Shadows And Light

Recently  I made a video of myself reading one of my stories and frankly I was quite dismayed. I wasn’t sure who I was looking at, certainly this person on the video did not match up with the image I have of myself.

This was the first time that I had ever seen myself on video and frankly I was more than a little disturbed.  I did not like at all how I looked, or more specifically how I spoke. In still photography I look fine, because I can smile like everyone else, I’m just not able to smile with my teeth showing. On video however, I can see that when I speak I certainly do not speak as most people do.

I have Moebius Syndrome, or Moebius has me. Regardless of the how or by whom, having Moebius means that some muscles in my tongue do not function, forcing me to speak differently than the norm.

In my community which includes healers and therapists; there is a movement to look toward the light, believing that if you are in the vortex of positivity you will be rewarded with all the riches, healing and love that you have been longing for.

I have toyed with these concepts for a while and find them lacking. Here is why –

If I can’t make peace with my flawed mouth then I will have failed and the kingdom of heaven will then be permanently closed.

In my opinion however, this concept of praying away the shadow only forces the shadow deeper underground. I  am a perfectionist. I can never not be one, perfectionism is written in code into my DNA.

Now how can I make peace with not looking perfect?  I can’t. What I can do is this. I can finally make peace with never being normal and make peace with not looking nor sounding like Joni Mitchell (my heroine). Then paradoxically I can relax into me, because I just gave myself permission to love and accept my unyielding perfectionist self.

So I am loving the hater part of me instead of shaming the hater part of me into submission and into the shadows where she has lain waiting, always waiting to find another opportunity for self abasement.

Accepting the all of me just as I am: the good, the bad and the ugly. 

Forgiveness

 

Definition of Forgive

1: to give up resentment

2: to grant relief from payment

3: to cease to feel resentment

I have had such difficulty writing this piece. I wanted to give all of you something perfect and shiny and bright. I wanted to wrap up my story with silver ribbon and a blue box from Tiffany’s.

Instead you are getting my truth which is not wrapped with a bow but in yesterday’s newspaper, and I didn’t even use the cartoon section for the wrapping, but the obits.

The greatest sorrow of my life has been my relationship with my mother. My first days of life were spent in an incubator in the ICU department of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montréal, where my mother abandoned me for a business trip with my father to Québec City –

” Why would I have stayed with you in the hospital? said my mother
The nurses were there!”

Late this summer when I told my mother I needed to stay with her for two months due to my untimely exit from the apartment I had shared with my now ex – partner Lorraine, her response was less than enthusiastic. I ignored her non response, and proceeded to annihilate what was left of my fantasy mother by asking her to come back with me to Toronto so that she could help me deal with the unpleasantness brought on by my exit from my aforementioned apartment.

“You know I’m not good with that stuff!” said my mom.
“Mommy!!! I need you!! I need you now!!!!” said desperate me

“I need you mommy!” was now looped through my brain and played non stop throughout my day, like an itchy ear worm.

I couldn’t stop myself. I understood intellectually that I did not win the good mother lottery prize but emotionally I was still just four years old, begging my mommy to come to my tea party. She never came and my Barbie’s had to drink their tea with just Ken and me for company.

In my desperation I called a psychic I saw advertised on my Facebook feed. Rachel told me I needed to forgive my mother before I can move forward. Really? This is what I paid five dollars for? ( It was a special offer.)

How do I forgive? According to the Miriam Webster – I need to stop feeling anger toward the person who wronged me.

I have tried repeatedly to do just that. I really have. I have gone to therapy for years with hopes that I could come to some type of peace with my mother. I have talked incessantly about my situation with Jodee, my long time therapist. I thought I was making slow but steady progress, but in Montréal all healing went to hell in a hand basket. I felt unhinged, as if I literally was coming apart. I was desperate for my mother to take my face in her hands and say –

” Don’t worry Katharine, I got you”

I so wanted my mother to create a safe space for me in Montréal, even though that had never happened on the thousand trips I had made to Montréal previously. I didn’t think I was asking for much, just a drawer to put my clothes in, and an acknowledgment that this was indeed a scary and difficult time for me.

As a child, I did not enjoy Halloween, as dressing up in costume made me anxious. I lived with parents that put on masks every day when they went outside our home. Just like the parents who caution their children to use their inside voices during school and synagogue; my parents used their inside face with me, and their outside face with others. The mask they showed to others was so radically different than the one they showed to me at home, that I am still disturbed by masks of any kind, knowing what danger can lurk beneath.

I tried this time, I really tried to make believe that I could calm this frightened fragmented inner child of mine, but I, like my mother before me, threw baby Katharine out to the wolves. I could not console her and I let her rage at being abandoned take me over.

I so wanted my mother to come to my rescue, just this once.

I kept on repeating:

” Mom, you can redeem yourself for all the damage that you have done before, all I ask is that you create a safe place here for me to rest and recoup until my new apartment becomes available in November.”

And each time I begged and each time I pleaded, I lost a little bit of my soul and a lot of my dignity but I could not help myself, so desperate was I to be seen. To make matters worse, as a retired psychotherapist, I understood intellectually that my mother was not ever going to give me what I needed, and in fact took pleasure in seeing her former jappy princess daughter reduced to sleeping on her not so comfy couch, but I was not able to make my brain meet my heart.

Weeks passed in this way, and then my birthday happened, or didn’t happen, to be more accurate.

I had spent the weekend before my birthday celebrating with my close friend Marcus and his family. Before meeting Marcus I had an idea of what familial love should feel like, but did not have a body memory to go with it. Thanks to Marcus and his family, I have experienced love as a felt sense. To celebrate my birthday, they surprised me with a weekend at the splendid Hovey Manor, located in the Eastern Townships.

When I came back I made the mistake of sharing my joy with my mother. If any of you here tonight are familiar with the reality TV show Survivor, whenever the winner of a reward challenge gloats about her reward, the people left behind become angry. I came home so happy, I forget my own rule about keeping my joy contained so as not to risk my mother’s wrath.

Too late.

Now I was to be punished, and since the punishment level was in line with my joy, the punishment was extreme. My mother decided to banish me from her kingdom which meant that my birthday would not be acknowledged.

No birthday cake. No birthday card.

” But I’m sixty, Mommy!! See me! Celebrate me!”

And my shame at my bottomless need to be seen by her, obfuscated my otherwise sound judgment.

And still.. and still.

I’m now back in Toronto, safely ensconced in my new cozy apartment. Every morning before I get out of bed, and every night before I go to sleep, this agnostic Jew prays to the Divine Mother and my Guardian Angels and anyone else I can think of, saying my prayers out loud because I don’t want to take any chances on any unseen helpers not hearing my forgiveness plea.

“I release you mother, and the hold you have on my heart. I am going to do my best to stop blaming you for not being the mother I so desperately wanted, and to try my best to live a life unencumbered by my old friends shame and blame. Please dear Mother God send me your love and healing and if you’re feeling really generous, please send me my Beloved. I am ready to receive her now!”

Hopefully these prayers will help me this month when Chanukah comes around, so that when I light my Chanukah candles sans Maman, I can take comfort in knowing that like the Maccabees before me, I have won the battle even though I have lost the war.

Father’s Day

My Dad loved me, the only person in my entire extended family who did.
Love is a verb, therefore action is necessary to activate the love. Remeber the game Twister? Remember the floor board that came with the game? There was a plastic mat with large different coloured circles on them. I imagine my Dad standing on a large red circle. This circle represented the love he felt for me.
Unfortunately he couldn’t make it over to the green circle which is where he would have activated his love, because he got stuck on the yellow circle in the middle. That yellow circle represented all his baggage. He had a trio of matching pieces from Samsonite, one holding shame, one holding rage and the last holding his emasculated power.
I have often imagined what my life would have looked like had my Dad been able to have unpacked those three pieces of luggage, and had been free to be his organic unemcumbered self.
I am working daily to unpack my own set of LV bags, but that darn zipper is stuck in the bag that holds my unlovablitity. I’m walking over to Canadian Tire to get some WD-40 as soon as I finish this piece, so that I might be able to feel what my Dad never felt; a sense, a knowing that I am deserving of love, just because I exist in this world.
We did find interesectionality in humour. We both shared a fondness for long convoluted stories with great punch lines. This is my favourite joke and I send it out and up to my Dad, wherever he now resides. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
Here is the joke:
A woman went to the only hairdresser in town to get her hair styled for a vacation trip to Rome with her husband. She mentioned the trip to the hairdresser, who was of Italian descent. “Rome? Why you go there? He responded.” It’s crowded and dirty. Full of tourists. So, how are you getting there?”
“We’re flying US Airways,” was the reply. “We got a great rate!”
“US Airways!” exclaimed the hairdresser. “Too bad. That’s the worst airline. Always late. You should have asked me first. I’m always flying to Italy. So where are you staying in Rome?”
“We’ll be at this little place over on the Tiber River called Teste.”
“Oh, I know that place. Everybody thinks it’s going to be something special and exclusive, but it’s really a dump.” You should not stay in Rome, and you should not visit the touristy things there.”
“But we want to see the Vatican and maybe get to see the Pope!” Exclaimed the woman
“You and and thousands of other people. He’ll look the size of an ant. Watch out you don’t get your pocket picked in the crowd.” Said the hairdresser
A month later, the woman comes back to the beauty parlor. The hairdresser asked her about her trip to Rome. “It was wonderful,” explained the woman “not only were we on time in one of US Airways brand new planes, but the tourist class was overbooked, so they put us in first class. And the hotel was great! They too were overbooked, so they apologized and gave us a suite for the price of a room!” “Well” muttered the hairdresser “I’m happy for your good luck, but I was right it was a waste of time to try to see the Pope, wasn’t it?”
“Actually, we had a wonderful experience at the Vatican, too. A Swiss Guard tapped my husband on the shoulder, and explained that the Pope likes to meet visitors, and if we’d like to step into anteroom of his quarters and wait, we would get a brief audience with the Pope. We did and five minutes later, the Pope walked through the door and blessed us! He even talked to us a little.”
“Oh, really! What’d he say?”
He said, “Who fucked up your hair?”

Artemis and Me

 

 

 

 

 

Artemis and Me

 

 

He slipped into the booth

adjacent to mine

this morning

at the coffee shop

down the street from

my mother’s apartment.

 

He told me his name was Hugh,

when I asked  if Louie and Dewey

were coming to join him,

he did not appear to be amused.

Perhaps he was averse to ducks –

or me.

 

Hugh was lit from the inside

he seemed both

birthday candles

and birthday cake.

 

My heartbeat.

The hunger.

I want it.

I want it.

 

Hugh was wearing a large

beaded tiger’s eye bracelet

on his left wrist

that immediately grabbed

my attention.

 

I had to have one

just like his,

even though

I had long ago

given up jewelry-

even though

I had long ago

given up men.

 

My heartbeat.

The hunger.

I want it.

I want it.

 

I lusted after his bracelet

knowing if I owned one

just like Hugh’s,

his super powers

would flow from his

bracelet to mine.

 

Hugh told me about Jasmine,

creator of the bracelet,

who sold her jewelry

from her home

across from his yoga studio.

 

Of course

he practiced yoga,

I’m sure he brought

his own mat

made out of

organically grown hemp.

 

After some gentle prodding,

Hugh gave me Jasmine’s number.

I could feel myself inching closer

to the magic.

 

My heartbeat.

The hunger.

I want it.

I want it.

 

 

I sent Jasmine a text and

she replied instantly.

“Come over right away!

I live in St Henri.”

Which meant nothing to me

since I am

directionally challenged

on the best of days.

 

“Is that far?” I asked

“I don’t have a car and I will be

walking with my dog.”

“It’s not far at all” said Jasmine

“Just walk down Greene Street,

then turn left

onto St. Jacques.

It should take you less

than twenty minutes.”

 

So off we go

my puppy Lucille and me,

intrepid journeywoman

and her trusty canine companion.

 

Except that it doesn’t take us

twenty minutes

or thirty minutes

or even forty,

but I tell

myself I don’t care

because it’s all downhill,

because it’s a sunny day,

because Lucille is happy,

because the eye of the tiger

is calling me home.

 

I reach my destination

and knock boldly on her

crimson coloured door.

A full bodied woman

wearing a vintage

Japanese kimono

opens the door and says

“Welcome, I’m Jasmine!”

 

My heartbeat.

The hunger.

I want it.

I want it.

 

“I have been walking on my knees

for a hundred miles through

the desert repenting.” I said

“Well then you must be thirsty”

said she.

 

She offered Lucille and I

water from her well.

I had never tasted water

so pure and so sweet.

 

Jasmine brought out

her baubles for me

to admire.

She had bracelets made

of amethyst and garnet,

lapis and hematite.

She had bracelets made

of silver and gold,

copper and pewter,

but no tiger’s eye in sight.

 

I asked Jasmine if she could make me

the same tiger’s eye

bracelet that she made

for Hugh.

 

“I’m so sorry” said Jasmine

“Hugh is divine incarnate,  I made

that bracelet only for him”

 

And just like that,

with one little snap,

I was banished from the island

where hope and hearth and family

reside and I

most definitely,

now never will.

 

My heartbeat.

The hunger.

I want it.

I want it.

 

I couldn’t help myself,

my eyes immediately

filled with

tears.

 

Jasmine offered me a consolation

prize, a bracelet made of hawk’s eye.

 

Hawk’s eye?

I was not a graceful loser,

always mortified to come in second.

Most often when the going got tough,

I left the race, easier to escape

than deal with the shame of defeat.

 

So there I was

my tears staining

her cherry wood

table, when Jasmine gently

took my hand and placed

the bracelet on my wrist.

 

“Look Katharine, I think

Hawk’s Eye suits your

skin tone even better.”

 

“Tiger’s  eye is the sun, but

hawk’s eye is the moon, and didn’t

you just tell me that your

favourite colour was grey?”

 

I did and it is and I keep

a portrait of Artemis

Goddess of the Hunt

and the Moon, on my bedside table.

 

I know my hunger –

my wanting,

will never be sated by

donuts and Dim Sum,

baubles and bling,

winning medals of

honour or any shiny thing.

 

I get that-

I truly do

but the wanting,

my wanting,

is the closest I’ve gotten to

feeling tethered

to something tangible.

 

So for a moment,

for that one brief wanting moment,

I can stop feeling

that I’m here dangling

all alone on

the edge of the earth.

 

My heartbeat.

The hunger.

I want it.

I want it.

 

 

K.A.L.

Facing My Fears: The Big Black Dog

 

                                    “It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood.”
So said Mister Rogers from the iconic children’s show Mister Roger’s Neighbourhood, and I. We have been deluged by rain all week here in Hogtown. Today the sun was finally shining, making this day perfect for a walk with my puppy Lucille in the Rosedale Ravine that lies kitty-corner to my apartment. This particular ravine reminds me of a 19th century castle nestled in the Scottish country side, complete with crumbling stone walls and a tumbling creek.

We were about to make our way down the usual route to the creek when something caught my eye. I saw in the distance a very large black dog unleashed, the dog’s owner busy on her cellphone.

Here is where I make my confession; I have an enormous fear of large dogs.  I am terrified that they will jump up on me and their largess will make me lose my balance, and just like Humpty before me, I shall tumble down.

Ten years I ago I was working as a Reiki Therapist.  One day while carrying my massage table to my car, I felt something pop in my groin. I knew something had gone awry in my body and it turned out I had now earned myself an inguinal hernia. I had surgery to correct the issue, but the surgeon told me it would be best from now on if I didn’t lift anything heavier than fifteen pounds. In my mind lifting felt synonymous with large loping lumbering dogs jumping on top of me.

Because I am a self proclaimed control freak, I fear the unknown. The seconds before a dog approaches me is always when my fear reaches its apex, not knowing if said dog will be friend or foe. My motto has always been:

When you see a big dog, run!run!run!

I decided to take the path less traveled, away from the black dog down to the St. Claire reservoir. I felt proud of my proactive decision. I kept reminding myself that I was safe,   keeping my breathing steady and my focus on my feet, working hard not to think about being Devoured by Dog.

The terrain here was much rougher, but equally compelling. I turned up the volume on my IPod, using music to help me focus on the narrow path. Suddenly I felt something  rush by me. It was the big black dog on the loose! She/he was running up and down the narrow path looking for it’s owner. Even in my panicked state I could tell it wasn’t interested in Lucille nor myself, the poor dog had just lost track of their owner and was frantic in their attempt to find her.

“Katharine, you can never escape the big black dog.”  I said to myself ruefully. Winston Churchill coined the expression black dog when talking about his depression. It stands to reason that this particular black dog represented my own personal demons.

I am both the hunted and the hunter. I am both the big black dog and my fear.

After decades of feeding my fear with food, I am finally free of my addiction, ready to deal directly with my terror, which has manifested itself today in the shape of a big black dog.

I  must face my fear of being lost as well as facing my fear of feeling fearful. I must face my pre-verbal fear of being devoured by my mother. I am a trauma survivor who now is working hard to transform myself from Survivor to Thriver.

An acronym for fear is False. Evidence. Appearing. Real.  I had nothing to fear from this particular black dog, so I did the only thing I could do. I just kept on walking, one step at a time.

Popsicle Toes

“And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Anais Nin

There is no growth without risk, or so the saying goes. Yesterday I tried to do something incredibly difficult. A friend of mine was celebrating her fiftieth birthday by throwing herself an afternoon tea party.

I really wanted to go;  my friend is a therapist and a lesbian to boot, so I knew I would be meeting people at the party who were my kind of people. Since I want more than anything to find a partner, this would be an ideal venue to meet my beloved. 

I drove to her home and found parking right in front of her house yet I couldn’t make myself get out of the car. I  drove around the block and tried a second time, still frozen with fear, unable to do the hard scary thing I desperately wanted to do.

 For my third try, just like the game show where you can phone a friend for help with the answer, I phoned my friend Bobbi who agreed to be my wing- woman. However, by the time I picked her up and returned to the party it was approaching dusk, and it felt too late.

 I came home feeling incredibly discouraged. As I soaked in my Epsom Salted bath, I reviewed my afternoon and said to myself ‘Face your fear, baby. It will grow you up’ .

Clearly I isn’t growed up yet. There is still a part of me frozen in time, clinging desperately to my mother’s non existent apron strings begging her not to leave me here, all alone and without agency.

I am going to spend the rest of my days here on earth, trying my best to be present for my tiny frozen in time little girl, reminding her that she is safe here, with me.  I am hopeful the warmth of my gaze will defrost her frozen bones and she will finally after 58 years be free to get ‘All growed up’ .

 

 May this be true for all of your popsicle little children waiting inside of you to be growed up by the one person, the only person that is best suited for this most challenging of tasks.  Let’s take the greatest risk of all, together. Let us believe deep down in our core that we are lovable and worthy of rescue.

Let’s get out our comfiest towel, warm it in the microwave and place it on our hearts  imagining our little frozen child inside of us slowly, slowly, warming.

Thursday Morning Musings

Studies have shown (yes, those ubiquitous studies) that when people choose lovers who resemble themselves, those relationships are often stronger and last longer.

Therein lies my problem. I have yet to choose someone just like me, instead choosing lovers for their Beauty.

Here is just one on my list of important qualities –  beautiful hands.

I am born under the sign of Libra and Libra is ruled by Venus. Venus is the planet of love, relationships, and beauty. So it stands to reason that when I meet a woman who has beautiful strong hands I often fall just a little bit in love.

I imagine those hands constructing an outdoor hot tub, because I have always wanted an outdoor hot tub custom built by my very own handy dyke. While mine is a worthy fantasy, after that tub is built and we are chillin’ in our tubbie, my fantasy crashes and burns.

I am a series of anomalies wrapped in a tiny but chubby body. I read The Globe and Mail every day so I am well aware of current events but choose not to discuss politics or business nor the state of the world, choosing instead to talk almost obsessively, according to the dykes I have dated, about Relationship. This does not go over well with said dykes who would rather take a blow to the head than talk about Us.

I am a Jew who goes to my local LGBT church. I am J.A.P who doesn’t wear makeup or blow dry her hair, but loves to frequent five star hotels. I eschew jewelry but am obsessed with my oversized Rolex. I am a voracious reader who prefers not to talk about the books I have read, instead choosing to keep them close to my heart.

I am an expansive relational woman who finds other expansive relational women too much –  hence my trajectory toward the cold contained W.A.S.P dyke who then rejects my wild heathen ways.

Oh well, it is what it is, and I am what I am. As Doris Day sings ‘Que Sera Sera’.

The Inside Out Film Festival begins this week, and I am off to stand in line in the rain to see if can purchase a ticket for the film ‘The Ring Thing’. Perhaps if the fates allow, I shall be standing in line when a gallant dyke offers me the shelter of her umbrella.

Stayed tuned…

Oh Happy Day

On this day 1/4 of a century ago, I was a little pregnant and a whole lot overwhelmed for I was committing to a man that I did not love, wearing a dress not of my choosing and marrying in the very same synagogue where I had lost my faith years before.

But then…..

There was that moment.

That one perfect moment just after those enormous wooden double doors of the sanctuary opened and I began my slow walk down the long red carpeted aisle, when I heard a collective gasp from the crowd, and for those few fleeting seconds I felt like a real Princess Bride.

Then it was my parents turn to march. They walked down the aisle to meet me halfway where we would walk a trois together towards the Beemah.

As I reached out to hold their hands, I tripped and all of my princess beauty collapsed into a heap in the middle of that red carpeted aisle, my true self exposed for all to see.

Of course, there was the matter of the groom. And even though it ended with vitriol and violence, it was worth it all for those few glorious seconds where I actually felt in the deepest down part of me, that I was finally being seen as the Radiant Self  I so longed to be.

I Just Want To Thank You

Early this morning, I walked over to the park on the street where I live, Lucille-less. I  just wanted to be in the moment, breathing in the fresh morning air unencumbered by my puppy, who is charming and funny but needs constant supervision since Lucille feels it is her personal mission to eradicate every single one of those pesky squirrels that live just to torment her.

I  am terrified of large dogs, so I rarely go to this particular park even though it is literally across the street from my home, because this zaftig neurotic lesbian Jewess does not think it is at all relaxing to be jumped on by large loping roaming free dogs despite their owner’s protestations that Rover is super friendly.

 However, on this particularly beautiful spring morning I thought it might be worth the risk, praying to God (which is after all, Dog spelled backwards) that my doggie neighbours would still be fast asleep in their doggie beds.

So off I went, down the steep step of stairs that brought me directly into the park and then, boom! sun glorious sun and wide open space and no one there but me and I was so happy and so grateful to be alive and whole, arriving Here
to watch the sun rise on this glorious day.

 Just then the song ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell came on my IPod and I began to dance with abandon, singing gloriously off-key, opening my heart once again to the magic of our world.