The first step is admitting the problem

 I have a confession to make – I love to learn – I don’t know what other people do but when I review my Facebook, and my Twitter, pages I am likely to be adding windows to my desktop as I follow new book, articles, and scholarly paper links.  I will have 20 or 25 new windows that will elicit new books to read, Egyptian articles, quotes, or interesting ideas that I am always filing away in my various bookmark files.  And I have so many bookmark files.  We’re talking more than 30 and include things like, Novel Ideas, Writing, Places To Go, Mind/Body/Soul, Shopping, Games, the list goes on.  Now I do go and read the pages, delete some, but, mostly, keep everything. 

I gorge myself on new knowledge.  As I coast into my middle age, I am starting to find that the well, or fount of knowledge to be literarily ‘high brow’, is getting terribly close to overflowing – what to do with all this knowledge, how to dip into the well and enjoy the cool, pure, knowledge that laps gently waiting for me? 

Disclaimer – I can’t say that I have always wanted to be a writer – as a child, I was more likely to play ‘school’ and be the teacher – but I constantly look for ‘the book’ on the shelves of the library, bookstore, and on all the websites I visit.  I seek the book that I have written.  (I love to read and am easily pleased with books – you won’t find me a harsh literary critic despite my degree in English) But I never find ‘the book’.  I collect ideas, books that ‘come close’, snippets of information that all seem to be pieces of a puzzle I am trying to solve.  No, I am not going to subject you, Gentle Reader, to a laborious self indulgent blog about my writing… here I want to share my inner journey as I wade through this very confusing world. 

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Who is Gentle Reader?

I should probably share that I am not the one who created the literary tool of ‘Gentle Reader’ – the evolution of this device shows my reading history as well as my own preferences in first person narrative fiction. 

I can remember the actual day that I found the book, Trojan Gold by Elizabeth Peters, in a bookstore, in LondonOntario, back in 1984.  I can remember being drawn to the gold iridescent cover and, reading the back, the female protagonist.  My reading taste was maturing from high school, chaste, love stories about ‘the ugly duckling’ and searching for ‘me’ in the books I would read.  Trojan Gold was good but, only upon discovering Peter’s Amelia Peabody series did I fall in love. A large part of the books charms were the strong, spunky (like Laura Ingalls Wilder) and intelligent woman.  My father had turned me on to Helen MacInnis but her female characters seemed two dimensional and only supporting characters in the books.  But Amelia was me – intelligent, not conventional, tall (I hit 5’8″ at the age of 12), and strong minded.  And Peters wrote her books as if recalling the past and writing in a voice with the advantage of knowledge gained after the events. 

Well, I became hooked.  After I devoured all of Ms Peter’s books I continued to search for novels that shared that first person voice. 

I love to go to garage sales.  The reason? I love finding old books – and I mean books from the 1900’s onward!!  Their cloth covers and yellowed pages – the idea that another reader, or readers, had held the book and opened it to discover the world hidden inside. A romantic thought, I know.  At a garage sale, in Burlington Ontario with my sister, I found a little book with a pretty cover – Elizabeth and Her German Garden – a first edition which, turns out, was published in around 1896.  To this day, I have never seen the same edition on any of the antiquarian book websites.  This book is my own treasure that I hold very dear. That was in 1989 or 90 and it still took me more than 10 years (2001) before I actually read the book. (I believe that books, just as people, come into your life and will be read when you need them.)  It was mind blowing.  Elizabeth von Arnim, the author, used the same Gentle Reader device!!  But, more importantly, she wrote as if addressing the reader long after the events she was describing.  I hunted down her books like a true bibliophile.  I am still missing a title – The Jasmine Farm – that I may have a lead on!!  This was a very unusual woman – she referred to her children by the month they were born in – so there was April, May and June.  Those weren’t their names merely the device she used to protect and separate the novels from the lives of her children.  She also referred to her husband as the Man of Wrath.  Wow, little did I know how much wisdom she would share in reminiscing about their life and marriage!  (My own marriage and referring to my husband in a ‘nick name’ is a story for another day.)

Another passion I have is for Egyptology – not to say that I love Cleopatra and believe I was her in a past life! – but my Grandmother first shared Egypt to me in 1972 after her own travels to Egypt and Israel.  The passion grew.  I have read fascinating books – The Search for Omm Sety about a woman who, through Past Life Recall hypnosis, remembered a life as a temple servant.  She even recalled a fountain pool with mosaic tiles that, upon locating and excavating the site, archaeologists found the ruins of that very fountain pool.  Even the colours of the tiles that she had described.  Also, to be honest, she recalled a normal life not that of being a ‘Queen’ or ‘King’ or someone famous which always seems contrived and unreliable.  My own thoughts about Past Lives and Reincarnation are something else that I will share down the road.

So Egypt is a love of mine and I am always finding TV documentaries, books, novels, and (with the internet) there are no limits to the blogs and articles that I find and devour by archaeologists and Egyptologists.  For reference, Elizabeth Peters is the nom de plume of Barbara Mertz who stills writes, teaches, lectures as an Egyptologist |(find out more about her and her books at http://www.mpmbooks.com/ ) But I continue to look for role models, old books, stores/facts about Egypt.  Then I stumbled upon Amelia Edwards (1831-1892) who was an English novelist, journalist, traveller and Egyptologist. (I am taking a guess here but I wonder if Elizabeth Peters might have been tipping her hat to Amelia Edwards in her character Amelia Peabody?) who, after discovering Egypt and her passion for archaeology, published her book in 1876 under the title of A Thousand Miles up the Nilenot to toot her horn so much she also enhanced the book with her own hand-drawn illustrations, the travelogue became an immediate bestseller. (Ooo going back to Project Gutenberg to confirm the title of her book, I just found another of Amelia Edwards works, In the Days of My Youth just added to the catalogue – I am promptly adding the ebook to my Kobo – this is a ‘hot off the press’ find!!)  Finding the, long out of print, book at Project Gutenberg I discovered she too writes to her Gentle Reader.  For me, it feels as though all these writers are reaching out to me from the past and through their books…for I am that Gentle Reader.  My journals, dating back to my childhood (I even have my Grade 6 diary, and no I won’t be sharing that) have always been addressed to my own Gentle Reader. 

So you are going to be my Gentle Reader – the name implies a plea for you to be kind – I write this primarily for myself but hope that someone, anyone, reading this will be inspired, enjoy a smile, find a new book or author, and have a moment’s connection with another woman also navigating this world. 

Jack of All Trades, Master of None

This morning, another disclaimer, that I need to share that I live in Canada so I choose to use the Canadian spellings of such words as ‘neighbour’ and ‘centre’.  I seem to be at odds with my Spell-check but I will push on, and it’s kind of a mini-rebellion.  

Yesterday Dear Friend (the same dear friend as yesterday) shared a FB post as she felt that it would resonate with me.  Sometimes it is freaky how well this friend, far away from me, taps into my life and struggles, so I am going to start calling her Dear Friend.  The woman who initially posted, Joanna Hackley Davis, is a life coach and, one whom I would call, a wise woman.  Here are excerpts that really stopped me cold as they describe a pattern, I repeatedly play out, in my life.

 “Successful people focus on what they are good at, what comes naturally, is easy, and leave the rest for others to do, often hiring others to do jobs they don’t like.”

Now, for me, I am not in a position to hire others but I am someone who beats herself up when I am not great at everything, or that I am unable to perfect a task, or that I loathe doing certain things.  Looking back I have had a looping track in my head saying that ‘I am a Jack of All Trades, Master of None.” Which was a way that I would be tough on my self BUT that I have wasted time trying to be everything to everyone.  I need to change my thoughts so that I am more gentle with myself and also that I LET go of trying to do everything myself.  Independence is great but relying on other people is okay.  A much needed balance in my life as I face medical issues, depression, and re-position myself in the job market. 

“Other people (not so successful) spend copious amounts of time and energy trying to master things they don’t enjoy, that don’t come naturally to them, etc., and take themselves on guilt trips when they focus on their passions or want to ask for help with what they don’t want to do themselves.”

 This mind soundtrack (backed by 1970’s music) has also dissipated my focus, creating busy work trying to do everything so I never just slow down and focus on the one or two things that I am good at doing.  (This insight took most of the day, yesterday, and it summarizes so easily belying the occupation that this insight required as I wrestled with my thoughts – I suppose we all make things more difficult for ourselves!) I also realized that, by running around like a chicken with its head cut off, I have let myself off the hook in actually accomplishing anything.  So busy with the minutia that I have taken, I have (wasted? nope that is negative speak), that I have given up the time I can use to test myself, train myself, focus myself, or just my Self show me what I am good at.  For years I have beaten myself up that I never found my ‘bliss’ or ‘gift’ I have to give the world – – and realizing that I created busy work for myself was a way of avoiding failure, taking that risk AND the hard work that I will need to do.  In essence, I have been treading water – doing everything and being pretty good at most things – but I haven’t moved forward at all, I am still in one place, staying about the water, but not reaching any shore.  So now I need to see things differently and also allot my time and energy more thoughtfully.

“Successful people spend most of their time and energy utilizing their innate gifts and talents on things they are passionate about.”

Then Joanna Hackley Davis asked a question I am asking myself – and, in turn, will ask you, Gentle Reader. (You didn’t know that there would be marks for class participation, did you?)

Reading this, what is one thing you would like to focus more of your time, energy, and talent on?

Trust Issues and other thoughts

I probably should start with a disclaimer that I am a writing perfectionist (although my spelling may be touch and go) so, to prevent endless rewriting, editing, throwing out, I am just going to load posts that I do in one day.  Maybe the thoughts will ramble – okay, the thoughts will rumble, but then, I am writing for you, Gentle Reader, so that you get to know me rather than the ‘voice of the author’.  I am trying to find my voice again – so this virtual journal is mainly for me.  Come along for the ride, you are more than welcome!

A dear friend of mine, late last night, posted the previous jpeg about trust. I read it just before turning the light out and sleeping. I think the idea trickled through into my dream work. (I have powerfully vivid and busy dreams and, through lucid dreaming technique, remember most of my night’s work!) Last night I bounced back and forth in my life reviewing times when I lost the trust of someone else or stopped trusting others. And from a third person viewer stance, realized that my trust issues were strongly connected to my own happiness – I have tied my happiness to other people. When trust has been broken it usually involved my being disappointed or saddened when someone else DIDN’T do something.

I have been mulling this over, since my early waking around 6am, in the peaceful time of early morning. Sure enough, as the universe is wont to do, another friend posted a jpeg of the Dalai Lama commenting about compassion. What if I didn’t tie my happiness to anyone else? To release other’s from the expectation that they are going to be working, making decisions, based on making me happy. What if I allow other people to all be responsible for their own happiness. In essence, what if I put myself in their shoes and only sought happiness from within myself? Then my mind turned ‘soft’ feeling that I could then be gentle in how I judge others – if they aren’t responsible to put my needs first, that they are responsible to me, that then I can allow them the same freedom to seek their own happiness. To avoid suffering. What if everyone is allowed to do what they need to avoid suffering and, other than actively reflecting other’s attempts to hurt me or work against my own happiness, have compassion for the journey that other’s are one.

What makes me happy isn’t the same as what makes other’s happy. So my goals, my actions, my thoughts are centred on finding my own peace and avoiding my own suffering. To be ‘soft of heart’ about animals – finding it painful to hear of an elephant massacre on an animal reserve in Africa, to hear of dogs and cats being lost or abandoned, those thoughts could be turned to people.

For the past two and a half years, due to medical issues, I have been off work and alone most of the time. There are weeks when I only venture outdoors, into the world, for medical appointments or restock the pantry. Sometimes that is the hardest part of being incarnated – not being able to just ‘share’ directly. In my dream travels, I have experienced the non corporeal communication – of the rush of feelings, thoughts, images – and being able to see the genuine love that people have inside. To have that level of ease of ‘seeing’ is amazing. It is so hard to then enter the nondream world and be so starkly limited by words, images, and the separation between people. Don’t you wish that you could just merge with someone (perhaps this is part of the magic of sexual intimacy and blend yourself so that you were sharing directly. (Okay, this may need more development. But I warned you that this is going to be somewhat unfiltered.)

The year ahead feels like it is going to be packed with changes – from interactions between countries, to the weather, to the stock/financial markets, and even on the public people who may pass away this year. I started having gut feeling a couple of months ago – and now, every time someone, who has impacted the world greatly passes away, it further imprints that the change of 2012 and the age of Aquarius is also ending some people’s time on earth. The souls are needing to move on who have done their work, given their gifts, in order that those who are left behind here will be the ones to experience the changes. I think our hitting the CO2 peak yesterday, the burst of the US stock market and the lingering feeling that our Canadian Bubble is about to burst – I think tough times are gearing up. Talking with a friend last night – who is out in the dating world as an ‘over 40’ person commented that there are so many people so narrowly focused, living Dramatic lives (with a capital D) that rival the soap operas on tv. They can often be consumed with getting things, being materialistically driven, unable to see our commonality. Then on the other hand there are those who are struggling to awaken, seeing themselves as part of the world, shouldering the burdens of climate change, economic and understanding why they have incarnated. It is a contrast as simple as those entrenched in the spiritual and those who are attached to the physical – the materialistic. I don’t mean to say that there aren’t people in the middle – who, when confronted with the challenges of economic changes etc. who then shift their focus to support their families and ensure their own safety. But many still find an outlet so that they are contributing whether volunteering or even just parenting their children giving them the skills, love, support so that they will be prepared to face this ever changing world.

This dear friend, again!, posted the perfect jpeg “Some people feel the rain and other just get wet”. I realize that this process of contemplation or looking outward is a luxury – a First World golden apple that billions on the planet will never even know about. Many are not able to get on the merry-go-round, much less even try to reach for the golden ring. I remember, as a child in London, Ontario, at the children’s park Storybrooke Gardens there was a merry-go-round and it’s bright colours, animals, movement, music seemed to be a portal to some magical place. I think this is the appeal of such books, appealing just as much to adults and to children, of such books from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to today’s flood of Harry Potter-esque writings.

I have another friend who seems to be in fast forward – like the change of the Enterprise moving into ‘warp drive’ – all the syncronicities and things clicking into place all around him. He seems connected into the flow but that he is in the rapids of the flow. I am less comforatble being in the fast lane, I think I want to wade into the shallows and then see how I do with the flow. But I do feel that once I ‘plug’ in the current will be electrifying.

Music is really powerful – I think it is subliminal communication of the highest order. I don’t know if you know but I learned to read music and play piano before I learned to read words/letters. I have also found that music is an underlying way that I see patterns in math or numbers or even something like a game of mahjong. I can now look at a layout and ‘see’ the equation and know that I can complete the game – I can do it with double deck solitaire. I find music is so powerful. I am finding, since I added music to my walks everyday I am get into the flow. I find, with music, I see more numerical patterns – like the 222’s of the clock or my car odometer And even the weather, all of Nature is unsettled – that’s it, the whole world feels ‘unsettled’.

Yes I think that is what frustrates me and makes me seek solitude – I feel like I have isolated myself like a hermit or going into contemplation like Saint Theresa d’Avila or Hildegard von Bigen. That pulling away, distancing myself from the chaos, gives me the time to change my perspective on the world. Now when I interact with people I have more gentleness – seeing that their minds are whirling with fear, anger, expectations and focus on getting that next materialistic ‘thing’ or reaching that next financial plateau.
I think I am finally coming out of my cocoon and that, through my posts and, demonstrated here, the jumbling flood of ideas and thoughts is starting.

Truth disrupts the status quo. It’s taken as an affront, and deemed dangerous and radical by those for whom the status quo is working. Marianne Williamson

 

You’ll find the…

You’ll find the full posting at http://1styrdivorce.blogspot.ca/ I’m Not A Mom. Do I Cry or Cheer? 12 Reasons to Cheer for Being Childfree

This week, I was in CVS buying a pile of cards. Two of my friends had babies. My brother and sister-in-law’s and parents’ anniversaries are coming up. And of course, Mother’s Day.

You should know that I pride myself on finding the perfect card, which means I’m one of those annoying people in the card aisle who has to reading every card before deciding on one. As I waded through the sappy Mother’s Day cards, tears sprung to my eyes, quite unexpectedly. Would anyone ever buy me a Mother’s Day card?

Well-meaning friends and family often tell me how “lucky” I am that Max and I never had kids, and that being 33 isn’t that old for me to have kids with someone else in the future. But let’s be honest: I’m not getting any younger and I’m not in a relationship. (For goodness sake, I still LIVE with Max.) The reality is that I might never be a mother because of the years I spent trying to salvage a sexless relationship.

Before Max and I got married, we agreed that having kids was a deal breaker – we both definitely wanted to be parents. As our sex life disappeared, we took to telling people that we weren’t sure if we wanted kids, and that was true for me. I knew my relationship wasn’t stable enough to bring a baby into the mix, which genuinely made me NOT want kids, even though Max and I would’ve been a fantastic team as parents.

Now that I’m single again, there are moments when I’m so unsure about where I stand on motherhood. Being 33 and childless is not a choice I made, but rather a corner I backed in to. Max stopped having sex with me and there was nothing I or any therapist could do to reverse it. I admit it: I’m angry at Max for taking away my chance at motherhood. Some part of me will always resent him for it.

A Childless Mother

As I enjoy this quiet, peaceful, sunny Sunday morning – I am aware of those who are celebrating Mother’s Day.  I called my mother bright and early this morning and treasure our hodge podge conversation (between our mutual pauses to do laundry).  But, now as the day stretches ahead, and reading a wonderful post of one of my ‘women I admire’ I am reflecting on my own childlessness.  You will find her post above this one but this was my response to her.  “Hi, WychieWoman (my Twitter name) here – our marriage experiences were the same – in my case, I became pregnant 3 times – a mix of my O-neg blood type and my ex smoking constantly around me – I suffered 3 miscarriages. In the days after my ex’s arrest and the horrible, mind numb, zombie like existence I had I honestly believe that the Goddess in her wisdom wisely was preparing for the future – my ex would not have been a good parent and co-parenting with him would have been a nightmare (a power struggle in which he would use any child against me) that no one would ever want a child to experience.  As I am a full 10 yrs older than you (celebrating 44 at the end of this month) the reality of my never having children is present like a ghostly presence in the room.  It walks beside me as I interact with other’s children, when I feel bittersweet on Mother’s day and when I look ahead to the years to come.  I kept childhood favourite books, toys, and ideas storing them up for ‘when I have kids’.  All this energy, planning, hope circles around me like smokey hint of a scent that you can’t identify me.  Thank you for sharing as you elicited a pause of reflection for my own childlessness state.”  What I enjoy most about reading other’s blogs is the moments of insight that are provoked by the generosity of openness that these people allow. 

And off we go….

I am not sure, exactly, how to start this as I loathe stream of conscious narratives.  I have been circling this idea, documenting my inner journey, for some time now.  Perhaps it is fear behind my avoidance or maybe it is uncertainty that there is even anything to find with introspection.  But I have to try.

So.. start by introducing myself.  I am a 43 year old woman, divorced (I know that is a blog on it’s own), off work due to disability, daughter, sister, friend.  In the past 10 years, somehow when I wasn’t looking, I lost the part that is “me”.  That spark, that burst of self recognition, seems to have been snuffed by time, life events, self talk and responsibility to others.  I am afraid that, starting this, there may not be anything to find.  What if that pilot light can’t be reignited? 

I am a book addict.  That deserves  it’s own full sentence.  I read constantly.  It may be part of my being a Gemini but I am constantly thirsting for knowledge.  Watching a television show, reading a news article, even just reading my Twitter stream always creates lists/bookmarks of books to read, places to visit, music to listen to, things I want to investigate more and reams of paper with jotted notes and words and names and connections clear to only me. I wish I could just live reading, exploring the ideas/people on the internet, learning and expanding my knowledge.  I would be a student forever – with the caveat that I require a good teacher as I ask a lot of questions (Miss Finch would be my first choice) – if spending a life learning was an option anymore.

This all sounds great, right?  Well, I have hit a wall.  I stopped following through with my ideas, those notes of books and articles to read, places to visit, and have stopped mid-life. Not from thinking there isn’t more to learn – I still want to do all these things – but I feel like I am pouring water into a bottomless pail.  There is no resonant feeling of absorption or receiving of these ideas, books, sparks of interest.  I feel like my mind is constantly thirsty yet I am never satiated.  Parched. And I derive no pleasure with each mini-lightbulb moment or piece of information that filters into my brain.  It isn’t hopelessness or apathy.  It is like the ‘self’ that I have been feeding just isn’t hungry anymore – if I am truthful – I think that that ‘self’ isn’t even there anymore.  What happened, where did it go?

I have slowly been excavating, trying to find the ruins, see what is left, if anything, to be rebuilt.  Not sure I can ever rebuild anything that will slightly resemble what my ‘self’ was before.  I know ‘she’ is out there – a floating image, a ghost – but I am empty and she is out of my reach.  

As always, I started by reading – devouring everything I could find – following every trail, every bread crumb of insight I could smell out.  Using all five of my senses, desperately trying to find my way home.  Frantic that I have lost my way and won’t ever get back again.

Well I have collected a vast amount of articles, quotes, books, ideas, people who, I feel, might have the puzzle pieces I am looking for.  

I am not going to explain how I got here – hollow and adrift in my life – feeling like the Fifth Business in the book by the same title by Robertson Davies (witness to everyone else, used as a resource, but never a participant) because everyone knows how you can lose your ‘self’.  Divorce, life, career, family, lack of attention, responsibility, inattention, not being a priority, media, electronics, the busy-ness of this advanced life we are all supposed to be living.  All of these contribute to slowly eating away at the ‘self’ – pouring drops and dribbles of water to dowse the inner spark.  (Somehow I always visualize the spark as a bright blue that sometimes blanches to white.)  And then you are left, looking in the mirror and feeling that there is no one looking back at you.  Like in the movie by Steven Speilberg Hook (with Robin Williams as a middle aged Peter who has forgotten Neverland and magic and joy) at the end of the movie, the journey, when the little boy cups Peter’s face in his hands and looks deeply into Peter’s eyes finally to say “there you are”…that is the loss I am feeling.  Empty.  

And I don’t want to stay that way.  I want that spark back, I want to look into the eyes staring back from the mirror and see ‘me’ again.  So, here we are.  At the start.  Maybe you’ll come along for the journey, maybe you’ve ‘been there, done that’ (in which case, congratulations), or this doesn’t even make sense (lucky person), but I am going to take this journey and share it.  Feel free to be a silent observer.

When I was in university my roommate in first year was the most amazing, artistic, individualistic, unique, quirky, brilliant, creative woman I ever met. (Still miss Andrea Mortson) I feel like she was a glowing sun that I kept trying to get close enough to so I could be warm or, better, that I, too, would catch fire.  Our last day in residence she gave me my first journal (bright yellow, no surprise there, spiral bound) and with 150 blank pages.  She said that I should keep a journal BUT that the most important thing was to write it as if someone was going to read it, that my words couldn’t be vague or lazy – that I articulate my thoughts completely.  So, I started my first journal – and that invisible reader is who I write to even to this day.  

That first yellow journal started me on a 21 year habit that I keep to this day.  Those journals have become my passion (collecting old hardcover books that I repurpose into journals.)  And the trunk full of journals that I still add to. <My blog so I will end that sentence with a preposition.>  These pages aren’t going to be my journal but a specific place for me to explore my journey (the trail markers I find along the way, the people that inspire, those happy coincidences that occur) to find my ‘self’ and rebuild it.  

This Invisible Reader technique is something I have found I am drawn to in the books I read – Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody series of books and, my favourite book, by Elizabeth Von Arnim, called Elizabeth and Her German Garden from 1896.  (I found a 1896 copy of the book at a garage sale back in my 20’s and it sat on my self, waiting to speak to me, until my 30’s.)  Von Arnim and Peters use the first person narrator and break the ‘wall’ to acknowledge the reader directly.  Both writers use the loving moniker of “Gentle Reader’ and I’m going to use that too.  

In these postings I am going to share quotes, books, ideas, people that I dig up in my excavation – believing that I will be drawn to the sources that will aid me the most – so don’t be surprised where each post ends up,,, there is no map.  I am going to be focusing on the journey and not the destination. 

So here we go….Gentle Reader 

Photo: EM Delafield in Life Magazine 1925Image