Ripple

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February 26, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

What is next?

A good friend of mine forwarded a blog post to me, by Renée Magnusson. I love the ripple effect. She has a different story to tell; we are not experiencing the same manner of loss; and yet, some of the characteristics are the same. Living in the midst of struggle can rob you of your essence, your spirit, the things that keep you whole and make you quintessentially you. Grief is not only about the loss of a person, a dream, or an environment; it is, at its core, about a change to, a sacrificing of, or a burying of self.

The blogpost, “Sunday Sin: I saw the light and didn’t die…”, held sage wisdom for me, and maybe also for you. Read it. No adult exists who hasn’t known loss; we are connected to it, and by it.

I may have mentioned before that I feel stuck, welded to the onerous process of grieving. Every direction I turn toward seems to hold more sadness. When I contemplate “what is next” for me, it looks a lot like a grown woman stumbling and falling flat on her face into quicksand. Slow. Steady. Suffocating.

But after reading “Sunday Sin”, I wonder if falling apart is the only option? I wonder if there are other paths that intersect with the falling apart one—and I could, at some point, step over to that path. The imaginary doing of that fills me with breath and air and lightness, and the pressing emotional fatigue simply drains away.

Now, I’m just wondering how to take that first step.

Truly Yours,

Mona Lott

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Dancing Dream

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Feb. 17, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

Happily. Ever. After . . .

doesn’t always look like you think it will.

I have loved to move-my-body-to-music ever since I can remember. But I didn’t realize there was a beat until my much cooler sister Tobi helped me to find, and feel it. She sat with me on the near-royal blue shag carpet in our living room listening to the radio. She clapped out the beat for me and I imitated her, in the same way I later copied my french language teacher, “Écoutez, et répéter”. 

It may sound straight forward, but I had particular challenges in the area of clapping or moving to the beat of any song. My sister took it back a notch. We went onto the driveway, or maybe the sidewalk, and she stood in front of me like a mirror. As she stepped with her left foot, I stepped with my right, and we practiced step-together-step until I could synchronize with her. Then we added music.

My memory tells me I was around ten years old, and she therefore, eleven. I shadowed her dance moves all of my teenage life; sneaking into clubs with her when she came of age. My sister moved on the dance floor in a way that made EVERYONE feel the music. She continues to be the most expressive, hip, and in-and-out of sync dancer I have known. Fully committed.

We grew up with music. My parents played in a dance band when we were young: my dad on guitar and back-up vocals, and my mom on keyboard and voice. The whole band practiced at our house in a specially designed, fully carpeted room. I mean floor-to-ceiling gold shag carpet.

Music and movement pervaded my life, and it continues to lead me to places that breath and stillness cannot. I have grown into a satisfactory, if not fine, dancer.

On December 21st I went to a fundraising concert that my friend Carolyn organized in support of Discovery House. I had a few of my bestest and most favorite people with me: my mom, Kristin, Faven, Laurèn, and Yohannes. While listening to Tenille, a Canadian singer and songwriter, sing and tell stories, I felt certain that each member of my family would be as moved as me. They enjoyed the concert, the stories, the bake sale, and our time together—but it was a spot-light moment for me. The light of wisdom in that twenty-two-year-old singer fell upon me. I felt the pivot of the moment like a sharp turn, but I had no idea what it meant. I leaned forward and listened as she sang “Dare to Be”. I cannot remember her exact words after she finished, but the essence was to follow your dreams no matter what your age.

Enter La La Land. I want to tell you about the whole movie but I can’t—you need to see it for yourself. It might be fanciful, or it might be brilliant. You will love it, or hate it. I don’t know. For me, musicals are my all time favourite…add dancing, romance, and comedy, and I’m happy.

The female lead, is (among other things) a story teller—like Tenille—and like me. It is stories that create the fabric of our lives, regardless of vocation. The pivotal moment that occurred at the Tenille concert continued at the movie, not surprisingly, in a song. “Here’s to the ones who dream / Foolish as they may seem / Here’s to the hearts that ache / Here’s to the mess we make”⁠1

I am all that.

Happily ever after cannot be found in a person, a place, or a thing. But as we create stories with other people, they are woven into the fabric of our lives. The people and the experiences are not the most important part of the dream. It is courage and belief in one’s own strength that propels a person toward what they seek.

I had a dream that included love, and marriage, and family. But it is not the only dream I’ve had, nor the only story I am here to tell.

Truly Yours,

Mona Lott

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1 La La Land

Good Grief

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February 5, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

When my husband and I decided to separate, it could be said that I felt more ready than him. He followed my lead through a trial separation, counselling, date nights, and then full separation as if he already knew the whole dance pattern. Once we actually separated, he took to it better than I did—or perhaps that is just how it looked.

I leaked emotion. He sealed his gates.

I became paralyzed. He worked harder.

I isolated myself. He played badminton.

I baked cookies. He bought a FitBit.

This week, he moved out of our family home. Up until this point we have been “bird nest” parenting: each one of us moving in when it was our turn to be with the kids, and moving out when it was the other’s turn. It’s a child-centred way in which to deal with the transition of separation, and all-in-all it has been good for the kids.

We own a cottage just outside of the city, so we had two homes to rotate through. Prior to our separation, the cottage was a place of retreat and rejuvenation for me, which I used monthly. We spent holidays and most of the summer there. I loved the cottage space. However, continuously shifting from home to cottage and away from the kids, created a rollercoaster of emotions after separation. I plummeted toward despair with every arrival, and even though I bolstered myself with music and positive self-talk, I could not stop the descent. At the cottage, the alone time that used to refresh my soul, became a continuous reminder of the failure of my marriage. There was nothing to hide behind; no task large enough to camouflage my pain.

By the end of December, I knew I needed to advocate for my mental and emotional well-being, and I asked my husband to find a place in the city to rent, so I could stay home during his parenting time.

With each new change to our lives, I feel body slammed into denial. This isn’t really happening. To me. 

A couple of months after separating, the depth and breadth of my emotions along with experiencing conflicting feelings made me wonder if I were going crazy. Not crazy though . . . just grieving.

Almost eleven years ago, we adopted our son from Ethiopia. I had been single-minded in pursuing adoption. It would be fair to say that my heart felt like it would break if we didn’t adopt. However, after the adoption became final, and we had our energetic and engaging son in our lives, I became depressed. That confused me just as much as this. How can sadness, grief, irritation, and anger enter my life when I am striving toward something I desire?

According to an article in “The Guardian”, giving yourself time to grieve is one of the most important parts of surviving separation or divorce. “Perhaps you have not just lost a husband, but a lightbulb changer, a chauffeur – or someone who brought danger into your life. You may also have lost your sense of identity and aspirations. […] You may have had an unhappy relationship, but you have also lost a dream: the idea that you would be together forever. Never try to stop your grief – it’s a necessary reaction. Grieve with a friend that you trust – the best time to cry is when there’s someone there to hand you tissues. Not to reassure you it’s OK, but to help you get past your grief.”⁠1

Acknowledging that grief is necessary, normal, and healthy doesn’t make me feel even one iota better, but at least I’m not going crazy. Hand me a Kleenex, will you.

Truly Yours,

Mona Lott

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1 https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/feb/09/ease-pain-of-separation