noticed behind them that some big dark rain clouds were starting to form. Anyone who has been hiking in the mountains knows to start down when that happens. Hopefully you can outrun the storm, most often I am not that lucky. I was about to holler for the girls to come and they appeared ready to head out. I happened to look down and found the most unique rock I had ever seen. I had been thinking about the crows and their warning that the weather was about to change. The rock appeared to have a crow flying over the mountains on it. It was pale yellow with a black image of a crow. I picked it up and put it in my backpack. In hindsight, I wish I would have done the same thing to my phone which I placed in my coat pocket tied around my waist.

As the clouds got darker, we started to slide down on our backsides. It was treacherous and slow going. Over half way down I realized my phone wasn’t in my pocket anymore. There was no way I could go back up and try and find it. We had been zigzagging and moving over a large space of rock and debri. It could have been anywhere. Like a needle in a haystack. I resigned myself to either come back a different day or say “goodbye” to the pictures from that day.

I got a new phone and reclaimed quite a bit of my pictures, chats and music as I usually back up stuff to the cloud. I was missing the photos we had taken that day which was too bad. When I reloaded my messenger chats I was heartbroken to see my conversation with my sister who had passed away in 2016 wasn’t coming back up. It took some letting go to say “goodbye” to the conversation I had treasured.

Time goes by and I have had 3 phones since then. Every once in a while I would think about the phone and wonder if it was still alive. What view it had looking out over the barren terrain. Saying good morning to the crows and other creatures who passed by. My face is smiling out on that mountain side I thought. Never did I think it still worked after all that time.

I have been in contact with the mother of the guy who found it and will go pick it up some time soon. She said that several people had recognized the woman in the photo and let her know the phone belonged to me. The hat I am wearing I have taken on so many adventures. It’s kind of my signature look for exploring…lol.

Thinking about the phone and it’s adventures, I happened to glance through my messenger chats. I was drawn to the one with my sister, hoping that for some miraculous reason the conversation would reappear after all this time. I was amazed to see that it had. Everything was there again. My history with my sister has come back to me now. Years and years of conversation came tumbling down the mountain side to land at my feet.

Why now? So much has happened since 2016. I thought that was my low point but it wasn’t. Both of my parents died in the years after my sister’s passing. Despite all of the pain, grief and loss, I feel more alive today than ever before. I am living life on my terms in my own way. Choosing my adventures, love, spiritual paths and sense of self.

I am awake. I have lived many lives since I lost that phone. I am grateful for it’s reappearance to remind me to be grateful for what I have.

Once again the energy shifts and tilts the balance back.

I have a desire to put the phone back on the mountain. 

Stay tuned to see what I decide….lol

Love you all that keep reading our posts and coming along on our journeys through midlife.

Light and love.

We Are Family

I got my brother and sisters with me…

I decide to pull out the old rotten carpet out of the cab of the van only to discover that the floor has some serious looking rust spots. It’s been a couple of weeks since I came upon the damage and it’s been a cause for concern. My whole career has been based on solving problems. Taking complex learning and translating it into easy to follow steps for others to understand and use. This situation is no different. I got a hole and it needs to be fixed.

My sister and brother in law just happened to be down for the weekend. They are a handy pair. I have always admired my sister’s choice of professions. She had spent many years in the Canadian Air Force as a metal fabricator working on airplanes. I found out my brother in law has some experience with welding. My brother, well he is a jack of all trades and has been helping me with the project since day 1. So, in true project management fashion, I assembled the very competent team of experts who are up for the challenge and we get to work. 

With resources and know-how in place we decide a change of clothes is necessary to tackle the potentially dirty job. My sister bought my mom’s old house and some of the contents are still there. My mom’s coat still hangs in the closet next to the kitchen door. It’s coming up on the two year anniversary of my mom’s death in September. As I stand in her bedroom looking for something to wear in the closet I am overwhelmed with her presence. I take a couple of shirts off the hangers and smell them. Oh mom, they still smell like you. You are still here. Tears well up as I close my eyes for a moment. This is a pretty big hole we are trying to fix. Not just on the van floor but my heart. I hear my mom talking to me from other rooms as I walk through the house. She would call from the living room when you entered from the kitchen door to welcome you. Sometimes I can hear her voice echo through the space.

The family has had its share of challenges over the last few years and yet here we are coming together to problem solve and rebuild this van. I have heard you can’t choose your family. I am glad for that because you never know what you might need at any given moment. The universe is a way better judge on future needs than I am.

It takes some discussion and a few brainstorming sessions but finally we get to work patching the worn floor. Grinding away the rust where we can and applying new support when needed. I can’t help but make the comparison between the work on the van and work being done to heal our family relationships. You have to clear away the toxins that eat at your dynamics. Find new ways to communicate and come together. Mom would be ecstatic to see us all collaborating and getting along.

The van has helped us to find ways to connect again. It’s been a new beginning for me too. I am using tools I never thought I would have the confidence to even try. A little patience from my brother and determination to continue the work has made me excited about the possibilities for future projects and work.

We are family, I got my brother and sisters with me. I am truly blessed.

Me+Us+I+You=We

As a coach in my previous life in corporate banking, I became very accustomed to using first person pronouns to describe who was the owner of actions or feelings. I have been thinking about relationship dynamics and the intersections of “Me” to “US” and “I” to “You”. 

My daughter told my husband that we are both very stubborn people. I agree and we are both very strong in our opinions. We both have known we are very different and yet, in the past, have found ways to connect. As we get older and more set in our ways, it has become harder to compromise and find our way to a common grounding. I admit we have struggled and sometimes it feels easier just to throw in the towel and move on.

I can’t help but think I am not yet done learning all I can about myself and behaviors from this man. He challenges me in my core thinking. We expressed our feelings to each other in letters, texts and some verbal. I didn’t like what he said and he didn’t like what I said but we both listened, asked questions to clarify what we meant and then spent time trying to figure if we could still be compatible together. 

I get his points when he says that I feel I can express my feelings and he should respect and accept them because they are mine. He does stuff I don’t like, he says things I don’t want to hear. I asked him to apologize for things he has said to me and he asked if I feel like I should apologize for the way I feel and things I have said? 

I said “no” I meant what I said. At the time, he meant what he said too. So where does this leave the “US”?

I know that I respect him for his honesty towards me.

Can I keep the “ME” in “US”? We seem to be in different stages of life. I have decided not to go back to work anytime soon. He works full time. I want to travel and explore the world while our health is good and we are mobile. Can we create our own balance without driving each other crazy? We both have agreed we don’t know. We have been figuring it out one day at a time for over 36 years. For us, we know that we are at our best when we are connecting on every level. We travel well together, we have built a life together. We are unconventional in our partnership management system but so what?

Neither of us want to end this story yet so we have agreed to continue. To find ways to build our new chapters that include the “Me” in “US” and the “I” and “YOU in our “WE”

A Date With Myself

I spent the day at Chestermere’s first music festival. It felt so good to be outside and listening to live music again.

As I looked around the park, I realized I was one of the very few people on my own. Most were part of families, couples or groups of friends. At one time in my life, this may have felt uncomfortable. Not anymore.

For too many years, I’ve felt lonely in my marriages. Everything would start out great, and after a few years, we’d be living like roommates. There is nothing worse than feeling abandoned by the person who swore to love you. I’d manufacture a life that suited their needs in an attempt to create togetherness, but lose myself. Maybe, in their own way, each man did love me but it wasn’t what I wanted or needed for myself.

Fortunately, I’m strong enough to know what I want. Thus, the reason I’ve left three marriages. I’m not one to stick it out “just because”. I didn’t up and leave. I talked to my spouse(s). They knew what I felt was missing and how unhappy I was. We tried counselling or relationship coaching. Each time, in the end I decided I’d rather be on my own than married and lonely.

As I sat in the park tonight, I reflected on my current relationship. Martin and I met after my ex-husband and I opened our marriage. At the time, I was actively dating and starting to believe I was polyamorous. Martin knew I was dating other men while we were developing our relationship and he encouraged it. Even after we realized we loved each other, he still thought I should see others because he’s away so much. He was concerned I’d be lonely and didn’t think it was fair to me to have a part-time boyfriend.

If I was afraid of being alone, I may have agreed to this. Most of the time, he works a 7 on/7 off schedule. The last two months, it’s been 11 on/2 off. Right now, it’s 14 on/4 off. Do I wish he was home more over the summer? Of course. Would he have enjoyed a day of live music by the lake today? Absolutely. Did his being away stop me from enjoying it on my own? No.

Am I polyamorous? No. I’m a serial monogamist. I love one person at a time until it doesn’t work for one or both of us anymore.

I’ve chosen Martin and our relationship because I love him. I cherish the time we have together, and I cherish the time I have alone. I have a wonderful life and am very glad he’s a part of it.

Oh Happy Day!

Have you ever waited for something to come true – begged for it, prayed for it – and then it does? That happened to me today.

My lab tests confirm I am now post-menopausal and I couldn’t be happier!!
(WARNING: The rest of this post might be too much information for some readers).

I started the hell that was perimenopause when I was 38. I’d already had nearly 25 years of painful, heavy periods at that time. Little did I know it would get so much worse.

There’s “heavy” periods, “very heavy” periods, and then there were mine. I was anemic for most of my 40’s. At one point, I nearly needed a blood transfusion. My entire life centred around my menstrual cycle. It felt like I was either premenstrual, or having a 10-14 day period. Some months, the pain would be so bad I’d swear labour couldn’t be worse. I’d be bedridden for two days a month. Other months, I was so irritable or anxious I could barely live with myself. Then, the period itself. For the first two days, I’d be changing a SuperPlus tampon and maxi-pad every 20 minutes. There were many days I felt it would simply be easier to sit on the toilet all day.

No one tells you about this part of the experience. We hear about the hot flashes and the insomnia. We know our periods will become sporadic. I didn’t know having monthly crime-scenes in my pants was part of it. I didn’t know my hormones could take me from deliriously happy to uncontrollably weepy within minutes. For a “Type A” personality who likes to be in control, this was extremely upsetting.

I tried everything during this phase of life. Birth control pills didn’t help. Tranexamic acid didn’t help (this is the medication used in trauma situations to stop bleeding). Everywhere I went, I carried a change of clothes. I had extra tampons and pads stashed all over the place – purse, backpacks, car, suitcases, laptop bag. My gynaecologist told me I wasn’t eligible for the Mirena IUD (reported to stop, or at least lessen, periods). I was very near a hysterectomy when a new medication came on the market. I decided to try it.

Within the first three months, it gave me my life back. It stopped my periods. I could take it for three months – no periods!! – and then go off it for a month. When a period started, I could start another three months. It was GLORIOUS!! Three or four periods a year, and even then, they were 10% of what they used to be.

Imagine my horror when this magic drug was taken off the market! I spent the last year hoping – praying – I was finally in menopause. I didn’t know how I’d get through a period without pharmaceutical assistance.

The end of July marked 12 months without a period; the technical definition of being done with menopause. I asked my doctor to confirm it with lab tests. I got the results today. My estradiol and FSH levels indicate I am now – insert choirs of angels and fireworks – post-menopausal.

I know some women see the end of their fertility as a loss. It marks the end of childbearing years. I understand that. I, however, never gave birth. My son is adopted (we were at his birth!). My reproductive cycle has caused nothing but pain, frustration, and anxiety. I am SO HAPPY to see the end of it. It feels like the capstone to the tumultuousness that has been my life the last few years.

Midlife is truly seeing me rise. New job, new home, new(ish) relationship, and now a new phase of womanhood. Best of all?? Nature’s birth control!!

The Airing of Grievances

Buh-bye!

I enjoy the show, “Seinfeld” and the “Festivus for the Rest of Us” episode. I decided to take a line from that show and have my own “airing of grievances”.

I’ve been processing the end of my third (yes, third) marriage for the past several months. I tried, for so long, to keep it together. There were so many times I told my husband I felt there was “something” that kept him from being close to me; that I felt second-rate in his life. He constantly denied it. There were so many arguments. He always told me something worth having was worth fighting for – yet he didn’t put actions behind his words. In the end, he realized he prefers his own gender, yet to this day, cannot (or simply won’t) see how it affected our relationship and his inability to be the partner I thought I was getting when we married.

Since living on my own, I’ve done a great deal of reading. I realize now he is a narcissist. Every article I’ve read about narcissism should have his photo next to it. The more I read, the angrier I became – at him and myself. I knew I wanted to leave five years ago. I didn’t because: a) I’m stubborn and did not want to be divorced three times and b) I already disrupted my son’s family life once and I wasn’t going to do it again while he was in school. I felt robbed of those five years. The more I gave and tried to change things, the more he took and didn’t give anything back.

So, I decided I had enough. I’m done with trying to figure him out. I’m done with wondering “why”. I’m done with feeling angry. I’m done grieving for “what could’ve been”. I decided to “air my grievances”. I wrote out every sadness, hurt, anger, resentment about that man and the eleven years we spent together on strips of paper. There were over 120 strips by the time I finished. I wanted to get everything out so there’d be no more energy spent on him.

But, what to do with all these strips of paper? I burned them. I invited a friend to join me. She wrote out her grievances and, in her backyard, we set them on fire in a metal planter. I wanted to do it one-by-one, but quickly realized that’d take much too long! 🙂

It was satisfying to watch the paper curl as it burned. Once the grievances were ashes, I burned sweetgrass and sage to purify the air of negative energy. The grievances are now beneath a layer of “positive” ashes. I’m going to add topsoil and grow plants. New plant life for my new life. Every time I look at it, I’ll be reminded of the action I took to put the past hurts behind me and look towards the future. As my new plants grow and thrive, so will I.

Adding Brushstrokes

I loved Vanessa’s last post. I chuckled at the comment about how our lives are “about to change” – I think that happened the day we were both let go from our employer within 15 minutes of each other. 🙂

So much of what Vanessa wrote resonated with me. We truly are staring at a blank canvas. It’s exciting, and yet scary. The last few weeks, I’ve been experiencing higher levels of anxiety, and even a few anxiety attacks. I’m no stranger to them, so I know what’s happening. My first action is to get my thyroid levels checked. 🙂 Sometimes, anxiety is a symptom of having too much Synthroid, and my medications need to be adjusted again. Failing that, I need to look at other causes.

I suspect part of it is living in a nearly-post-Covid world. Did anyone else find it weird to walk into stores without wearing a mask? For two weeks, I carried one with me. Sometimes I felt I needed to wear it, other times not. I don’t like when strangers stand to close to me – something I never used give much thought. I’ve gotten used to going without a mask (most of the time), but I still sanitize my hands every chance I get.

Truthfully, most of the anxiety is coming from not having a clear path before me. I’ve always had a plan. Now, like Vanessa, I’m looking at a blank canvas. Hers is a new van; mine is the life I want to create. In our early days of blogging, we talked a lot about creating space, through decluttering and purging things that no longer serve us. Now, what do we do with the new-found space?

If you read my posts, you know it’s a question I’m wrestling with right now. I’ve got tonnes of time, and yet, am well aware that I have more years behind me than ahead. The vision I had for this stage of life has been erased. I’ve taken the metaphorical sledge hammer to it because I wasn’t about to settle for less than I deserve.

I’ve added a few brush strokes to my canvas in the past few months. I have a long way to go to complete the picture.

Blank Canvas

Starting from scratch. Am I crazy?

I sat in the van the other day and stared at its current state. My old thinking is still wanting to rule the day. The interior is good enough just do some cosmetic stuff and move on. I struggled with those sentiments for a few more minutes and then all the sudden the sledge hammer in my hand found a purpose. Before I knew it half the walls were down and the van had twice the space.

Sometimes you fight change until the urge to shift within just can’t handle it anymore. Picking the option that makes you feel like you have settled in life only delays things. It never really sits right until you do “that thing”. You know, that thing that is whispered in your ear over and over again. There was a wonderful lady I got to interview at the ashram named Jean Roberts. She wrote a book about her life as an island girl growing up in Grenada. How she grew up in oppression and decided to run away at a very young age.

I left home at 16 and lived with a couple of sisters. I worked and supported myself through high school. It seemed so much easier then to make decisions without worrying too much about how they affected others around you. The world revolved around my teenage life and I was creating canvases by the dozens. Thought nothing of painting over them and moving on.

I will be 57 in 2 months. It’s been a lifetime of changes. I am not my 16 year old self for sure. Thank heavens!

Sharon’s latest post talks about living adventures through my posts. It’s not lost on me how she and I are always peeking over the fence at each other. I envy her ability to make decisions about relationships and move forward in that regard. Put on her big girl panties and move into a better light. I understand the hesitation to make the first strokes on the canvas. I ask myself often what I am afraid of when it comes to being alone. If my partner doesn’t see my vision and has no desire or interest to explore the possibilities with me then ….what am I waiting for? A sign? Hmmm I have had plenty of those, a sledge hammer in my hand? I have one of those too? A push? Maybe.

My friend Sharon and I are at that place in life where our whole world is about to change. The post COVID blues I think. The universe is opening up again so now what?

For me? I have an empty canvas in the form of a tiny home to consider how “I” for the first time in my life want to create a haven just for me. Sharon has a new condo, new job and new life. I am excited for both of us to face our fears and build our confidence in ourselves. Maybe even build a bit of confidence in others. My brother has been helping me with the demolition. We have barely spoken over the last 40 years. Now we are collaborating almost daily. I am finding my voice and figuring out what I want to say. I am exploring new pallets and variations of light and color. It is changing my perspective for the good.

It’s healthy and positive to clear space. So many possibilities to explore now that the demolition has started.

Looking Inward

I’ve enjoyed reading about Vanessa’s adventures this summer. I’ve been living vicariously through her.

I’ve been facing adventures of a more internal nature. I’m trying to figure out what makes my heart sing. For so long, I looked after other people – my son, my parents, my husband. I lived a life in service to others. Now, I’m on my own. My dad is in care, my son lives with my ex, and my husband – well, he’s on his way to becoming an ex.

When I look back at the last few years, I shake my head. There’s the saying “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle”. Sometimes, I think He thinks I’m stronger than I am. Four years ago my parents moved in with us, Dad had cataract surgery, then a heart attack. Two years ago, Mom died from a head injury sustained from a fall. Dad’s vision started to fail and I became his primary caregiver. My marriage started to implode. My husband realized he prefers his own gender. We opened our marriage so we could find people better suited to each of us. I met my current partner. Covid hit the world. My son graduated from high school. I lost my job. I started a new job. My husband and I separated. I moved out and bought a new home. I’m almost afraid to ask – what else can happen?

All the changes have left me on my own with my dog, Keo. Everything I want done in the condo is done, for now. I’m settled in my new job, and love it. I have great friends. My partner, Martin, and I are really good. I find myself with SO MUCH free time and I don’t know what to do with it.

Don’t get me wrong. I have many hobbies. For some reason, I can’t get started on any of them. I feel stuck…unmotivated…aimless. It’s not depression. I’ve got that and know how it feels. Martin pointed out that I no longer have anyone who depends on me. My time is truly my own. I’ve spent so many years in service to others that I don’t know how to be in service to myself.

I suspect he’s right. It’s probably a good thing he’s working so much this summer. It’s giving me time to figure things out for myself. Being the Type A person I am, I wish I could figure it out much faster.

All I can do is enjoy the quiet and give myself grace. I don’t need to have all the answers. Martin suggested I take the time to try new things. He likened it to dating – putting myself “out there”, trying things, and seeing what sticks. It worked out for me and him, so maybe he’s got a good idea.

Have you ever had to try to find yourself and your passion? What worked for you?

TIGHT SQUEEZE

I have been in a few caves in my life. Some with guides some not. Lewis and Clark Caverns comes to mind as an incredible example of the hollowed earths potential for beauty.

My sister in law and I have started a bit of a tradition to book some bucket list activities for our summer entertainments in Banff National Park. When she mentioned caving I paused. In the past I have sat in caves and watched others shimmy down a shaft or cotort their bodies into impossible crevices. I agreed to go and made a promise to myself that this time I would not sit and watch I would face my fear.

The hike up to Rats Nest Cave just outside of Canmore is an easy 45 minute warm up. We got some instructions from our guide on how to put the harness on under our coveralls which was comical to watch and do. I would be glad for the orange jump suit and knee pads once we got going into the cave.

The rock is quite slippery in places having been polished to a glass surface over the decades. There were ropes to help pull yourself up into the mouth of the cavern. You have to have upper body strength to leverage which I am lacking so it was challenging.

Caves are full of illusions. What appears to be impassable is the way forward. What is wide open and seems simple enough to pass can lead to a 100 foot drop or dead end. We went down 55 metres as we squeezed through rock piles, slid across bridge like formations and landed right by an underground little pool. You have to turn your lights off at this point. Everyone is always curious how it feels to be in the earth belly in the dark. The cave felt very young and fresh. It’s only 10 thousand years old which is nothing in cave years.

Rats Nest Cave Canmore Alberta

What you go down you must come back up. I had put that mantra in the back seat on the way down to worry about later.

It was later. We started back up and everything looked very different now. The easy parts had become hard the hard parts were now easy. You know you have come this way before and yet some how it appears to be uncharted. The guide said lift you leg up on a tiny notch half way up the sheer glass like wall. Then pull yourself up. Hmmm. What is option two? I made a couple of attempts then got some help with a borrowed knee to put my foot on.

It took some serious self talk about my abilities and realizing that unless I wanted to be pulled out if the cave it was up to me to now ascend back towards the surface. Push, pull, squeeze another inch forward and rest. I finally made it back to the entrance. I was feeling pretty elated. I did it!

Mind over matter. We often limit ourselves and resolve to live a watered down version of life. It feels empowering to push through the tight squeeze. It builds confidence for next we face our fears that we are capable of many things.