When you just have to sing show tunes

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Musical theatre was a big part of my childhood. Once upon a time, our tiny community centre was host to many fantastic productions of popular musicals and, in my teens, my friends and I could be found in the front row, hanging on every word and every note of those shows. We became such a part of the production that we were welcomed into the rooms below the theatre each night after the show had ended to hang out with the performers we came to know and love.

Music has always been a focal point in my life. My dad had a wonderful voice and my mom, although she admittedly could not carry much of a tune, also embraced the sounds that were able to transport her into another world. I easily followed in their footsteps. There is nothing more magical than being able to lose yourself in the arrangements of a musical soundtrack that can send you to a place where simple words have no meaning unless they are delivered in a four-part harmony.

This year did not start well for me. Every creative outlet I had turned its back on me and I struggled to return to a place of happiness after suffering a devastating loss. The light that held out its hand to me, the light that pulled me out of the darkness, was music. I began to listen to familiar songs that held a special place in my heart. Musicals that had long-since buried themselves in my past came rushing back and made me remember the joy I felt when those notes awakened my senses.

After spending many hours on YouTube, replaying songs from musicals I could sing in my sleep, I found Collabro. Five, now four, very talented young British voices that echo my love of musical theatre took me from a place of innate sadness to a place where joy still lives, and that joy has now cultivated a seed that has been given a chance to grow and thrive. Songs I knew so well, and songs I am now discovering, are taking me from the depth of despair to a place where life has been given new breath all because I am, once again, finding myself in a place where I found such great comfort.

Cradle your contentment. Sing show tunes. Embrace those things that may make others look at you sideways but bring you joy. Judgement is subjective. Happiness should be indestructible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll have the large ego with a side of narcissism

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I can’t be specific about the details that led me to post this story but I could not let this one slide. The human condition influences everyone and it is how we choose to accept and live with that condition that defines us. Our choices create a finite map of the paths our lives will follow. They establish the moral compass we abide by and we are afforded the wisdom to comprehend the moments that are best left alone without comment or judgment. The choice made by one particular individual adhered to none of those things.

I was presented with a question following a series of emails that had gone back and forth. I answered the question with a succinct and honest response and was shocked, but more than that I was perversely amused, by the six paragraph diatribe that followed my response. Contained in those six paragraphs were lines of self-flattery, condescending comments made to provoke a response and an overall lack of understanding for the reason the conversation began in the first place.

Being a writer and loving the opportunity to embrace each moment I am able to use my words, I wisely declined to comment on this onslaught of nonsense and I took the higher road. I’m sure my lack of response will have more of an effect on this person’s psyche than any string of phrases I could ever write in reaction to his mindless observations. But being a writer also means I am adept at doing research online and I spent some time attempting to find any corroborating evidence of his claims. I found nothing.

In the age of being present online to sell yourself and expound on your abilities and achievements, especially for a narcissist, the crickets chirped louder with each questioning line I typed into the Google search engine. This person, the man who expounded on his many great accomplishments in his field, wasn’t even a blip on the radar that is so keen to share prolific details of any public success. He is a ghost.

The precious moments of time I spent disproving his claims may be seen as impractical but I needed that vindication. I am unable to walk away from a situation, even something as petty as this, without knowing I gave him every benefit of the doubt. This case is now closed and he, his ego and his narcissism can all live happily ever after.

 

 

 

Memories

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Our lives consist of many moving parts. New experiences pummel our daily lives but nothing can keep us attached to our true selves as much as our memories. As I write this post, I am eating a piece of rye toast for dinner, one that has been crusted with a few pieces of processed cheese toasted on top of that rye bread in a toaster oven. This is not a meal I make on a regular basis but one that takes me back to a place that makes me happy.

I love to look back on the stages of my life that have had a significant impact on me, to reflect on the moments that have helped shape the person I am today. Those snippets of my past that have woven their way into the blanket of my reality are the threads of my true soul. Each chapter of my life has helped to create a strong connection from the person I was to the person I have become.

To ignore my past would be a great injustice to the person I am now. Every phase of my life, every triumph, every failure, has brought me to my here and now. I could not express my sentiments about grief and pain if I had not felt those feelings with every fiber of my being. And I could not expound on my successes if I devalued my achievements in any way. Every bit of my past has brought me to where I am now and, although I think about how things could have been different, I would not change a single thing.

I am who I am because of my past. Good or bad, I am where I need to be. I have learned many lessons from my achievements as well as my deficiencies. I have become well-versed on striving for success but I am able to accept the worst if it presents itself. And I have become extremely proficient at quickly moving on to Plan B at a moment’s notice.

These memories, these blueprints of my original design, have sculpted the mold for the formidable structure I am today. And while many of my tender memories lay exposed in the foundation of my life, I protect the bricks of that foundation with the impassioned determination to defend the sanctity of my history while I am embroiled in my current reality.

My past is a rudimentary sketch of who I am now. It is the mere stick figure of the three-dimensional character I am able to call me.  And today, my memories are as much a part of me as the things that happen in my day-to-day reality and I hope that will never change.

Memories are the things that shape us and give us an anchor in the churning sea of our existence. I just hope we can all have faith in that anchor to hold us in the present but never forget the past.

 

 

 

I knew the day would come

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One of my worst memories after the death of each of my parents was gathering the strength to go through their belongings and decide what to keep and what to donate to charity. It is hard to discard anything that once belonged to someone we loved so much. It felt like a betrayal, throwing out the things, even the ugly 80’s sweaters, that were so much a part of our every day life.

For the first time since saying goodbye to Callaway, I vacuumed my house on Saturday. It may sound like a strange thing to struggle with but I couldn’t bear to not see her hair on my floor. It didn’t matter what the season, my dog could shed like an Olympic champion if shedding were a category, and I had moments where my grief was so raw that I thought I might leave that hair on my floor forever.

But grief is a fickle thing. It can be debilitating and then one day it becomes different, not easier just different. I still greet her when I come home and say goodbye to her and tell her I love her when I leave. I’m sure that, too, will change over time but I find comfort in knowing wherever she is on the other side of that rainbow bridge, she can still hear me.

Before I vacuumed, I rolled up the three runner carpets I had put down in my kitchen when she began to have difficulty on hardwood and linoleum floors. Her golf-themed dog dish that had always claimed its place on that same kitchen floor has been carefully stored away but her dog bed will stay in its fixed spot in my living room. The pieces of carpet that were picked loose when she stretched in the morning will remain tattered strings to remind me of the best and funniest parts of her.

The window in my bedroom will be the last chore. It was the place she loved to spend her time while I was gone and those nose prints are going to be a hard thing to wash away. Every day I take more steps without her and every day I try to change my habits so my day-to-day life isn’t saturated with her absence. It will eventually get easier, but embracing the overwhelming sense of loss only reminds me of how special she was.

When I find myself in times of trouble

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I love to be in my kitchen. On occasion, I still make cakes and each time I bake a chocolate cake from scratch, the smell from the oven eventually permeates my home and I always say out loud, “it smells like my house”. It is a strange thing to do, but a habit I cannot seem to break, nor do I want to.

I have always loved to be fixed comfortably in front of a mixing bowl or a cutting board. This is my refuge and a place I find the most contentment when I am dealing with emotions that are too big for me to process. I lose myself in the pleasure of chopping and blending, mixing and pouring, and it gives me a sense of peace I have not been able to find anywhere else, with the exception of my writing.

I remember the moment twenty years ago when I was looking for a place to rent after returning from out of province. I had been told about a house that had not yet been advertised and my parents and I drove to this house, parked at the end of the driveway and awkwardly trudged through snow up to our mid-thighs to get a better look. The snow was piled so high around the house that it was easy to peer into the windows to see the layout. The kitchen was the biggest room in the six-hundred square foot home and I knew it was meant to be mine. Before the house had even been advertised as being for rent, I had signed a lease with the landlady and moved in on April first.

Even though I was only renting, I knew this was my forever place. Four years after being a tenant, I ultimately wore my landlady down and convinced her to sell me the property I called home. This haven I am able to call my own will never make the cover of any magazines, but it is mine and it is the place that cradles the memories, good and bad, I have made over the past twenty years.

I have been single, married and divorced while living here. I have lost my best college friend, both of my parents and my furry companion of twelve and a half years while living here. And while nervously standing on the batter’s box staring down the many curve balls life has thrown at me, I have been living here. The roof and the walls of this home wrap me in a protective shield and I am indestructible here.

So, when I find myself in times of trouble, I will seek asylum in this tiny shelter with my feet firmly planted in my kitchen. I am afforded the dignity of dealing with my reality while being protected by this small fortress in the middle of nowhere and I can’t, in the foreseeable future, picture myself anywhere else. I am going to let my kitchen work its magic, embrace the words of wisdom these walls have to offer and just let it be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If only the trash could always take itself out

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This blog is my forum, my asylum, my place to say things I want to say without the consequence of having to defend my words to anyone.

While trying to get my brain back into writing mode by entering a short story contest, I was notably derailed by social media. I still have time to make the contest deadline on Friday but my brain has been so consumed by my intense feelings and my desire to work through them that I do not have the ability to string a series of words together other than to defend myself against words that were written hastily towards me with an underlying malice, intended or not.

I made an innocuous post on Facebook on Sunday night stating my intention to book my “staycation” in March and get my next tattoo that will have a great deal of meaning for me. The first response to my post took me by surprise and left me feeling like I had to defend the words I had written. Without going into great detail, I was hurt more than I anticipated and knocked down by a friend I have known for many years. But the overwhelmingly supportive tribe in my small community quickly lifted me up and made me dust myself off.

Words have a great deal of power. The people who brandish strings of words without thinking about them before they write them do not realize the devastating effect those words can have on those who are the focus of their bitter diatribe. But being offended by those words gave ME the power. Being offended by those words made me move on and continue to be an adult. And being offended by those words made me fully aware that, thankfully, I was not the only one outraged by those words.

Shortly after the deluge of responding opinions from the people who support me, the author of the comment who started this whole mess “unfriended” me on Facebook. One of the remarks I received truly stood out and is the most fitting line to be the title and the conclusion of this post, and I thank her for that.

“If only the trash could always take itself out”.

 

 

Time doesn’t heal, it just changes your perspective

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I presumably share more things on this blog about my personal life than people want to read. But starting this blog eight years ago gave me a forum to write about whatever I choose to write about and if you, who are following, still want to read along, I thank you for being a part of my journey.

The beginning of this new month, new year and new decade has not started well for me. I had to say goodbye to the truest form of devotion I have known and I miss her presence every single moment. One day at a time, I have had to forge ahead and rewrite the scenes as I go. I thought I would be performing the original script for many more years to come, but such is not the case and the blank pages are waiting for a new story to unfold.

Slowly, I am beginning to build my new life one sentence at a time. As I construct those sentences, they become paragraphs and those flowing, connective words will eventually become a new story. It is an arduous task, but one I have to undertake with a strong will and the faith that good things wait ahead for me.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have begun to focus more on myself. I have selfishly decided the needs of the one (me) might (if only temporarily) outweigh the needs of the many I have been focusing on for a very long time.

Time doesn’t feel like it is healing me, but merely making me look at things with a fresh, and possibly transitory self-indulgent, perspective and, for once, I am giving in to that prospect. I go into the unknown with the understanding that time holds me in its furtive embrace, willing me to see things in a new light.

Side line – as I was writing this post, I was called out on social media for wanting to get a “look at me” tattoo to honor my faithful companion of twelve years. I was made painfully aware that the money I will spend on having her memory etched onto my skin could be seen as a frivolous expenditure and money better spent on causes that could use that donation. My rebuttal to that notion will be as brief as I can make it.

For the past four years, I have spent every Sunday, weather permitting, from November to April, bringing together volunteers to make crockpot meals for our local food bank so the clients can have healthy, home-cooked meals at least once a week. The time spent choosing the meals, making the shopping lists, picking up all of the ingredients and preparing the meals has healed many parts of me and has certainly changed my perspective in many aspects of my life.

Time will never heal my losses. It won’t bring back my parents, my best college friend or my dog. But time will give me many opportunities to put my best foot forward and help in the most essential ways I feel I can help. Time will allow me to engage those volunteers. Time will help me shop for those groceries. Time will help plan those meals and orchestrate the process from food preparation to delivery. And time will help me heal the gaping wounds of my losses by getting tattoos that help me surf the gigantic waves of the grief I encounter from losing those close to me.

Thanks to that hurtful message on social media, time has, once again, changed my perspective. I have time to ignore that viewpoint. I have time to wipe my tears and realize it shouldn’t affect me as much as I let it. And I have time to focus on the good in me and let that good change my perspective on someone I thought was a friend.