The Bitter End

A labored breath in, a shuddered breath out,
I struggle to see through the darkness.
Whispering voices, mournful tones,
All talking about me…I am here.

Stray comments waft past my consciousness –

“…such a great mom…kids will miss her…always there…”

Am I supposed to be proud?  I am angry.

I was so much more – but no-one saw, or cared.

 

A childhood lived, but not experienced,

My passions deemed unsafe; improper; unwise.

Afraid I’d get hurt; afraid I’d choose wrong.

All was chosen for me.

 

Others’ expectations, so confining,

A spirit straightjacketed by good intentions.

I took those lessons into the world

Where they continued to shackle me.

 

I can’t travel the world, I need to work.

I can’t quit my job, we need my check.

I can’t start a business, we need my benefits.

No time, never time, for me.

 

Now it’s too late, no time left to be me.

No accomplishments of my own.

No obituary for me, there is nothing to say.

Nobody knew the real me.

 

The darkness spreads, the voices fade.

I try to speak, one last chance to be heard.

For someone to know who I am, who I was.

I was here – Why did no-one see me?


I was here

 

Saying goodbye to a road not taken

Here it is the May 24th weekend (which for some dumb reason is actually taking place a week early) and I am home alone. My kids are at their dad’s, my husband is in Muskoka working his dream job. I am having an orgy of spring cleaning, tossing every piece of junk not nailed down out the front door. And in doing so, I have finally thrown out my old construction boots. The last time I had them on was about two months ago, to help my husband move some wood with nails in it, and they were so stiff they hurt my feet. They are simply unwearable now.

Boots 002

Perfectly ordinary work boots, with steel reinforced toes and rated for shock (or whatever they call it – that green triangle thingy they put on them). But I love these boots and have carried them around, hardly ever wearing them, but refusing to get rid of them, for 26 years.

The summer I was 21, burned out from my boring university course and fed up with the city, I was determined to find a summer job outside. An acquaintance suggested I apply at a local christmas tree farm – he said the guy hired a few girls every year. I don’t remember applying, the interview, or the guy who hired me, but I do remember the job. You walked in a circle around the tree, trimming the branches into a nice cone shape, then moved on to the next one. Equipment required – steel toed boots, shin pad, and an 18 inch long machete.

Since my first job at 14, I have worked at offices, a bakery, Burger King, a golf course and law firms, and one 3 week stint as a waitress. That tree farm job was my first experience with manual labour and I have never loved a job that much before or since. Outside all day, one simple job to do, and being left alone to do it. Taking breaks when you need one with no accusatory stare from a superior. Listening to my Walkman all day. Riding to and from the fields in the back of the boss’s pickup. I remember my mother thought it would be too hard for me, but I had a ball. She took this picture of me at the end of my first day.

Work camp pic 2

In the years since, I often thought of that job and why it appealed to me so. It was the physicality and simplicity, and the peaceful environment, that drew me to it. If I could live my life over again, I would take an apprenticeship and learn a trade. Even now, if I could, I would love to learn carpentry – or masonry. That one intrigues my husband – as supportive as he is of my interest in the trades, he has a hard time picturing me working with cement and bricks. And so would anyone else looking at me right now – 47 years old, 188 lbs, sitting in a chair all day. But I actually thrive on physical work – it feeds something in me that working at a desk can’t satisfy.

I have spent most of my adult life wishing I’d made different decisions, and stubbornly holding on to the hope that one day things might be different. That hope is the reason I kept the boots – always waiting for a chance to wear them again. Even now, with all these responsibilities and really no options or freedom to change, I dream of quitting my job to work with my husband. To spend my summer outdoors, painting, feeling the sun on my face and fresh air…a gloriously unregimented existence.

But it’s not going to happen. If it was just me I’d do it and start fresh, but being responsible for three kids stops me. Steve’s income has proved too precarious to be our only income; I need more security than that for the life I want to give my kids. By the time all three girls are grown up and I’m responsible only for myself again, I will be 57 years old.

So I took the boots out of the closet – old, cracking, stiff with age. I put them in the garbage bag. Then, like an idiot, I started to cry. Took them back out again. Left them on the couch for a few hours while I threw out different things. Then, just before I tied it up, put them in the garbage bag again. No tears the second time.

I may still have the occasional day where I can work with my husband. But there will never be a new career in the trades – I’m too old, I’ve missed my chance. I have arthritis in my hands and could never wield a paint brush all day. Even food prep can be painful. It’s such a shame – there’s so much more acceptance for women in trades now, it would be a great time to become involved. There is even a new brand of construction wear especially for women in trades called “Moxi Trades”. They sell boots, safety glasses, tool belts and hard hats in construction yellow, powder blue, and pink. So, last week, I went out and bought a new pair of work boots.

Boots 003

Just in case.

“Someday” never comes

A little girl lived with unspoken dreams,
Others expectations met first.
Escape at eighteen, desires anticipated.
Now it is my turn.

What do I do to find my life?
This is your life, they say.
Finish school; find a job; get married; have kids.
Ok, done – now is it my turn?

The kids need shoes and lessons,
The car and roof need repairs.
My husband starts his own business.
When is it my turn?

The kids are grown, the house paid off,
The business is a success.
My hair is gray, my reflection unfamiliar.
Now is it my turn?

My children all have children.
I still wait for someday to come.
My family all say they love their life.
What about my life – when is it my turn?

My time has ended, the light grows dark,
My voice silenced, I sink to oblivion.
One final thought my last link to this earth –
Why was it never my turn?

Don’t wait for permission to live your life.

Waxing Philosophical

Since my dad died I have been thinking a lot about karma, fate, predestination, etc.  I never put much credence in any of it before, but now that I’m getting older (ugh) I can’t help noticing patterns, rhythms and happenings in life that I didn’t notice before.  For instance, the seeming inability to escape fate, or change your destiny.  I have been actively trying to turn my life in a new direction for 8 years, and it’s gotten me absolutely nowhere.  I have blog postings going back to 2009 deriding my finances, my job, my weight…yet here it is 2014 and my weight is only 6 lbs lighter than it was (and that just happened in the last 3 months), my finances are worse than ever, the same patterns repeating themselves over and over no matter what I do to change it.  I follow the rules, I get nowhere.  I break the rules, I get nowhere.  I’m selfless; nothing.  I’m selfish; nada.  Every time I try to break free, I’m pulled back in by a repeat of the circumstances that put me there the last time, and this has been going on since 1991.  This past year I’ve become a bit panicky about the whole thing.  I feel like there is a gigantic clock hanging in the air in front of me, the words “Life Span” tattooed across it, that every 60 seconds swings its minute arm forward another notch with a loud clang meant to remind me that yet another minute of what’s left of my life is gone, and I still haven’t done anything.

Do you ever feel like you have no control over the outcome of your actions?  I spent 5 years reading self-improvement and financial books and it hasn’t changed a damn thing.  And I can see and feel the same patterns swirling around me no matter what I do to try to escape.  It’s like the blueprint of my life is written in stone somewhere and is unchangeable; there are some things I’m never going to have; some things I’m never going to do.  Maybe everyone has that one thing they will never achieve, and mine is financial security.

In the greater scheme of things I have little to complain about.  At 47 I have no health concerns at all beyond a bit of what I assume is arthritis, while others lead lives constricted by their ailments.  I know people who have lost children, been diagnosed with cancer, had their homes burned down; there are children left orphaned by accident and illness; nothing this serious has ever happened to me.  I have my (rental) home, my children are healthy and happy, I have a job, and the only deaths I’ve experienced are natural cause- related older relatives; sad but nothing unusual.  I’ve also noticed that often when you hear of good fortune in others, they have a circumstance in their life that makes that run of good luck all the more welcome.  Lottery winners who are ill or unemployed for example.  And then some people just really seem to have no luck at all; ill spouse, unemployed, financial insecurity, illness of their own – all at the same time.

I see patterns in time, connections that don’t show themselves until years later.  Tonight I was looking at some pictures on my Facebook page of my hometown, Midland, Ontario, in 1959 when Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip came through during their Canadian Tour.  My mother is in this picture somewhere near the top; I think she is the girl top right, first row sitting.  She is 14 years old.

Image

In this next picture, there are two O.P.P. officers just behind and to the right of the Royals, charged with providing Her Majesty’s security detail.  My mother is sure that the one on the left is my Grandfather, Chief Inspector William McBride (although I don’t believe he was a C.I. at that time – probably a Sergeant).  He was in charge of the Queen’s O.P.P. security detail so would have been quite close, and the profile, although fuzzy, looks very much like my dad.

Image

Talk about predestination – my 14 year old mother is less than 30 feet away from the man who will become her father-in-law 12 years in the future.  How weird is that?  At the time of this picture Grandfather lived in Toronto, a two hour drive south, and my dad was 23 years old and attending the University of Toronto.  My parents met when Dad got a job at the same hospital Mom was nursing at and moved to Midland, in 1968.

Things like this have been turning my mind to thoughts of predestination and things “meant to be.”  I feel very strongly this is the reason my husband and I are currently together…life circumstance intervened when we were teens when his parents moved away, separating us when it wasn’t meant to be so.  Twenty years later he found me – 3 days after I had an incredibly intense dream about him wherein physically he looked as he appeared when we reunited, and not the way he’d looked the last time I’d seen him…how could I have known?

I am starting to regret things a little less, and become somewhat more accepting of what I have. I’ve been thinking that maybe the debt I unconsciously pay to the universe in exchange for my life of no drama or trauma, is a somewhat hum-drum life of few highs or lows.  Maybe I’m not going to win the lottery, or travel the world, or ever do anything exciting.  Maybe living a quiet, unexciting life, enjoying my children and husband and, occasionally, a few simple pleasures, is my lottery win.