Solitude and the art of being.

As I sit in the screen-in porch at my dad’s house, I realize that I am completely alone. The only other heartbeats around me belong to the hearts of birds and chipmunks, those wild turkeys that eat the birdseed that the squirrels knock to the ground from the birdfeeder, and innumerable other little creatures in the trees, grass, air, and cracks in the stone. But no people. I am the only one.

The wind picks up and rustles the trees. It’s a bit chilly for July. I think it might be raining, but I can hardly tell through the screen – maybe just a misting.10483631_10150406924284995_207213603067644352_n

Solitude.

I can’t remember the last time I was this alone. I’m never this alone in the suburbs – we share a wall with the neighbours. People drive by in their cars and on their bikes. They walk past our house on the way to school, or to catch the train. They are just always there.

This solitude is comforting and has given me time to reflect. It struck me today that I’ve lost the art of being. At some point, I became a doer – always thinking about what’s next, where I need to be, who I need to talk to, feed, bathe, put to bed, email, text back, call (gasp!), make dinner for, buy coffee from, get to an appointment with… so many tasks.

As I sit here, I am trying to just let myself write and push away thoughts about when I’m going to head back home and what route I’ll take – where I will stop for coffee and whether I’ll need gas before I get home. I’m trying not to think about rushing home to relieve the caregiver of my kids. I need this time. This solitude. This moment – for me, to be me, to just be.

I’m Still Standing…

“How are you still standing?” She said to me as we talked about my day. “I’d be a puddle of tears if I’d had to deal with half the stuff you do.” she said. I shrugged. “I don’t have a choice” I replied. “Besides, it’s my normal. I’m used to it.”

The truth is, though, that I often do want to dissolve into a puddle on the floor, or rock myself while clutching my knees against my chest, or not leave the house because the thought of getting ready seems like too much to bear.

But I resist. I carry on with my day, moment by moment, adjusting to every new curve ball life throws our way. I’ve mastered the art of catching them bare-handed before they break a window, or hit someone in the head. I wish I had a bat to hit them out of the park, but instead I just collect them, waiting for the pitcher to tire.

Our little family has endured a lot in the past 4 years – more than the average family of four, though every one has its trials. We’re dealing with medical issues, testing, treatments, side effects, uncertainty, and the death of a family member… and that is just in the past three months. It’s been difficult and trying, but we have a good support system.

An average month sees me at a doctor’s office, lab, or hospital about six times – for me and the kids. We’re starting to finally get some answers to some questions, so that might slow down in the coming months.

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It’s busy. I’m busy. It’s stressful and I’m stressed. But, I’m still standing. Because I have to and I need to and I want to. I manage, and in spite of all the stress and upheaval in our lives, I’m happy.

I have figured out how to cope – my therapy comes in the form of drives in the country and moments of solitude by the water. Nature grounds me and gives me peace. I focus on moments so I can live my life, instead of having it consume me. I revel in the beauty and find the joy in the moment – the smell of the flowers, the lapping of the waves, the wind rustling fresh leaves, Em’s shrieks of delight at discovering fish in a tank (even though I didn’t share in her delight). Life is made in moments – and my joyful moments far outweigh my heavy ones

Here’s to joyful moments…

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Sarah, loosely defined.

All week, I’ve been agonizing over writing a bio. Everything I’ve read recommends starting a bio with your name and what you do – as in “Sarah is a ______.” I gots nothing. What the heck am I? The only single word that describes me is “mother” and not only is that not totally relevant to the bio I’m trying to write, it doesn’t reflect what I have to offer.picture270

So, where does that leave me?

I’ve never really had a professional title – a single word to sum up my education and experience – like teacher, or doctor, or accountant. “What do you do?” has always been met with an awkward silence.

For years, I was a trainer. I stood in front of rooms full of people and taught content that, in many cases, I had researched and developed. That doesn’t make me a teacher, though. Not in a traditional sense.

I’ve grown into the title of writer. It is what I do – what I love to do and, in some capacity, how I’ve been making a living for five years. Can I can claim the title “writer” if I am not published? What do I need to do to call myself a writer? I’m not sure.

I also love editing. Though the only editing I’ve done in recent years has been of my own work, I did edit a book once. It was a book published by a place I used to work. It had chapters for which I wrote introductions and conclusions, and each chapter contained interviews that I transcribed and edited. Aside from proofreading and cover art, the entire thing was me – even the interview skills training that led up to the interview sessions. Does that make me an editor? I don’t think so.

An interesting thing happened tonight; I got a call asking if I could deliver a lecture at a local university (on two days’ notice). The thought of delivering a lecture was equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. While I was waiting for more details, my mind raced – I imagined myself in that lecture hall and I was ready to stand up there on a moment’s notice and see where it took me. Unfortunately, the opportunity fell through before I had a chance to pick out an outfit. I was really disappointed and it got me thinking about what I want to be doing and what I am qualified to say I am.

You can see my dilemma. Maybe I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none. Too bad I can’t put that in my bio: Sarah is a jack of all trades and a master of none. She is a teacher, but not in the traditional sense; a writer, loosely defined; and she edited that one book that one time. Sarah lives in the Toronto suburbs with her husband (also loosely defined) and their two children.

Send it to print! We have a winner!

Not so much…

 

 

My Online Presence: A Carefully Crafted Illusion.

An interesting thing has happened over the 20 years that I’ve been living online and interacting with strangers behind keyboards (most of whom were anonymous until about 8 years ago). I’d like to call it judgment, but that doesn’t seem strong enough; people regularly get eviscerated for saying something online that doesn’t fall in line with what other people believe to be right or good.

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Not long ago, I tweeted this while someone who follows me was tweeting about cancer. Her response to my tweet was along the lines of: Aren’t you lucky that that’s all you have to worry about. Your coffee spilled. What a tragedy. At the time, I made light of it because 1) that’s what I do 2) she was obviously going through something.

But, here’s the thing: just because I’m lamenting over spilled coffee, or sharing a funny anecdote about my kids, doesn’t mean my life is all rainbows and butterflies. Is cancer a reality in my life right now? Yes. Am I dealing with the health issues of loved ones? Yes. My kids, included. I struggle and I stress and I feel sad and lonely and angry and frustrated – sometimes all in the same moment. Sometimes, for many moments. Too many moments.

Who I am in public is all me, but it’s not all of me. It reflects me, but it doesn’t encompass who I am.

There is a lot that I don’t share online, for a variety of reasons. Years ago, I decided that I want my online presence to be positive – I want it be supportive and funny and, if possible, thought-provoking. I want it to be something I do to escape the trials of my life. It reflects the best of my life and I’m alright with that. You might call that inauthentic. I call it self-preservation.

I enjoy a good online discussion, which is why I post articles, videos and images that might generate those discussions on Facebook, where people know me. There was a time when I’d invite myself into such debates in public forums, like Twitter, and engage trolls, but I discovered that all it did was bring me down and affect my mood. I don’t believe it’s ever been terribly effective, anyway; to my knowledge, I have never changed the mind of an argumentative stranger behind a keyboard. I save that for people in my physical space – people I see face-to-face, strangers and loved ones alike.

Don’t assume that just because people aren’t talking about something online that they aren’t living it, thinking about it, or talking about it offline. People are living their lives and only sharing aspects of it – they participate in debates to the extent to which they are comfortable, or not at all. And that is alright. The people who aren’t talking about certain things may be the ones who are actually affected the most.

What aspects of your life do you share online?
Are you more likely to vent online or create the illusion of rainbows and butterflies?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, Superman is Black.

Q: “Yay! The black guy is in this episode!”
Me: “Why does that make you so happy?”
Q: “Because he’s black like Daddy. Most guys on TV are white.”

Welcome to Q’s life. At five years old, he’s not only aware of racial differences, but how much and how often those differences are represented in the shows he watches, the books he reads, and the superheroes he looks up to. He is quick to gleefully point out a black character – even if the character isn’t his favourite, he’s happy to have black people visible and included. It’s apparent that he takes note of the lack of representation, but it’s hard to know how he processes it. I only get glimpses.

Q: “Mommy, why are most superheroes white?”
Me: “Why do you think that is?”
Q: “I think it’s because white people draw them.”

If that is how he makes sense of it, what does that mean to him at a deeper level? That last statement “I think it’s because white people draw them.” speaks volumes about how he thinks the world is ordered – superheroes are white because white people draw superheroes. He’s not wrong. Does he ascribe value to that? Does he infer that because most superheroes are white and most guys on TV are white, that white people are better? More important? More worthy of being seen and represented? That remains to be seen. He has asked us if black people are bad, so he is thinking about it.

Today, Q proudly presented his Lego Superman to us. “I put a black head on him. Now, Superman is black.”

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As much as some would like to believe otherwise, kids see race and they take note about how much and how often different people are represented. Q is trying to make sense of it all – and even change it in his own little world. He deserves better. All kids do.

If the lack of diversity in media is obvious to a five year old, so why are we so reluctant to acknowledge it and do something about it?

February is Black History Month. Here are some Canadian resources.