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.

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.

Staying Cool

I am luxuriating in the cool temperatures of 19C this morning. After the last week of mid-to high 30C temperatures, this is a welcome respite. I don’t care if I need to put on a sweatshirt later – every window in the house is open to let the cool air blow through it.

I’ve always believed it isn’t necessary to spend thousands on central air in Alberta. We have such short summers, a week or two of high temperatures doesn’t justify the expense (though I admit, it’s nice to have!). We spend the majority of the year in winter and I remind myself of this when it gets too hot for comfort.

Staying cool in a home without air conditioning proved to be a challenge. By late afternoon, my indoor temperature was 81F (27.2C). My normal room temperature is 67F (19.4C). Fortunately, it cooled down slightly overnight, so by 0100 or 0200, I was able to sleep.

What did I do to try to beat the heat?

  • I kept all curtains and windows closed during the heat of the day. I’d only open them after the outside temperature dropped below what I had indoors.
  • I draped cold wash cloths over my fans. That didn’t work very well.
  • I froze water in 2l pop bottles and set them in front of the fans. This worked better than the wash cloths.
  • I bought a personal evaporative air cooler. It was better than the pop bottles. It kept me cool while I worked or sat on the couch, but not nearly enough to cool a room.
  • I took cool showers.
  • I put fans in the windows overnight to blow in the cool air. I got up early to remove the fans and close windows/curtains before temperatures started to climb again.

Today, I’m researching how to keep seniors cool in the heat. Martin’s dad is in his 90’s and still lives independently with his wife. The a/c unit in their apartment isn’t strong enough to keep up with the heat happening in their area.

What have I learned? A few things I should have tried last week.

  • Drape cool towels behind the neck and around the shoulders. I should have thought of this. I have a cooling jacket for Keo when we go to outdoor dog shows in the summer. Same concept.
  • Sip fluids all day to stay hydrated. Seniors are especially prone to dehydration.
  • Soak feet in cool (not cold) water while sitting.

I’ve also found cooling blankets online. I’m not sure how well they work, but the reviews seem to indicate they help for sleep (and, I’m assuming, afternoon naps).

Most cities also have dedicated cooling stations open during the day where people can go to escape the heat. With COVID restrictions lifting, there are also options to visit a library, mall, or coffee shop to get relief from the heat.

The trick will be convincing his dad to try these things.

For my area, the temperatures get back to more seasonal summer heat. Unfortunately, other parts of western Canada aren’t so lucky and will still be experiencing the heat wave.

For readers without a/c, do you have any other tips for staying cool in the heat?

Birds of A Feather…

I have always been fascinated by birds. Dreamed I could take flight and drift on the currents just like the eagles. Watched Robins make a nest on my patio and lay 6 eggs. Then defend the nest fiercely from me as I tried to enjoy just a square inch of my patio space and take pics of the new arrivals as they grew. Blue Jays have landed on my chairs and chatted away to me. Magpies have ripped apart my flower baskets and helped themselves to my moss. The variety of birds that come to visit daily in my gardens and yard are wonderful and welcome.

I have got back to working with some of my shaman practices and studying birds. Their hunting habits, communal tendencies and not so communal tendencies. I have watched as crows cornered the neighbors cat in the weeping willow. They were not happy the cat was invading their domain and wanted it out now. The cat was cornered and whining for help. I intervened with the crows’ shenanigans and had a chat with the cat to suggest a different route next time it wanted to wander. 

Crows and ravens have alway been present with me for as many years as I can remember. They are the first birds to greet me in the morning and stay with me throughout the day. No matter where I travel to, they seem to be present. I even spotted a crow in the Vancouver airport in 2019 when we boarded a plane to Bali. It was squawking up a storm in the rafters but seemed to disappear as we departed.

My niece and I recently took a little hike to one of my favorite spots on the trail to some caves. We didn’t go that far as that wasn’t the purpose or destination this time around. There is a spot on the way that has a lovely water flow with luminescent moss covering most of the rocks. The sun peeks through the grove and bounces off the water into thousands of prisms of reflective light. It’s divine light. The place feels sacred and special. I use it often in meditation as a visual aid when thinking of a place in nature where the vortex is transparent. 

We sat down by the rocks and I started to drum a bit. The shaman’s purpose was to invite spirit animals to come join us in the grove. It was my niece’s first shaman journey and I hope not her last. The meditation involves listening to the drums as you move through a natural transition into a space of peace. It invites you to imagine yourself in a grove with a place to lay down. In this case a flat rock in the centre with sunlight beaming down on it. Relax and feel the warmth. Take the time to enjoy the release of worries and tension. Invite nature in and ask the spirit of any animals close to come join you in the meadow. I think she was surprised to feel the presence of animals around us. One in particular she described as knowing it was there but not quite willing or ready to join her. It kept the perfereral view. It was obvious what it was and curious about her presence. This was a great success for her first time journeying.

Facilitating someone else’s journey was good practice for me as it has been awhile since I have done any guidance for someone else. At the same time I did feel some of my guides’ presence also and some new creatures hanging around. Prominent was the raven. A large one swooping overhead catching the downdrafts then moving higher to hover close.

In some of the literature I am exploring about birds it talks about the different types of feathers birds have. I am not going to go into too much detail here only to say that collecting ones I find on the ground has become more purposeful in the selection. The differences between those used for primary flight, covert and contour and the down feathers that are soft to the touch while holding great healing properties. I have a new appreciation for how complicated flight is for birds. Something that seems so natural has an ingenious mechanical design associated with it.

I have used feathers for smudging and in ceremonial practices before and know that different ones carry a variety of energy and meaning. As we kayaked around Crowsnest Lake on a recent camping trip, the hawks would swoop and glide high above us. The swooping sounds reminded me of being smudged with sage on numerous occasions. I would like to think the hawks were sharing with me the strength and powerful energy of sight and flight.

I plan to explore more the ceremonies and exercises I can incorporate into my shaman journeys. The yogic practices fit nicely too with many similar theories of practice associated with air flow, breath, flight, dreams and gliding on the wind.

Birds are amazing creatures. We can learn alot from observing them. Meditating with them. Incorporating their habits and life lessons into our own lives. They are always with me, watching, warning me of danger and things to come I need to pay attention to. I had a crow do a dance on my fence three days in a row three months before my mom passed away. I have come to respect their presence and guidance. 

As The Crow Flies…

There is no doubt that summer has arrived! It’s been over 30 degrees for a week or so now. My plants, both in the yard and in the house, are thirsty. I have spent hours watering everything in sight. I took some time off from the “aquatic” management to go glamping with my niece. We enjoyed random camping for probably the last time as the Province put into place maintenance fees to help pay for the privilege of visiting nature on Crown land.

I have always loved spending time in the Crowsnest Pass. My husband and I took the kids and camped, hiked, caved, boated and hung out in the area as much as we could. There are nooks and crannies that are only known by the locals and a few others. Places that take your breath away by their beauty and energy. 

My niece and I paddled from one end of the Crowsnest Lake to the other and explored most of the coves along the way. Our new blow up kayak worked perfectly on the glass like surface of the water. The water is turquoise blue and crystal clear. There are places where it’s less than a foot deep and other places where the depth goes down 90 feet. Legend has it that there is a railroad car full of moonshine somewhere at the bottom. We didn’t see any but we had fun trying to locate it just the same.

The place I like to hang out in has a sandbar that jets out almost the entire length of the cove. It’s almost smack dab in the middle of the water. There is an old dance hall boarded up on the side of the shore. In the 1920s and 30s it was the hot spot to celebrate and gather. You can see parts of the old dock down in the water. Boards that still are held together with tires scattered close by giving evidence to another time in history. The historical site sign talks about the evolution of the valley and mountain range that dates back over 10 thousand years. You can feel the energy of all those cultures, rituals, spiritual sites as you sit in the snow fed waters. Cooling you off from this unrelenting heat of the day. On any given day, the locals come to the spot to give their pets and even a few horses a chance to lower their body temperatures.

On shore we watched as dozens of butterflys came to rest on the wet ground near the water. I watched them for a while trying to figure out what they were doing. They didn’t go to the waters edge but stayed in the wet dirt area. I focused in with my phone camera and could see their snout dipping into the little pockets of moisture. They were drinking up the water through the dirt. It was facinating to watch.

A local tells someone nearby that the original name was supposed to be Raven’s Pass and Raven’s Mountain. The crow showed up and made a nest in a unique tree and the rest is history. I know as a child I knew we were getting close to the area by the landmark of the old leaning tree on the side of the road. Never saw a nest in the tree but I am sure it was occupied on occasion. 

I had researched various types of kayaks before buying the inflatable type. I knew space was a premium for me and it had to be easy to assemble on my own. Sturdy enough to feel safe and big enough to hold myself and maybe one other person of reasonable weight. I am very happy with my choice for lake kayaking. We own a boat but it’s a lot of work to get it ready for just the two of us to use. Neither one of us water skis or board and the kids live too far away to come for a day on the lake. So a kayak was a doable option. 

The water route lets you see so much more. We watched hawks swoop overhead looking for fish. A beaver swam close with some twigs in its mouth. White tail deer are ever present but I haven’t seen bighorn sheep in that area for years. 

Our morning view at Atlas Staging Area was of Crowsnest Mountain. My husband and kids have climbed it in the past. I am thinking I should go up there soon. The time was well spent with my niece. We enjoy each other’s company and now have a new sport in common with kayaking. I even convinced her to go on a bit of a hike that involved three river crossings and a trek up a mountain trail. That adventure we will talk about another time.

Baby, it’s hot outside

Western Canada is in the midst of a heat wave. Right now, B.C. is setting record breaking temperatures, and that weather is expected to move east into Alberta over the next few days.

If you’ve been reading our blog, then you know I’ve recently moved into a condo. It has no air conditioning. Martin and I were gone for 5 days last week, and my 19 year old son was left in charge of my place. He was great at watering the plants and keeping them alive. However, he hasn’t got the life experience (and lives in a house with a/c) to know that opening windows is NOT a good idea during the heat of the day. We came home to a condo that was already at 78F and got to 82F before the temperatures started to drop in the evening.

I’ve always been a firm believer that, while a/c is nice to have, it’s not necessary. We live in a climate where we experience winter up to 8 months a year. A week or two of hot temperatures is not going to kill me, or make me want to pay to have a/c installed (I’m not “cheap”, I’m “economically efficient”).

I continue to stand by this belief. The temperatures we are experiencing are not normal. Sure, we’ll get around 30C for a couple of days each summer, but a week or more of 30C+ ?? That’s an anomaly. Because I live in a condo, the strata rules state that I can’t have a window air conditioner. I’d have to get a portable a/c unit, or central air. Portable means I need to store it when not in use (and storage is at a premium), and I’d rather buy stainless steel appliances for my kitchen than shell out the money for central air.

So, for the next week, I’m making do. Fortunately, it cools down to 16C or 18C at night – which is very comfortable. I can cool off my place with fans in the window overnight. Upon waking, I close all the windows, shut off the window fans, and pull down blinds. I ordered room darkening/thermal curtains for my main floor this morning. They are due to arrive tomorrow or the day after, and I’ll install them as soon as they get here.

I have fans running during the day. Believe it or not, putting a bottle of frozen water in front of a fan actually helps cool the place. The trick is to get the bottles of water to freeze faster than they thaw in this heat! I’ve also tried draping cloths that have been soaked in cold water and thrown in the freezer for a few minutes over the fans, and that’s working to help cool the place.

Yes, I’m sweating. It’s mildly uncomfortable. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, I remind myself that – six months from now – we could be at -33C and I’ll be longing for days like today.