Archives for posts with tag: Therapy

Music is wafting down the staircase from Cate’s room. I can hear her typing, working on a project. In just months, if all goes as planned, she will be working at the camp she has known since childhood. I will drive her up north and help set up her cabin. If it is a nice day, I might take a dip in the lake before hugging her goodbye and hopping back in the van. Dion and I will likely visit her once or twice over the course of the summer. We will have lunch in Parry Sound, wander through our favourite used bookstore, get Kawartha ice cream in waffle cones, admire the Georgian Bay, and then head back to Toronto before dark. In late August I will pick up sun-kissed, tired, and elated Cate. She will collapse into her bed and I will be grateful to peek in and see her sound asleep. This is a familiar rhythm, one that has been established over many years. 

The comfort of this pattern is soon going to be interrupted. This year, after I pick Cate up from camp, I will be helping her move into an apartment of her own, one that will be shared with a wonderful friend. As far as first apartments go, this one is pretty amazing: it is filled with light, has a view of the city and is steps from public transit. It is far enough away that Cate will be able to embrace new independence, while being close enough that we can easily see one another. I am thrilled that Cate can take this next step. And, I don’t know how to be ready for this monumental change. 

I have loved every stage of parenting Cate. Being her mother is one of my greatest joys. She has been since her arrival, a constant companion. In Cate’s early days she was almost always glued to me, either in a carrier, my arms, or somehow attached to my leg. I remember being content to let Cate’s confidence grow in her own time, and it did. It was and is a wonder to watch so many things emerge in her, including compassion and creativity. I believe this will just continue, recalling my own mother emphatically saying, “Erinn, parenting just gets better and better”. 

As much as I trust what my mom said, I find myself feeling anxious and scared about this transition. I can remember what life was like before having a child. What I don’t know is life with Cate that doesn’t include her living with me/us. It’s not that my identity is in question, or that I now doubt my value. I am many things, in addition to a mother. It’s not that I don’t want Cate to spread her wings. In fact, this is exactly what we have wanted to prepare her for. And so, what is it? It’s that I am going to miss her. A lot. 

Sometimes I look at Cate and catch my breath, reminded that I am hers and she is mine/ours. How wild that she spent nine months in me and came out with a head of auburn hair and a knowing look in her eye. I have learned so much from and with her over the last 18 years, about things like perseverance, forgiveness, routine, flexibility, loyalty, empathy, grief, adventure, fun, and love. I’ll never forget getting stranded overseas with Cate, just the two of us, after a major flight cancellation. She was the most patient person in a waiting room of exasperated adults and turned our ordeal into an escapade, one that included joining a high school prom at midnight, creating a meal out of finds at an after hours gas station, and travelling from one airport to another clear across town so that we could eventually get home (that story should be a whole entry of its own). 

I do have a lot to process. I am trying to address my anxiety and allow all the feels. I am talking to my therapist and sharing what is going on in me with Dion. Cate and I are talking about what this means for both of us, including me reading her this. I believe that Cate growing up is good and something to be celebrated. Right now, Our Love is Here to Stay is the music coming from Cate’s room. “It’s very clear, our love is here to stay. Not for a year but ever and a day. The radio and the telephone and the movies that we know. May just be passing fancies and in time may go. But oh, my dear, our love is here to stay”. In a whole lot of uncertainty, this I trust to be true: our love is here to stay. 

Back before I was a mother (my daughter is now 17) I worked at Sanctuary, a place that I often refer to as a sibling of The Dale. Sanctuary was formative for me, its fingerprints all over my life in ministry. It was the place that had me committing to community where people who are typically marginalized are instead placed at the core.

Over this Easter weekend Sanctuary had three of its people die, two of whom I knew. This on the heel of multiple other deaths. Over at The Dale we held five memorials from December until just mid-January, almost all of which were on Wednesdays at 1 pm. Near the end of that stretch I almost couldn’t bear the thought of leading another service. Our friends working in Harm Reduction see an astonishing loss of life all the time. Oh death, where is your sting? Well, one of the places is the street.

The sorrow is heavy. The scary thing is that there is very little room for the processing of grief. There is no space for a breath between bereavements. On top of it all is what I would call anticipatory grief, the kind that exists when we come to expect and brace for the next tragedy. I worry for our communities (and myself) in this. In fact, it’s something I think about a lot.

My most recent work in therapy has been largely related to the death of my mother. Without even realizing it, I was living in quiet protest of her being gone. Her absence felt so unreal that I was allowing myself to be numbed by it. Slowly I have been emerging from that, a process that is enabling me to sit in the sadness AND celebrate what an amazing mom I had. Elaine will never not be my mother. This is true too of my dad. Similarly, the friends that I have lost over the years will never stop being important pieces of my life.

Talking about death can be very uncomfortable. It often brings up the reality of our own mortality. It is confusing and, until it happens to us, impossible to understand. My mother taught me a lot about clinging to hope in both life and death. It wasn’t that she lived without any fear of death, it was that she never let it control her. Instead, she readied herself to be free.

I believe that our friends are now free. Do I wish there were still here? Yes. Can I wait for the day that death is put to death? I will, but it can hurry up already. Somehow, I am not devoid of hope, in fact I remain resolute in my belief that light will overcome the darkness. And, I stand in solidarity with Sanctuary and other front-line communities in collective grief and lament.

From the complications of loving you
I think there is no end or return.
No answer, no coming out of it.

Which is the only way to love, isn’t it?
This isn’t a playground, this is
earth, our heaven, for a while.

Therefore I have given precedence
to all my sudden, sullen, dark moods
that hold you in the center of my world.

And I say to my body: grow thinner still.
And I say to my fingers, type me a pretty song,
And I say to my heart: rave on.

-Mary Oliver

I was introduced to the idea of polarity management a number of years ago by my husband Dion. The illustration that I see consistently used to define it is this: in order to live we must breathe, but in order to do so we must participate in what are seemingly opposed actions: inhaling AND exhaling. The ‘problem’ of breathing is not solved by doing one or the other. Our lives are full of such quandaries: how do we do manage following rules and experiencing freedom or doing things efficiently and promoting creativity/innovation or (my personal favourite) working and resting?

Last year I started seeing a new therapist who mid-way into our first session said, “I’m going to flag ‘self-care’ as an issue for us to talk about”. Busted. She could see what I knew was true: I have a life full of commitments that could easily turn me into a burnt out mess (my words, not hers). Most of my commitments can’t be said no to and are deeply good. Many of them are blurred across the work/home divide. Desiring to do them well means that I have to manage the tension that exists between them and rest.

Last fall I came up with a list: take a Sabbath every Friday, see my therapist on a regular basis, get massage therapy when possible on my too-stiff shoulders and neck, eat properly, walk and take Zumba classes, meet with a Spiritual Director, make and get to regular Doctor and Dentist appointments, etc. Full disclosure: it kind of irked me and seemed counterintuitive that in order to participate in self-care I had to make a list of things TO DO. The truth is though, however imperfectly I keep it, the list has helped.

It helped me enough to realize that I also needed what I hadn’t added: vacation. Near the end of July both my body and brain were practically begging me to have an extended period of rest. I feel fortunate to be enjoying some serious time off this month with my family. At times it has taken effort to not create more to-do lists. There are moments when, for no apparent reason at all, my stomach feels anxious. Pushing through though has enabled me to experience the stillness that comes with not doing, but being.

Which brings me back to polarity management. I am convinced that enjoying life to its fullest comes with living well in the tension of work and rest. And by work, I don’t exclusively mean the paid kind. We cannot thrive doing only one or the other. I suppose my goal is to move more fluidly between the two. Since I’m putting this out there, maybe you can help hold me to it.

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