Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lesson Seven.

“It’s about what you put in here (points to mouth)...”

I’ve gained some weight. 

Last year, due to Crossfit + workout classes at National Stadium I was smoking hot.  But as a result of deciding I’m pretty much over lifting caribou-sized weights and stair running, but not over drinking copious amounts of wine, I put on 15, some days 20 lbs, since then.

It’s been a bit of a bummer, mainly because I want to wear my clothes, and you know, heart disease, so I’m looking forward to losing the weight, but am not quite sure how it’s going to happen.  I’m generally pretty active – I have a famous pedal bike named Shoshanna, do yoga, and walk lots.  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a change in my eating habits or liquor intake, and clearly the intensity of activity is not burning off any calories. 

About 2 months ago, a lady who works in the Towne felt compelled to tell me she was very worried with how fat I was getting and specifically that my butt and thighs were out of control.  Her advice was to remember that ‘it’s about what you put in here (points to mouth)’.  One particularly explicit response came to mind (tee hee), but I just laughed off my shock and embarrassment, and told her I know.  She went on and on… and I just stood there saying, ‘yes, you are right, mm-hmm’.

When I told the story to others, they were stunned.  Do you know this lady? She has some nerve!   Why didn’t you tell her to mind her business? 

I didn’t have an answer. Why DIDN’T I say something?  What would I have said? Is it okay for someone to walk up to you, someone who you have not so much as ever had a cup of coffee with, and for her to tell you that you’re fat?

Sadly for both of us, my weight loss is not happening fast enough.  Today, she commented on me wearing a dress.  In hindsight, I realise she’d thought it odd that I was unashamedly showing my ginormous beastly thighs – but I wasn’t thinking on that level and just started making friendly conversation, responding that I tend to only wear dresses, but am looking to buy more pants because of my bike.  (Sidebar: What a boring comment!  Why am I jabbering on about pants?)

She says, “Don’t buy any just yet.  You’re going to start losing weight soon. Wait til you lose the weight to go shopping…”

I froze mid-blink so I could rewind what she said and see if I’d heard correctly.  I’m sorry… what? Not only am I fat, but I’m also forbidden from shopping?  And AGAIN… AGAIN I said nothing!  Just did a ‘heh heh’ forced chuckle and walked away. 

I will stand up for any cause that I feel passionately about.  I chase down litterers and speak up for people who I feel are being mistreated.  My friends routinely sigh because I am always gently nudging (my term) slash lecturing (their term) them about being kind to the planet.  My first blog post highlighted a situation where I’d been insensitive, and granted, I went about it the wrong way, but even in that case, I’d been standing up for something I believe in. 

But earlier this year, a man stood outside my office while I worked late, and pulled out his penis.  Rather than screaming, making a fuss, taking a picture - anything that would be about protecting myself - my immediate thought was about protecting the town. I pretended I didn't see him, so the police would have time to arrive and catch him.  They didn't.  And instead I ended up scared and devastated.

Maybe I didn’t react to the 'fat' comments because it wasn't that big a deal, or maybe, even when something is a big deal, I'm not used to standing up for myself.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Lesson Six.

“Why do I keep saying you’re my best friend?  Maybe I’ve just known you the longest.”

Somebody egged my car.

I swerved into the other lane, then quickly righted (or I guess ‘lefted’) myself.   I thought I hit something, then figured it was random falling debris but nope, there it was - the telltale streaks of a definite egg attack.

If the culprits had been watching me, they may have been quite pleased with the reaction that followed.  But little did those little bastards know that I’d already been quietly sobbing on this 1am drive home, and the egging just put me over the edge to a super melodramatic howling, runny-nosed bout of full on banshee screaming.  

I have a group of friends, ‘The GNs’, which stands for ‘Girls Night’ – a fun meetup we started having about 10 years ago.  The night rotates between our homes, and even though our ambitious goal of monthly ‘pot luck game nights’ soon petered to quarterly ‘bring your own food and nobody likes Pictionary but you’, we have continued through all that could happen in a decade within a group of 6 women – weddings, babies, parent drama, children drama, friendship drama, illness, financial woes, new homes, new jobs, breakups, talks about divorce, actual divorce…

Our group charted would be a Venn diagram of duos and trios and cousins and neighbours that knew this person and that person and ‘we’ve been friends since we were four’.  A friendship fallout that had us lose one person along the way revealed a never-spoken realisation that you need to have at least two close friends in the group in order to have a real place.

And so the seven of us gather, sometimes spontaneously, but most often, as was the case in the evening of the egging, after carefully choosing a night when most of us are available and someone is willing to host a raucous booze-filled night.   We chatted about our jobs and Beyonce’s concert outfits, talking at the same time, yelling around each other, laughing and dutty-wining and reminiscing.

Then one comment, possibly careless but not malicious, from one friend to another, led to an avalanche of shouting, tears, unresolved hurts, accusations, defensive reactions, misunderstandings and the abrupt and premature ending of our night.  “Girl’s night is over.  Please leave.”

I was asked to stay behind, and did so thinking I’d be providing a shoulder and ear, but instead took a winding, signpost-free path (how did I get here?) that ended with me defending myself against rehashings of an issue from last year, one I'd thought she'd moved on from but clearly she had not. This situation had triggered still-raw memories of another 

After an hour of this, I'm irritated and thinking of the long drive ahead of me.  I'd explained, apologised, and I wanted it to be over. Frustrated, I suggested that maybe we aren’t all as close as we once were. Thus why I didn’t understand what was going on with her, when a ‘real friend’ would have.   Why we don’t really hang out that often outside of our GN events.  Why I have other friends I see more often.  Why some in the group don’t share what’s going on in their lives.  Why we don’t have as much in common anymore.

But that was a crutch. 

It was in the same category of, “Well I was going through my own shit at the time too you know… “ and “I’m really busy… “ All excuses I tossed out during this confrontation with my own shortcomings and as a way to avoid the cognitive dissonance – the difference between how I’d treated my friend, and the person I think I am.  

I hosed the egg off my car, tears streaming down my face… then crawled into bed and cried a bit more.   Cried thinking of how many nights my sister-friends and I had spent together.   Of how much this group has shaped me, supported me, taught me.  

Friendship is a precious thing.  And even though it might not look the same, ever again, I was wrong to suggest that it wasn’t still beautiful.  

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Lessons Three. Four. And Five.

“Kristin’s a good person with a good heart.  She just made a big mistake.”
Two nights before Hurricane Gonzalo, I commented on a Facebook post about public schools being open the next day, while private schools would be closed.  I didn’t read the whole thread, but while skimming I did see that most, if not all, of the commenters felt the schools being open was a stupid decision. I added my 2p that perhaps for this day, the schools would be a ‘service’ for those parents whose jobs were not closed or who needed to do lots of pre-storm prep.  The inferences that followed were that I felt a) teachers shouldn’t be allowed the same prep allowances and b) teachers are baby-sitters.  Neither was true, but the firestorm that followed was immediate and intense.  Any comment I added to try and explain my view (which admittedly was not even one I felt strongly about), or even provide support, was beaten down. 

I apologised to everyone for the misunderstanding, then the above was said about my ‘big mistake’.  And while that statement could be about my life generally (like f’real - such an accurate summation!!) and I agree about making a mistake, I disagree about what it was.  Not my view – which was echoed by other people on other pages in better words.   The ‘big mistake’ was wading into a conversation where emotions were high with a different opinion, when I had no skin in the game.  Not having a school aged child, or being a teacher, or even feeling strongly enough about what I was saying to stop and properly craft messages rather than hastily type them on my phone – I should have stayed out of it.  Period.  

"Just to think she's the head of a group of young adults/kids for Raleigh International yrs past.  If this is how (she) thinks I'm so glad my daughter didn't fall under her watch..."

This was one of the comments made in the Facebook fray, and the next day I thought about this comment over and over … and over.  Some people say they don’t care what anybody thinks.  While I’m 100% sure that’s bullshit, I admire the spirit.  I care a lot about what people think.  

And Raleigh is such a major part of who I am, from breath to bones, that this post felt really personal. Instead of acknowledging it as a ‘heat of the moment’ statement from someone who does not know me, I let it (as usual) shake me.

But having this tape running through my head the day before a massive storm was about to hit was counter-productive.   In order to actually get sorted, I had to put it aside, and not allow myself days of dwelling.  This comment would pop into my mind when getting ice or testing flashlights, causing my heart to beat fast and my mind to wander.  But with Gonzalo bearing down, a wandering mind was a luxury I couldn’t afford. 

And so I did what I usually do not – reminded myself of who I am, accepted that this post is not, in the big scheme of things, that important, and focused on what was.  I took a deep breath and I moved on.  Funny... it only took a hurricane... 

“It’s $150.” “But it took you like 10 minutes...”
Get an estimate before the job, even in a hurricane emergency.   Not as big a lesson as the others, but damn I’m bad with money.


How about you?  What did you take away from our double storm whammy?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lesson Two.

Eight Days. Two Hurricanes. One a surprise. 120 miles per hour winds. 149 hours without electricity (not consecutive). 10 D batteries. 3 bucket baths.  12 bottles of wine (don’t judge us).  1 bottle of rum.  One attack of tears. Half a broken balcony (Fay).  The other half a broken balcony.  (Gonzalo). A vat of guacamole.  Three pieces of tarp.  Two pieces of plywood. Six homemade sand bags. One bonfire.  Four bags of chips.  Two drives to use the toilet.  One drive to charge my phone. One undamaged bookstore. One badly damaged ship.  9 candles.  11 dipped buckets of water.   Two long walks.  Four trees down.  Three BBQ dinners.  Four large bags of ice.  Five games of Rummy 500.  One marathon Jenga session.  One unfinished game of Spit.  Plenty dancing. Two Toni Morrison books.  Tons of heroes.  Numerous pictures. One unbowed island.    #bermystrong

I’ve been crying for about 20 minutes. Nothing hysteric… no wailing or gnashing of teeth or rending of garments… just tears quietly streaming from my eyes, me wiping them away.

It was the use of the term ‘life-threatening’.  I don’t know why it surprised me – hurricanes ARE deadly, and I’d been overdosing on information about this particular storm for days.  We all knew it was coming (yes we knew THIS one was coming), that it was gonna be powerful, that we needed to be prepared.  But for some reason, seeing it there in black and white  - ‘life-threatening’ – something inside me snapped.  And I got scared.

Gonzalo was coming tomorrow.  

We were here sipping wine and living life and buying plywood and candles… it wasn’t enough.  I had to tell my friends I loved them.  I had to tell my family I loved them.   I had to post on Facebook that I loved everyone.  I was scared but wanted to stop crying.  I wanted to say that we should continue being good to each other, to keep the power of this unified quest for survival, to scoff at the melodrama of terms like ‘life-threatening’.  

Because we are #bermystrong.


And here we are.  Our little island that could.

There is so much damage – I can’t stop scrolling through the heart-breaking pictures of damaged roofs, and uprooted trees, and broken ships.

But here we are, with no lives lost, smiling at each other in disbelief.

Candles blazing, water dipping, kids outside playing ‘Simon Says’ and ‘1-2-3 Red Light’.  BBQs fired up.  Tarp being spread wide to cover roofs.  Rakes scraping up leaves and chain saws cutting up casuarinas and (sadly) cedars.  Cards and scrabble laid out on dining tables. Facebook statuses about ‘the scariest moment of my life’ and ‘oh my god I hid in a closet’.

But here we are.

In our rental apartment, we were oh so lucky, with very little damage.  Our landlord had beautiful trees come down, and we lost our balcony railing.  Small potatoes.

So, with our electricity out and nothing but time, I find myself simply enjoying what I’ve oft-missed.  Connecting with people – family, neighbours, strangers. Staring up at a starry sky – all the more clear with no lights to block the view.  Searching for dead wood then cracking a branch over my thigh so I can build a small bonfire in my chiminea and smell smoke in my clothes.  Playing rummy/shithead/spoons/spit.  Writing. Doing nothing at all.

And feeling…

My previous job at Raleigh Bermuda was 7 years of feeling.  And for thirty-three, I was so focused on achieving, doing, trying, being frustrated, being disappointed, being busy, acting out… I wonder…. Did I let myself feel? Fear, love, anger, sadness, gratitude, wholeness.  Not orchestrating moments but genuinely living and feeling.

This hurricane brought some feelings that snuck up on me, both before the storm – thus the tears - and now post-storm, I am melting into these feels, letting them wash over me.

And loving the lesson. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lesson One.

"I'm so irritated with myself.  I hurt someone's feelings."  "Is it fixable?"  *pause*  "No."

Thirty-Three is over.  It was my jesus year – meant to be a year of transformation, of risk-taking, of movement, of me changing the world.  Instead it was a year of near zero clarity, of chaos, of trying a ton of wildly unrelated except to me ideas, of these ideas mostly not working, and of making pretty large, less-than-well thought out choices.  Other than a wicked awesome Best Cup Match ever, a new job that I like, and a couple moments just before things didn’t work out when I was still full of delusional optimism … it was a big heapity heap of angst and frustration. 

But, because I'm insane, I didn’t dwell on any of the good things (and yes there was more than just Cup Match although seriously... it was incredible).  I didn't take a moment to be happy for what had worked. Didn't even honour the age old, 'What did I learn?'

Instead, I just cried, scrapped 33 and began planning for 34, daydreaming about how it would be so different… way more full of inspiration, and love.  More being kinder to myself and to others, and less of saying Yes too much, and feeling ragged and sad.  But most importantly *cue the music* me changing the world, you know ACTUALLY this time. Me and 34 were going to walk into the sunset, holding hands, laughing at how we overcame it all.  

All I had to do was just make it around the final bend of 33.   

Alas, I stumbled at the finish line, and as I was reaching for some celebratory birthday champagne and lamb, 33 grabbed me, held up a mirror and said, 'it's not me, it's you...'.  Thirty-Three forced me to think about how my ‘good intentions’ actually won't amount to much. That, without meaning to, I can be dismissive. That I’m self-centred.  *yikes* 

Okay, I knew I was self-centred.  

Yet over the years I've thought slash expected aka hoped, and it's mostly been the case, that folks have instead focused on my aforementioned good intentions.  Most have celebrated my energy and ideas and passion.  They've excused some of my poor behaviour because perhaps they recognised it as frustration at slow change or seen that my head is so full of ideas it overwhelms me and clouds my judgement.  Sometimes they've chalked it up to the impetuosity of youth.

But now ... I’m 34.  And in week one of being so, I've seen that these excuses are not valid. That I can be irresponsible and naive. And shitty. And selfish.  And, as per Murakami *deep sigh*, had I actually been cruel? Ouch....*ET Voice* 

Ugh this sucks.  So, how'm I gonna dig myself out of this? I screwed up, had no way out, and the masochist in me wants to just sit and think about it over and over.  And when I say 'wants to' I mean I'm currently doing that, and alternating between sending a fruit basket, writing another apology (is handwritten better?  or an email? or maybe a card!), or just saying 'screw this I didn't mean it I'm a good person!', then quickly telling myself, 'no you're not...' aannndd back to the fruit.  *endless loop*

Well... I've decided that instead, and because this person said as they stared with deep disappointment in their eyes, 'there's a lesson to be learned here' (which was a touch patronising and "young lady"-ish, especially when they wagged their finger but I'll take it because ultimately they're right...), that's just what I'll do.  Not gonna excuse anything, not gonna think about it endlessly or use it as reason to sit paralysed. I'm going to stop, breathe, think and learn.  

And, so whether 34 is all I wish it to be, or *ohgodno* if 34 is about the same as 33... either way, just let me learn something this time around.