The Stuff We are Made Of

March 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

I grew up in an intergenerational family and spent a lot of time with my grandmother who, next to my mom and dad was the most important caregiver in my world. I spent many nights with her throughout my entire childhood (and later, in adult years), often going directly to her house after school where we’d have dinner and then curl up in bed and watch Entertainment Tonight and 60 minutes. At night she scratched my back with long manicured finger nails painted in deep burgundy red. The smell of her Givenchy perfume floated on the soft pillow down and (high thread count) cotton pillow cases.    I knew even then she had a special kind of grace and class, beauty and femininity, I might not ever attain.  I thought femininity was something mysterious and wondered if, eventually, it would just “happen” to me;  I wondered if I would one day start to smell sweet, and if my fingernails would grow long, slender, and beautiful.     At that time,  I gravitated towards scuffed up black army boots and ripped jeans, and could barely  find the time or interest to even brush my hair.    These memories, and countless others, of being with her in her home as a child are precious and even spiritual to me, an inseparable and beautiful part of my history and my identity — where I come from, the stuff I am made of.

Here we are at my high school graduation, one of the first times in my life I’d ever dressed up!

Intergenerational family also means sharing our lives with people who have grown up in very different historical contexts.  This is an amazing learning experience for everyone in a family, if we are open enough to listen to one another and to care about each other’s lives.

There were a few times in my childhood when my two boy cousins and I were sitting around my Granny’s large oak coffee table and she turned to me (the only girl) to say teasingly “why don’t you make the boys a sandwich, they look hungry.”  This was met with chuckles from us all.    “Over my dead body”  ripped into my thoughts like a self-protective reflex,  and would have been my natural first response to her or anyone else who had such an idea, had my grandmother’s presence not stirred in me a deep respect.   Thankfully, my cousins had the good enough sense to let her know this wouldn’t be necessary.  “Thanks but we’re not really that hungry,” they’d say, trying to control adolescent giggles.  I wondered if my Granny was echoing a long-lost memory of what her mother might have said to her in a now distant childhood, in another era long since passed.  I started to wonder about how she had been raised and what it meant to be a woman.

Well, more than two decades have now passed, and my grandmother, now 95, has very different things in mind when we all get together. She wants to know about my film work and what writing projects I am working on, she uses all the contacts she’s got (home care workers, cleaning lady, neighbours) to eek out important connections for me that might help along my career and my social life.  She saves Maclean’s magazine articles she wants me to read.  She is my ally and coach, and let’s me know with no uncertainty: “You’d better get cracking!”

This Christmas, which took place at my grandmother’s house, I thought of my 2-year-old niece playing in the same livingroom where I played when I was her age, around the same coffee table that I grew up with from the day I was born.   I thought about how, in all likelihood, no one will ever say to her (as it had most likely been said to all of her female ancestors) that she should make a sandwich — or do anything, for that matter — just because she is a girl.  I think of all the other rights, thanks to the ways our culture has evolved,  she has been born into. Of course, there will be other challenges for girls and women of her generation, but I can’t help but to think that in some important ways she has come into the world a whole person: A person who will have equal opportunity to  achieve in math and science, sports or sewing, as she will in English or art, if she so chooses  (I was told in highschool that women aren’t good at science,  math or computers – all of which as been disproved by all statistics as well as through my own experience and successes as a film producer).  Many of the choices of women of her generation, I suspect, will not be made on the basis of gender but on the basis of interest and inspiration.

Gender equality is something that is learned in childhood, inside our homes.  We learn that women are valuable and worthy of love by how the division of labour is established, or, in the case of divorce, through the equity with which assets are shared.  Inside our homes, we learn that mom matters when mom and dad share the chores —  not because they are “feminists” but because mom’s life has value just like dad’s and because equality and taking care of one another is actually one of the primary foundations of love itself.   Inheritances, similarly, reflect whether or not, and how a family acknowledges the feelings and value of all of its members.  All of these choices and how we make them, have their roots in the historical context that all of us — women and men alike — were born into. If left unconscious and unexamined, it dictates the amount of value we extend to boys over girls, women’s lives and potential over men’s lives and potential, work done by women over work done by men.   The whole world is healed as we move towards equality inside our homes and between the people we love.

When I got a little older, I found out that my grandmother and all the women of her generation (including my great-grandmother as well, obviously)  had been born into a world where women were not even allowed to vote.  I found out a lot of other things about the context in which she was born and lived her life, through many years of studying and reading.   Some of this knowledge hurt me (it is true that ignorance is bliss), and some of it fascinated me, but I discovered along the way that values of equality, freedom, and inclusion are as important to me as the air I breath.  You could say this makes me a feminist, or simply, someone who believes in the worthiness of every individual soul.

In the span of her lifetime, my grandmother lived through nearly every wave of  feminist history, and was there as within only a few decades nearly every expectation of women and centuries of habitual relating, was turned on its head.   When I am in a room with my family, spanning – amazingly! – four generations of  women now, I think about the incredible potential we have for healing not only our societal, cultural and personal pasts, but our entire world, by learning about one another’s histories, experiences, feelings, and memories.

Most of all, I am reminded that women of different generations don’t live our lives in a vacuum, but rather, each of us is part of a vast continuum of women’s history; we are inseparably linked to one another’s lives and experiences.  Our relationships and our memories ebb and flow, interject and mingle with our daily lives constantly, they are the stuff we are made of.

Now, I am off to paint my nails and make myself a sandwich.

Snow

December 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

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Coming home today when pulling into fulford harbour, you see a white capped Reginald hill, you’ve grown up with this harbour, with this ferry, how many trips back and forth did it carry you on over all the years of your youth?

Pulling into the dock, two swans glide over the water of the inlet and you watch them, wings spread, angelic, bow then land on a ripple in unison. Year in and year out, every season, they too are witness to the continuous story of home.

Your car is stuck in the snow today and so you take the public bus where you meet an old friend.  In your mind flashes a memory of the piggy-back ride he gave you when you were 13 years old, playing in the yard at night, his parent’s party rauckous inside their tiny wooden cabin, aglow under the shadow of cedar trees and freshly sprung maples, a leering moon, translucent  night, the last month of grade eight, cool, crisp, and clean darkness.  Dew on the grass and your bare feet. Memories flash rapidly in and out of your mind as you speak to him, but you wouldn’t mention them now, on a public bus in the snow, or perhaps ever again.

Instead, you talk about your lack of employment, his property and failed marriage, the mortgage.  Childhood flashes like a dream when you blink, as far away and as close as that night you spent together and all the others that you don’t remember.   Where does your past end and his begin in a history shared so deep?

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At Dukes Road, your gumbboots crunch onto fresh snow.  This moment is so pristine, you think, realising that’s a word you have come to define as yet untouched by an LCD screen.  You are stunned, humbled.  Birds dart inches from your chest across this snowed-in narrow country road; it blends into the forest unifying the landscape.  The snowfall drapes a stark white curtain behind a life you’ve too long missed out.  You walk past hoof tracks where a deer has turned a concentric path and continued into the brush. The road is narrow and the trees are overhung, heavy with the weight of the snow. You notice the silence. What exactly has been hushed, you wonder, and where does silence go when the snow melts?

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Walking home you feel something you haven’t felt in eons, and realise there are two of you these days, the one who came before, and the one who comes after.   A journey back to nature is a long road, a relearning of a language you used to speak, though sometimes, it appears in a moment of grace when the snow falls.

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When you arrive home, you notice there are tiny fragile bird tracks on your snowy doorstep and see how close life has been to you all this time. You want to stay outside forever, here, where the story of home is being told by a woodpecker high in the cedar trees and maples.

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You notice that you’re not scared anymore of what’s outside – the cougar sighting last summer or getting lost in the forest is not nearly as frightening now as what is inside.

Of all the strategies to find a moment of sanity, none has been granted as easily as this: a sudden heap of heavy white.  A moment trudged through a path without argument.   Today, you don’t even call it a homecoming; you call it coming back to life.

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“I always thought it would happen to you.”

October 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Safran Films

I was pumping gas at the co-op a couple days ago when an old friend named Steve drove up beside me in his big rusty black truck.  Steve’s had dreads for as long as I can remember and lives on a dreamy old white fishing boat in the Burgoyne harbour with his dog.  He, like everyone these days, asked me what I’m up to.   I fumbled for an explanation as I often do: “I’ve got cheap rent, I’m developing new projects…”  

Steve took this as exciting news.  “You a starving artist now or something?” he asked. 

“You know, I never thought this would happen to me, and then it did.” 

“I always thought it would happen to you.” 

“Thanks. I guess I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“You should.”

The truth is that I grew up with artists, and I’ve been surrounded by them, admired them, felt intimidated…

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My Job

August 12, 2012 § 2 Comments

I admit that working as a waitress this year has had its challenges.  I enjoy the work itself though working with others has offered me many opportunities to delve into some dark emotions, which I struggle to overcome.  One of the things that has been turning around in my head is that I am working a job that is somehow “beneath” me, as I spent years educating myself, paying down large student loan debts and had until this point devoted most of my adult life to my career and worldly ambitions.  Ha!

Life can be so humbling. I welcome the opportunity to be humbled and to learn the lessons that are presented to me.

I struggle with thoughts like these:

It’s a dead end job, I should be more respected, I should be promoted, other people shouldn’t tell me what to do (and especially not when they are younger than me!)

Interestingly, when I am serving some people, sometimes I can feel this same attitude directed towards me  — who me?! I am serving in a very high-end restaurant and the average meal is $150 per person.  Sometimes I sense the thoughts of the customers swirling about me in much the same way, they believe they are better than me, because of their education, their wealth, their class, their opportunities…  the list goes on.

“Could you get me some more butter please Miss, and make it quick.”

Sometimes I start to burn up inside. And then other times I am overcome with a kind of nausea at my thinking, as I know how deeply flawed it is, I just don’t know how to find the truth of the situation and to move through it with grace.  I can’t find my way to peace and yet I know it is there, waiting for me to crack the code.    Inside I want to believe that life should have rewarded me more for all my hard work in the past.  I feel bitter and frustrated by this.

Last week I had an epiphany that sent shivers up my spine.  Finally I got what I already knew all along, that all of us are actually equal, regardless of our age or background or wealth or education. This is a hard one for me, as somewhere along the line I internalised a belief that if I worked harder I would be entitled to more.  I believed that the more educated I got the more jobs would be available to me, and that therefore the more fulfilled in life I could become.   I am ashamed to admit also that on some very deep level unconscious to me I also adopted a class consciousnsness. I believe that most of us have this class consciousness whether we are aware of it or not, it dictates how we move through the world.

The reason we feel ashamed of this is because on an even deeper level we know that it is false.  In absolute truth, not one of us is better that another.  I am not better than you because I am older or more educated,  and you are not better than me because you are richer, more dignified, more travelled, more fit,  or more beautiful, etc.

We exist as equals actually because equality is our birthright, it is inherent, our equality exists as inseparable from our life itself.

Once we know this, the rest becomes a lot easier.

Suddenly, I am serving you because in this theatre piece called “waitressing”, there is an impulse  to create beauty, to be of service to your experience, to be a participant in something special in your day, not because you are better than me, but because this is the job we both signed up for. You get to be served, I get to serve — should and when we both so choose. Together, magic can and often does take place.

Behind the kitchen doors, the backstage of the play, awaits an even greater opportunity to practice the skills that make us human: listening, respect, honesty, laughter, compromise, humility, acceptance, letting go.

It’s always strange for me to serve someone in this fancy restaurant and then run into them downtown the next day, both of us in our street clothes, the theatre long since passed.  Here on the streets we meet again, but this time as equals, the costumes removed, how awkward….

I realise that most jobs present us with the lessons we need to learn in life, even if they don’t always make sense to us at the time.   One could even go as far as to say that there is only one job, and that is to learn how to love.

Let’s take this out of the restaurant and apply it on a global scale. Let’s admit that most of the suffering in the world happens because in some unconscious place inside ourselves our thinking is flawed. We believe that some should have more while others have less because we are better than them  — better by virtue of our gender, or race, or education, or income, or culture, or… fill in the blanks!  We allow other people to suffer, or worse yet, we consciously inflict suffering onto others, because on some level we believe that it is OK.   Along the way we hurt others and at the same time we hurt ourselves, but often we aren’t aware of it at all.

And even when the awareness is there, we might still struggle with finding a way to act in accordance with what we believe.  I know I do.

Many of these ideas coalesced in conjunction with a book I was reading this morning by Marianne Williamson entitled “Everyday Grace”.

In it she writes:

Compassion in the workplace does not mean we should lower our standards, acquiesce to the violation of boundaries, or indulge a sloppy performance. It does mean, however, recognizing that in God’s world no one is above and no one is below. That does not mean that no one gets to be the boss or that leadership should not be respected. It simply means that the salute of one soul to another should be at the core of every relationship.”   

I wish for you beauty, pleasure, and love in the theatre pieces you encounter over the next days.

What’s Next?

May 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Three years ago, I participated in a 5-day silent meditation retreat in Barre Michigan at the Insight Meditation Society, founded by Sharon Salzberg, a veritable rockstar of Western Buddhism.

I approached the retreat with diligence and focus, diving into my silence with confidence.  Silence is something I have always felt quite comfortable with, as a writer, relatively solitary person, and an only child, I can often slip into silence like a pair of old slippers.  Three years ago my life wasn’t exactly settled by any stretch of the imagination, and circumstances were about to get more complicated over the next 8 months as I tried to finish my first feature documentary film and then, eventually, tried to pull myself back onto my feet after the sad ending of a pivotal relationship.  Throughout it all, as these kinds of situations often do, I was forced to look deeply inside to make some sense out of not just the situation I had found myself in, but to ask larger questions about my life in general: Who am I really?  What are my true likes, interests, and dreams?  Why am I here? What might bring me real and lasting happiness and something even more illusive — a  sense of purpose?

At the meditation retreat, as I cozied up with silence, I became ever more aware of the barrage of thoughts that stormed inside me throughout the day. They were primarily thoughts of anger, evoking feelings of disempowerment. I was psychically unsettled and I knew it.  My search to lead myself out of that storm had begun; I knew there had to be a better way to live and that happiness should be possible for me. I knew I had a long road ahead of me but that for whatever reason, it was a road that in my life would turn out to be a necessity.  As if armouring myself against the thoughts themselves, I braced myself in each moment with the utmost presence for what might arise.  “What’s next?” I asked of my mind, a mind that had become a kind of repetative sound torture.  “What’s next?”  And then, before the question had even been asked, more thoughts arose and assaulted the quiet. 
“Ahhh, so that’s what you think,” I said back to myself.   “Ok, mind, I hear you. What’s next?”  
Another diatribe arose in my thoughts, a perfect tantrum:   “So and so shouldn’t have done that!  Don’t you know, that wasn’t right, that shouldn’t have happened…”

“Ok mind, I hear you,” I thought back, “What’s next?”

And so the retreat unfolded day after day.  It was an interesting exercise and one that brought me some distance between my thoughts and reality and allowed me to get a little closer to the present moment (a moment that I must add was quite lovely in Barre Michigan — the landscaped gardens were beautiful and the food was sublime).

After three years of working to untie all those thoughts that had made themselves known to me, I find myself today asking the same question — “What’s next?” — but for an entirely different reason.

I feel happy, secure, settled, and more in control of my life than I have probably ever felt. I sleep well, I like my friends, I bounce back from drama that used to keep me preoccupied for days. I have my belongings in one place, I have replaced many of the things that at one point I felt I had lost:  a sense of home, community, important belongings, including the dearest remnants of my past, and perhapss most important of all, a restored felt integrity.

I continue to ponder those important questions I had started to ask of myself in earnest three years ago, questions that are never fully answered as life shifts and tilts with the circumstances we encounter.  However, feeling good, feeling relatively settled, feeling, as my granmother would say “knit back together”, I can’t help but ask of myself “What’s next?” and wait for some kind of answer. These days I actually find I’m looking forward to the response. I want to know how to act from the relative peace I find myself in, I want to know what to create from this place, I want to know what is next for me and what I am here to do when the storm has passed.
 

 

Who Does it Belong To?

April 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

It was Dante who said that “possession is one with loss.” When I first heard this line, I was taken aback, nothing could be more true.  Interesting to think that in the context of addiction, the eurphoria of the high is at one with the precipice of withdrawl.  A drunken night and a hung-over morning are one and the same.  To possess is to lose.  This story doesn’t have to be told in such a tragic tone, though as a species we can’t seem to get this lesson and are always surprised again and again when we lose something that we love — how could this happen to me? we want to know, as if the things that happen to all human beings shouldn’t have to happen to us.

This has been a poignant reality in my life, and one I have worked hard at overcoming as I have lost many things that mattered to me.  Well, this isn’t a sob story (maybe just a little), but a chance to teach what I have learned from many years inner work to overcome loss that at times has felt unbearable and unfair.

Last month while subletting a bedroom in Vancouver at an old friend’s house, I noticed this record player in her room — the room that I had rented.  This used to be my record player as a child.   When I was about 15 years old, I sold it at a garage sale, then instantly felt regret.  I hadn’t wanted to sell it at all!   The girl who bought it was my best friend at the time and didn’t want to give it back to me after I’d sold it.  Fair enough. I was the one who had put it on the market, and she coveted it greatly (as did I, I later found out).  I was so mixed up already as to what I wanted to hold onto, and as to the things that really meant something to me, that I hadn’t be aware of how much this record player actually meant to me.

Today it doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to her 2-year-old son, who plays Teddy Bear’s Picnic over and over again just as I used to do.

I find it so interesting how the things we think belong to us often don’t belong to us at all!  What we think belongs to us, usually also belong to someone else. You know that tree you want to cut down, the one on your property?  Legally perhaps it belongs to you, but maybe it belongs to me too, maybe it’s the tree I used to climb with my brother, or where I had my first kiss, or where wrote my first poem.  Our brains want to compartmentalize everything, including nature, when in truth, our lives, our memories, and our connections with things are much more fluid, much more whole, wholesome.

My friend’s two-year-old and I share a common memory, a memory that stretches 31 years apart;  in some ways we now share a childhood — that tactile feeling of the melmac record player on our little chubby fingers.  “I want it back!” is a rediculous statement:  it’s already gone, it belongs to the two of us and at the same time, to nobody now…. possession is one with loss.

Two months ago I went to visit my step-father, who I hadn’t visited in many years. I was shocked when inside his house (a house that was once my house too — a house that I helped build with my own little nine-year-old hands and lived in for the next 9 years) there were so many things that I thought of as “mine,”  including an old oak mirror that used to belong (ready for this?) to my father’s grandmother.  Now there’s a mind-bender.  Do you see the fluidity of belongings?  the nebulous nature of “belong- ing”?    We think that perhaps our belongings will allow us to belong to something, to someone, to a time, to a place, to a fond experience or to our memories and our pasts, and sometimes they do the trick, if we are lucky and manage to hold on to them — if we’re not lucky we’re in for a wild ride.

As I eyed up “my” mirror (“my” bedroom, “my” kitchen, “my” front yard) my heart was pining sorrowfully,  “I want it back,” while another part of me was whispering “just let it go.” Who can ever measure who has lost more?  We aren’t really the one’s to judge the natural compensation of the universe, we aren’t the ones to judge the delineation between what’s mine and what’s yours. Our minds want to create ownership and separateness because that is what the self-centred mind wants and in many ways needs to do to survive.  This is the origin of suffering, the origin of greed, the thing that, unfortunately, makes us human.  Obviously, the real sting happens when the people in our lives deny that these things ever mattered to us at all.

The mirror belongs to the two of us, and to many more.   Through it we trace a community of relationships that link the past with the present with the future still unknown — with life itself.

I work on trusting that I will always have everything I am supposed to have and everything that I need.

The Apologies

January 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

This week I got two unexpected apologies.  The first came from a friend who called to admit he had told me a lie, and was sorry about it.  The lie was not the kind of lie that rocked my world or devastated me, but it was a lie nevertheless.   I wasn’t sure how to feel, or if I felt anything at all.  There was a part of me that wondered, Who am I to expect the truth?  I’ve been lied to lots of times,  maybe I’ve started to take it for granted.

The second came from a less expected source.  While standing in a public building (I won’t mention which one, but let’s just say it is funded by our tax-paying dollars), I was witness to an unsavoury and offensive conversation going on by the people in charge there.  It occurred to me that some confidentiality was being breached in that room, and by their loud, vexatious and insensitive speak.   I brushed off this conversation as unprofessionalism and carried on my way. I didn’t think about it again.

Later that day, I got a phone call from someone who worked there.  “Ms. Fowles, we’re incredibly sorry.”

“Oh, okay.  Thanks.”

It struck me at the end of the day after I’d had the chance to let these two apologies sink in,  that there are two people in the world who in some ways care about me more than I even care about myself.   That’s the healing power of an apology to let us know we matter.

The Stuff We are Made Of

January 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

I grew up in an intergenerational family and spent a lot of time with my grandmother who, next to my mom and dad was the most important caregiver in my world. I spent many nights with her throughout my entire childhood (and later, in adult years), often going directly to her house after school where we’d have dinner and then curl up in bed and watch Entertainment Tonight and 60 minutes. At night she scratched my back with long manicured finger nails painted in deep burgundy red. The smell of her Givenchy perfume floated on the soft pillow down and (high thread count) cotton pillow cases.    I knew even then she had a special kind of grace and class, beauty and femininity, I might not ever attain.  I thought femininity was something mysterious and wondered if, eventually, it would just “happen” to me;  I wondered if I would one day start to smell sweet, and if my fingernails would grow long, slender, and beautiful.     At that time,  I gravitated towards scuffed up black army boots and ripped jeans, and could barely  find the time or interest to even brush my hair.    These memories, and countless others, of being with her in her home as a child are precious and even spiritual to me, an inseparable and beautiful part of my history and my identity — where I come from, the stuff I am made of.

Here we are at my high school graduation, one of the first times in my life I’d ever dressed up!

Intergenerational family also means sharing our lives with people who have grown up in very different historical contexts.  This is an amazing learning experience for everyone in a family, if we are open enough to listen to one another and to care about each other’s lives.

There were a few times in my childhood when my two boy cousins and I were sitting around my Granny’s large oak coffee table and she turned to me (the only girl) to say teasingly “why don’t you make the boys a sandwich, they look hungry.”  This was met with chuckles from us all.    “Over my dead body”  ripped into my thoughts like a self-protective reflex,  and would have been my natural first response to her or anyone else who had such an idea, had my grandmother’s presence not stirred in me a deep respect.   Thankfully, my cousins had the good enough sense to let her know this wouldn’t be necessary.  “Thanks but we’re not really that hungry,” they’d say, trying to control adolescent giggles.  I wondered if my Granny was echoing a long-lost memory of what her mother might have said to her in a now distant childhood, in another era long since passed.  I started to wonder about how she had been raised and what it meant to be a woman.

Well, more than two decades have now passed, and my grandmother, now 95, has very different things in mind when we all get together. She wants to know about my film work and what writing projects I am working on, she uses all the contacts she’s got (home care workers, cleaning lady, neighbours) to eek out important connections for me that might help along my career and my social life.  She saves Maclean’s magazine articles she wants me to read.  She is my ally and coach, and let’s me know with no uncertainty: “You’d better get cracking!”

This Christmas, which took place at my grandmother’s house, I thought of my 2-year-old niece playing in the same livingroom where I played when I was her age, around the same coffee table that I grew up with from the day I was born.   I thought about how, in all likelihood, no one will ever say to her (as it had most likely been said to all of her female ancestors) that she should make a sandwich — or do anything, for that matter — just because she is a girl.  I think of all the other rights, thanks to the ways our culture has evolved,  she has been born into. Of course, there will be other challenges for girls and women of her generation, but I can’t help but to think that in some important ways she has come into the world a whole person: A person who will have equal opportunity to  achieve in math and science, sports or sewing, as she will in English or art, if she so chooses  (I was told in highschool that women aren’t good at science,  math or computers – all of which as been disproved by all statistics as well as through my own experience and successes as a film producer).  Many of the choices of women of her generation, I suspect, will not be made on the basis of gender but on the basis of interest and inspiration.

Gender equality is something that is learned in childhood, inside our homes.  We learn that women are valuable and worthy of love by how the division of labour is established, or, in the case of divorce, through the equity with which assets are shared.  Inside our homes, we learn that mom matters when mom and dad share the chores —  not because they are “feminists” but because mom’s life has value just like dad’s and because equality and taking care of one another is actually one of the primary foundations of love itself.   Inheritances, similarly, reflect whether or not, and how a family acknowledges the feelings and value of all of its members.  All of these choices and how we make them, have their roots in the historical context that all of us — women and men alike — were born into. If left unconscious and unexamined, it dictates the amount of value we extend to boys over girls, women’s lives and potential over men’s lives and potential, work done by women over work done by men.   The whole world is healed as we move towards equality inside our homes and between the people we love.

When I got a little older, I found out that my grandmother and all the women of her generation (including my great-grandmother as well, obviously)  had been born into a world where women were not even allowed to vote.  I found out a lot of other things about the context in which she was born and lived her life, through many years of studying and reading.   Some of this knowledge hurt me (it is true that ignorance is bliss), and some of it fascinated me, but I discovered along the way that values of equality, freedom, and inclusion are as important to me as the air I breath.  You could say this makes me a feminist, or simply, someone who believes in the worthiness of every individual soul.

In the span of her lifetime, my grandmother lived through nearly every wave of  feminist history, and was there as within only a few decades nearly every expectation of women and centuries of habitual relating, was turned on its head.   When I am in a room with my family, spanning – amazingly! – four generations of  women now, I think about the incredible potential we have for healing not only our societal, cultural and personal pasts, but our entire world, by learning about one another’s histories, experiences, feelings, and memories.

Most of all, I am reminded that women of different generations don’t live our lives in a vacuum, but rather, each of us is part of a vast continuum of women’s history; we are inseparably linked to one another’s lives and experiences.  Our relationships and our memories ebb and flow, interject and mingle with our daily lives constantly, they are the stuff we are made of.

Now, I am off to paint my nails and make myself a sandwich.

25 Things

January 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

25 Things About me (written in 2008)

This little exercise was popular with a lot of my friends on Facebook a few years back. I stumbled upon it today, and it’s almost like looking back in time.

Amazing how our lives, dreams, goals, and perceptions can change over just a few years.

One thing that has changed – well, a lot of things have changed — but one of them, is that I am happily no longer on Facebook.

  I would like to do a new list for 2012, and maybe you should too!

Share it with me if you do.

xoxo

1)   I think Leonard Cohen got it right when he wrote that “every heart to love will come, but like a refugee”

2)   The existence of a god, that is perfect love, stillness, forgiveness and meaning seems totally logical to me

3)   I am a happy drunk

4)   I experienced love at first sight once in my life, in a state of happy drunkenness

5)   We used to see falling stars in strange places…often

6)   I speak French

7)   I am fearless and outspoken when I see animals or children being abused

8)   I can be shy in totally normal settings which I find frustrating

9)   I am sure we will look back on how we have treated animals as a very dark time in history, for them and for us

10)  I’ve lost a lot of things I’ve loved, for one reason or another

11) I’ve been told I look angry and there is some truth to this, but it’s not the whole story

12) I live in total abundance, and sometimes I’m overcome with gratitude (usually this happens after a very strong cup of coffee).

13)  I feel happy for others when they succeed

14) I lived by myself in Casablanca for 9 months which deeply marked me, for the better and the worse.

15) I think legalizing gay marriage is an awesome achievement that gives me hope we are moving toward an ever-more just world

16) I think the Taxi is a wonderful metaphor for life, a good enough metaphor to have kept my interest since 2004…

17) I talk to my cat constantly

18) I was stung by a queen bee on the sole of my foot on Saltpring Island on January 1st, 2008 and had the worst year of my life.  My (ex)boyfriend was stung by a queen bee on the sole of his foot in Montreal in November 2007.  Both of our bees lived to tell the story.

19)  I’m an introvert who needs to charge her batteries

20)  I’m deeply afraid of loneliness and I have felt lonely on and off for most of my life.

21) I would like to be independently wealthy and I don’t think my lifestyle would change that much, in fact,  come to think of it, I really want this.

22)  If I could have it all this year, I would study philosophy and religion, have a baby and a garden, get married in a tent in Vermont at night under the full moon, walk the Camino de Santiago, do a silent metta retreat with Sharon Salzberg, sip green tea in my garden with Leonard Cohen (just the two of us), ride a Farris wheel with Steven Colbert, adopt a little dog, bake scones, forgive and be forgiven, collect fresh eggs in the morning, thank my grandmothers, get invited to Paris for a workshop with Abbas Kiarostami on a full scholarship, sleep deeply.

23) I have to learn when and how to say no, and have the courage to say so before it’s too late

24) I’m an idealist who can’t keep her house clean.

25) I will laugh at your jokes

The Last Bite and the Falling Star

January 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

Last week I went to a dance jam organized by a friend of mine on the island.  While getting dressed,  I pulled out of my storage bin an old sweatshirt that belonged to someone from my distant past. I’d contemplated giving this sweatshirt away to the thrift store as I hadn’t worn it in close to two years.  But on this particular evening, I thought it looked so great that I might even re-adopt it into my wardrobe.

I have what therapists call “unresolved feelings” with the original owner of this sweatshirt, but I was willing to push them aside on this particular dark and starry night, for the sake of fashion.

At the dance, I removed the sweatshirt as the night went on, and the music tempo quickened.  A tank top was all that was needed now in the heat of the little dance hall.

A few hours later, I put the sweatshirt back on and zipped it up to my neck and headed to the bathroom outside.

Suddenly, I felt a sharp and painful sting sink deep into my left shoulder.  Had I just been stung by a bee? No, that wasn’t quite it.  The sting grew stronger and stronger and then, unexpectedly, a sadness started to well up in the centre of my heart.   I felt like a valiant athlete who’d just broken a bone out on the playing field and was bravely fighting back tears.  I quickly removed the sweatshirt to look at my shoulder and as I did revealed a two-inch dark brown wolf spider lurking in the sleeve. The little being who’d bitten me in the darkness.

While the sting started to subside, my feelings didn’t, so I left the dance early and walked out to my car in the  glassy and quiet winter night.  I dragged the sweatshirt along by one sleeve, and then threw it into a garbage bag in the back of my station wagon and took off in the direction of home, still unsettled.

I drove for about ten minutes and then rounded the hillside on the main road heading into town from the north end of the island.

Suddenly, as I was descending the hill,  a glowing round star, plump like a ripe fig that would be fragile to the touch,  fell as if in slow motion, from the top of the sky and directly in front of my car, straight down into Ganges harbour.

A singular cosmic firework that fate had put me in square sight of.

I felt so pleased by this experience, which appeared to me like a celebratory, even joyous exclamation from the universe, that I couldn’t help but to wonder if maybe I’d just by happenstance resolved all those feelings I’d left unfelt, and if, better yet, I’d just been bitten for the very last time.

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