Greenleaf Inspired, Part 2

“Nothing ends that quickly, it always takes time.”

― Sophia Greenleaf

It’s been about a decade now and maybe I’m on the verge of moving on to the next chapter.

I think back to 2008 and it seems like a lifetime ago and just yesterday, all at the same time. I was in the zone! Eating healthy, experimenting with vegetarianism, walking every day, getting my 10K steps and more, loving my work, my apartment, my friends, my family, and I was involved in the writing community, and the WFNB, and doing creative things, and generally feeling really great about myself and my life. My apartment was tidy, guests could just drop in and I wouldn’t be ashamed of my dirty dishes piled high on the counters or dust bunnies rolling out from under every chair. I was constantly going out and doing things for work or for creative pursuits or volunteer projects. I had friends I would meet and hang out with. I felt strong and happy. There was only part of my life I still needed to fill and I was dating, meeting new prospects, seeking the perfect someone to fill that missing spot.

I remember it was sometime around the late fall when I started to get a bit of a feeling that something big was about to change. It was just a feeling in my gut, a nagging voice in my head. I was so in touch with my feelings then, so present in my life. I couldn’t see what this big change was but I remember feeling very strongly that my life as I knew it was ending. By Christmas I had come to believe I might actually be close to dying. The feeling that this was my last Christmas with my family was overwhelming. I mean, I didn’t say anything about it to anyone then and I wasn’t sad or melancholy about it. I was very present and so thankful to be there. It was the most perfect Christmas I could even remember! And I was at a place in my emotional/ spiritual development where I felt really strong and accomplished and loved, so if this was the last Christmas, then it was amazing to have had it and I would move on to the next stage with a full thankful heart … even if that stage was my own death. I wasn’t afraid to die.

I know, it sounds morbid, but it really wasn’t. It was a joyous time. I believed it was the last Christmas and I savoured every delicious second of it in a way I’ve never been able to enjoy anything before or since. It was incredible to be so present in my life, to have no past or no future, to just “be”. It’s something I’ve always struggled with, but in 2008, I was living in the here and now fully and completely. Life was good!

Well, I didn’t die. Apparently, I had a whole new set of life lessons coming that would keep me busy for a very long time and maybe forever.

Shortly after the new year, I met my future husband in the most random and bizarre way that it could only have been destined to happen. Christmas 2009 was spent with him, nowhere near my family. In January 2010, we married. We spent Christmas 2010 together, nowhere near my family. Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays passed at my family homestead, without me. Life moved on in New Brunswick, without me, while I lived a completely new and unexpected life with the man who filled that last hole in my happiness puzzle.

And then I came back. Just for a visit.

But the visit turned into forever, not because of anything I desired, but the universe had other plans. And you don’t fight against the universe and win. Not ever.

“Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going.”

― Thomas Wolfe

And it turns out that Thomas Wolfe was right. You really can’t go home again. Once you’ve left, keep going.

I had been away before. I lived in Toronto for seven years. But not without visiting at least once a year, and usually much more frequently. I’ve been away from Toronto for several years at a time and always fallen right back into place when I visit. The connection with my Toronto friends just picks right back up again where it left off, no matter how long it’s been since we’ve spoken. I had every expectation that this would be the case with my own biological family.

But …

It was overwhelming and surreal in the early months, before the real nightmare even began. I remember being at a Halloween/ welcome home gathering and feeling so empty in the pit of my stomach, ears ringing, almost paralysed like a deer in the headlights. In the first years, as it became clear I was never going to be able to be with my husband again and our marriage was over, I was mostly on auto-pilot. I moved around, I did things, but I wasn’t really there. It was like I had shrunken to a wee shadow inside my body, where I used to fill it completely. The brain kept my body functioning and moving but the soul was nowhere to be found. Yet people still expected things of me, they expected me to behave certain ways, experience certain feelings, attend certain events, care about certain things, react in a certain way. And I failed miserably, every time. The brain’s auto pilot magic only extends so far.

I needed a safe place to fall, as Dr. Phil always says. And it wasn’t with my family, who never seemed to grasp the depth of my sorrow and frustration. I mean, how could they? They have their spouses, their children, homes and a family. I know now that I was in the throes of post-traumatic stress. That’s how I connected with an old flame from high school. I trusted him. I desperately needed a safe place to fall. And I tell him to this day that without him I don’t think I would have survived because I needed those quiet moments enveloped in his hugs. But of course, it wasn’t a fairy tale come true. I didn’t know it when I entered into the relationship but his baggage was mighty heavy and the monkeys were running his circus. It’s been complicated, up and down, on and off, but we continue to grow together and evolve and try.

Through almost a decade of tears, writing, thinking, healing with various healers, trying to reconnect with the extended family of my childhood even, I haven’t been able to get back to that place I was in at Christmas 2008. There have been moments of greatness. Wonderful memories permanently embedded. But family gatherings generally make me feel sad and alone. Sometimes I fake it better than others. When my nieces and nephew are there with or without their friends, sharing stories about their exciting young lives with all their best days still ahead of them. Oh, I love those moments! They’re such amazing creative talented intelligent kind people. I know, I’m biased, but they are the best humans anyone could have ever created.

However, they’re young adults now, living their lives, exploring their world, and the relationship with their auntie becomes more distant. It’s the ways it works, even in close-knit families, close ties with aunts and uncles fade as people age and grow. You begin to learn about their lives second-hand through social media and their parents. You watch with pride from the distance. You attend the celebrations and tell them you love them and give them the gifts and the hugs, but it no longer really matters to them if you’re there or not, even though they’re glad to see you. It just happens. It’s natural. There’s no blame or shame involved. If I’m lucky they’ll still seek me out for visits occasionally. If I plop myself down right beside their parents houses, I might be so lucky.

But I’m off on a tangent! The point is that I no longer feel like a part of my family. And maybe that is normal too, at my age, to disconnect from my parents and siblings because I should supposedly have my own family to nurture and care for now. I was perfectly fine to let the distance in when I had my husband and he was my family. But now… I have a relationship with a man who already has a complicated family unit in which i am not a part, and I honestly don’t have the emotional and psychological stamina to join, should I be invited, which to date I have not been. So we compartmentalise, we have our time, he has his family time, and sometimes at larger family gatherings these things overlap. There have been many times in recent years that I have shed tears because I knew that if something happened to me at home, if I fell and hit my head, nobody would notice until my work performed a welfare check. Everyone is busy with their own lives and families. Everyone has so much on their plate. The reality is weeks could pass before anyone would get worried if they texted and I never answered. It is what it is. At least now I have a workplace who is mandated to perform a welfare check if I don’t show up for work, I guess.

I tried to strengthen family bonds during the pandemic, making a point to call or chat daily and weekly, but it didn’t really work. Somehow, in the last decade I have become a very family-oriented soul whose family consists of one person. Me. It’s been lonely, and frustrating, and really unfair. When the chips are down, who do I call? Who can I count on to be there for sure? Who is always going to have my back? Me, me, and me. I have felt this way for a long time now. And somehow, I have to fix this feeling because it is destroying any kind of real family connection that I might still have left. I have to either join, create, manage, or just accept … so I can get on with the business of living. I am leaning into acceptance. I am leaning into my family of one. Somehow, some way, I will learn to love and support myself so much that it will be enough, and I won’t feel lonely, frustrated or cheated anymore.

“It is worse to stay where one does not belong at all than to wander about lost for a while and looking for the psychic and soulful kinship one requires.”

― Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Mood: having a break-through moment
Drinking: water, room temperature
Listening To: a lawn mower on the back lawn
Hair: having one grey alfalfa sprout sticking straight up on top

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