Tonic

April 13, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

I’m ready for the get-through-your-separation tonic. Please send by Express Post.

Yours Truly,

Mona Lott

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Pen and paper processing


March 25, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,
In my last counselling session my mental health advisor spoke to me about my “parts”. When I get overwhelmed by feelings, it is usually because one or more parts are highly activated and giving me all kinds of not-so-true messages.

What she suggested is that I “parent” my parts. What do they need from me? 

To the perfectionist – I see you and your desire to be the best you can be, but this is a road fraught with confusion, and trial and error. Even though you are 51 years old it is OK to make a mistake. When you make a mistake it is an opportunity for learning, and readjusting your sails.

To the wounded – Remember you are an emotionally sensitive being. Feeling sad and-yes-brokenhearted is the path to healing. There is no shortcut. But not everything need to be painted with the brush of sadness. Stop and smell the roses. Really. I know it’s cliché, but it is one thing you can wilfully do to get through this. Practice gratitude. Every. Day.

To the critic- Fuck off! I got this. I get it, you don’t see your way through all this lawyering, all this financial rigmarole, or all this separating. It is pretty uncertain. But I am good enough already-so please stop telling me I can’t do this or that. I can. You are clouding my thoughts with your nay-saying;  I need you to sit in the next room and talk to yourself so I can get some clarity. OK? Good.

In summary:
Be your best-mistakes and all.
Practice gratitude-every day.
I am good enough already. Seek opportunities and people who make this evident.

It is very hard work.

I do love pen on paper at times Cherished Heart. It gives me more than I realized I had.

Yours truly,

Mona Lott

Composting Death

IMG_7024March 23, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

I have suffered an emotional death. That sounds so melodramatic. And no such thing even exists. I have not died, for I still  breath. But . . .

If you could see me—really see me—you would see a hole right through my chest. How can that be explained?

The day we got married was filled with sunshine, love, laughter, and promise. Something inside of me opened up to a soul-filled kind of love. I leaned in. I am on a search for that blessed day, the one where we created affirmations of love and authenticity, and an intention to be together for a lifetime. Our people filled the pews and cheered for us as Handel’s Hornpipe, Water Music Suite,  danced on a breeze.  Hornpipe for God’s sake: optimism amidst playful banter.

But what was my point Cherished Heart?

Oh yeah. Living and dying simultaneously. Waking. Cooking. Driving. Crying. Walking. Loving. Eating. Aching. Washing. Buying. Petting. Playing. Flailing. Talking. Listening. Smiling.

Can I not curl into a ball on a feather-bed and sleep until the edges of the pain have softened?

Can I not be held up by others and shuffled through life like cattle in a chute—moving to a rhythm outside of myself?

Can pen and paper not manifest a set of agreements that are fair to all, and written with kindness and lingering admiration?

Can I let go and float wherever the current is meant to take me?

How can emotional death compost and support growth, when I am rooted to it?

When will the weight of it ease up? I am strong but weary.

Who am I outside of this grief and felled marriage?

Beside my writing chair sits a solid wood table holding the accoutrements of writing. Coffee. Candle. Cross. Cards. I had pulled a card earlier, which I immediately disregarded as bullshit.

I’m taking a second look.

You can recover from anything. You can heal from anything. There is nothing that has fundamentally damaged your spirit, your will, and your heart, no matter how broken those parts of you feel at times. They have only ever been broken to heal stronger. They have not been broken beyond repair, and never will be. You are breaking out of something, rising above it, trying to transcend a pattern within yourself, or one in relation to another person— and you will succeed. Focus on your integrity and truth. Be yourself. If you have forgotten who that is, don’t worry—that true self has not gone away, and never will.  It is ready and waiting to rise up, in original gorgeousness and glory, and be alive. It is never too late for you.” Wild Kuan Yin, Alana Fairchild

It is with utmost relief that I learn I am not going to die or be permanently broken by this experience. My soul will compost my pain, and that is a slow process indeed.

Yours Truly,

Mona Lott

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

Who Am I

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January 29, 2017

Dear Cherished Heart,

It is easy, if NOT accurate, to figure out who you are when you are immersed in an activity-defining role.

I was a child.

I became a teenager, a student, a girlfriend, a high school graduate.

In my twenties, I changed into a respiratory therapist, a clinical instructor, a supervisor, a policy maker, an advocate. I lived with independence. I protected my heart. I hurt others.

At thirty-one I got married. I became a wife without even feeling a shift; I had been heading there the whole time.

Through twenty-one years in relationship I believed I had maintained my independence despite shelving many elements of my self. But the moment we separated—unhitching my person from my husband’s felt like an emotional amputation. My heart split, my lungs compressed, and my mind—a silent soliloquy of blame, sadness, and confusion—burst with thoughts. The what-ifs and the Oh-my-Gods swept through me like stolen breath.

In a single moment, I no longer knew who I was or what my purpose in life could possibly be. So resolutely had I attached myself to my role as wife that nothing seemed possible without the anchor of marriage. Nothing.

I felt as though I had single-handedly broken up the dream we ALL had of family. Sitting in the melodrama of failure and shame is not an ideal place from which to recognize truth, opportunity, or strength.

Months later, THIS month, I arrived in California for my annual seasonal break. Through reading, writing, and walking I hoped to refresh myself, and maybe reboot my system in order to get in touch with who I AM now. It’s strange to be so uncertain at this age and stage of my life. I have focused on the needs of my family for a long time. My role as parent is intact, but changed. While my husband’s life goes on, mine seems to have paused…not pleasantly, but uncomfortably—in the midst of Triangle Pose or Warrior 3.

I brought the book, “the untethered soul” with me to California. The initial sections dealt with the exact question I had: Who am I? It reads like a philosophical conundrum—“Who hears when you hear? Who sees when you see? Who watches the dreams? Who looks at the image in the mirror? Who is it that is having all of these experiences?⁠1

The answer of course is ME. Moreover, we cannot define ourselves as wife, mother, worker, or friend because to do so would be to say that we can not exist before or after marriage, children, and so forth.

That’s a little esoteric for me. I yearn to know myself in order to live more authentically—I want to be true to myself, so that I can show up. In. My. Life.

The role of wife was something I long imagined fitting into. When I chose to step away from it, I inadvertently lost my compass point. I don’t know where true north is. I still feel the magnetic pull to connect with my husband when we are apart. Text. Call. Check in. Problem-solve. Talk. Align.

I am a runner with no finish line, a boat without a moor, a person without her person.

The magnet has merely moved. The ocean. The beach. The hills. Nature.

Truly Yours,

Mona Lott

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1 Michael A. Singer, the untethered soul