Monday, September 29, 2014

a woman of independent ways

The men I've truly loved
needed me to need them more.
All I wanted was to be wanted.
I didn't understand their need.

Others say I've always been this way ...




I thought it was a compliment.
A  part of my strength.

Maybe I was wrong.

Maybe they were.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Is openness selfish?

I’m here – I’m in Kingston Jamaica. I’ve been here 4 days. In SKWiD training one of the conversations is about whether or not to share negative things with our people back home – what good can it do (feeling supported), and what bad (worrying loved ones who can’t help; being disappointed in their inability to help). I’ve been reflecting back on that conversation this week as I navigate the steaming miasma of a new country, essentially a new language, all the endings I left behind, and all the questions that lay ahead. 

Nothing about Kingston is negative, so far. It’s not that. Yes, it’s hot. Yes, we sometimes are locked out of the water supply for (knock wood) short periods. Yes, I’m learning to navigate systems in a place where everything still looks the same to me. It’s early days, and Kingston is a rewarding challenge. 

The only real struggle I’ve had is feeling isolated. We are in training all day, which means I can’t get to the necessary government office to get the tax registration number I need to get home Internet. I am home alone by 5 every evening, and in bed hours earlier than I normally would be just because there is no loneliness in sleep. Except, of course, when there is. Damn dreams. 

My roommate arrives tomorrow, but I don’t expect her to fill those aching gaps. She is a stranger-roommate. Not a son. Definitely not a lover. Not my champion who for years has reassured me at every turn that I can do anything. Not even yet a friend. I know myself well enough to have anticipated that this would be my first, and perhaps my biggest, hurdle. And I know that sharing it may be a selfish act, but there it is. I am not just alone – I am lonely. 

I seem to have lost by two best friends somehow this summer. They have left large holes. I have a lot of love in my life, but it’s hard to feel it across a large continent and a wee sea. I feel it reaching, but not within reach, at least not yet reliably so. I know it's there ... 

The upside is, I am learning to stand tall on my own. To cross traffic where pedestrians have no rights. To cook with local flavours and ingredients. To turn on the boiler in the morning or enjoy my cold shower (mostly that). To include sunscreen and bug spray in my morning routine. Once I get over the ache of what was, I’ll be even more ready to celebrate what is.  

I am on a grand adventure – I have been blown away by the people of Kingston, their patience with my inability to understand their accents, the amazing customer service everywhere, how nicely put together people are at their businesses, the food, my 5-month home ... I haven’t seen a lot of the city so far, but I am so excited already with the opportunities to learn and grow and explore. 

I didn’t expect to be this lonely this soon. I didn’t expect to feel so shut in when the sun goes down completely by 6:30 and I’m encouraged to stay in my apartment. I know this feeling is very transitional, but it was surprisingly fast. 

As always, music is my friend. Tonight I have been listening to this on repeat while I scrub the kitchen:


Do not worry – I am happy. I’m proud of myself for being here, for seeing that my life wasn’t what I wanted or needed and doing something about it. It’s just hard, sometimes, to keep looking forward. I am using a cliche as a mantra. I wonder how you say it in patwa. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

of Kafka, words and memory

A loved one sent me this quote the other day:
How many words in this book. 
They are meant for remembrance. As though words could carry memories. 
For words are clumsy mountaineers and clumsy miners. Not for them to bring down treasures from the mountains’ peaks, or up from the mountains’ bowels. 
But there is a living mindfulness that has passed gently, like a stroking hand, over everything memorable. And when the flame shoots up out of these ashes, hot and glowing, strong and mighty, and you stare into it as though spellbound by its magic, then– 
But no one can write himself into this kind of pure mindfulness with unskillful hand and crude pen; one can write only in such white, undemanding pages as these. I did so on September 2, 1900 
Franz Kafka
... for words are clumsy mountaineers ... 

At first I was so taken with Kafka's skillful pen that I paid more attention to the sparkly sound than I did to the hardened diamond of meaning. On re-reading though it strikes me that words may be feeble vessels for memory, but they are vibrant conductors of it. What but words can take your mind back to a moment so completely that your body responds? We have so few other sensory recordings of those moments that words have to suffice, imperfect as they are.

Perhaps that's why memories themselves are imperfect and either embellish or diminish the reality of a moment. Even a photograph, the supposed truth-teller of the past, shows only a flattened and particular image, a flash of time within a frame. What happens before or after or outside the field of view is left to the inconstancy of memory. Photos too fade over time. Memories can fade, though those we hold closest seem to maintain their shine.

Some moments are burnished with revisiting - a hello, a chuckle, a touch, the splash of bath water, the slow relaxing of muscles ...

Kafka is both right and wrong - words are imperfect for carrying (or maybe for sharing) memories, but he seems to imply that that imperfection is a weakness. I think the magic of words is the way in which they can translate memories, that they can get to the truth beyond the reality, that the details fall away and only the experience as experienced remains.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I'm sailing away

Okay, now that I have yet again begun a post by giving you the most horrendous of ear worms, let me get serious(ish) for a moment.

I am not sailing away. I am, however, flying away, and, in fact, taking the (apparently wrongly attributed) advice of Mark Twain and casting off the bowlines, exploring, dreaming and discovering.

After a year of feeling stuck I am now bounding forward. In exactly one month I leave my safe harbour of Victoria BC for a new harbour of Kingston, Jamaica where I will be volunteering for six months. It's a startling adventure. There are moment when I think I may want to reconsider. And, as I promised my ladies at our book club retreat, I am Daring Greatly.

It's something I have dreamt of doing for a lifetime. And something I'll be sharing about more fully elsewhere.

This blog will continue to limp along, weighed down by navel gazing & book reviews, while my adventures with CUSO International will soon be shared on a new site.

For now, let me share this from my CUSO fundraising page:
As a teenager in northern British Columbia I saw television ads for international aid agencies and was intrigued. In my family overseas service meant missions work, and I was fascinated to learn that people could share things beyond their faith – their knowledge, skill, ability and compassion – in the world. When I was 17 years old I traveled to southern Africa; that trip began my life-long yearning to travel, my interest in global justice, and my earliest development of cultural competency. That trip also birthed a dream that has grown as the years rolled by - the dream to make a real and lasting difference in the developing world.
I studied. Raised my children. Gained experience, compassion and - I hope - wisdom. In all of that, the goal of using my skills and knowledge internationally called me forward. At this point in my life, with my sons grown and stable and a clear sense of myself and my abilities, it’s time to make that thirty year old dream come true. CUSO International is helping me do that. 
I have followed and supported CUSO for years, biding my time until my life aligned with their volunteer opportunities. The placement for a 6 month Marketing, Communication & Branding Advisor for a national organization in Kingston, Jamaica had that just right feel – not too far, not too long, a great introduction to international development. 
I can’t wait to go, to learn, to grow, to teach and to serve. 
In spite of the obstacles facing them, people in every corner of the developing world are building better futures for their communities, and thanks to CUSO I get to work with them! I will work side-by-side with these committed citizens to make positive change happen. Lasting change requires not just a financial investment, but also a human investment. That’s why Cuso International shares skills, and changes lives. 
While there are many volunteer-sending agencies, one of Cuso International’s unique attributes is its role as the North American strategic alliance partner of VSO, a worldwide partnership of Voluntary Service Overseas organizations. This is the world's largest non-governmental development network that works through volunteers. It allows them to recruit from all over the world, and to transfer the expertise, experience and ‘best practices’ of one country to another. 
Not everyone can work overseas, but everyone can support that work. Thank you for whatever you can give to support my work and to help me pay it forward to future CUSO volunteers.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

the great gatsby: a book club review

One page in I find myself re-reading Fitzgerald's sentences, not because they are arcane or overly complex but because I so enjoy the feel and sound of them. After resisting reading the 'American Classic' The Great Gatsby I was immediately captured by Fitzgerald's elegant style: 'If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life ...' The writing is refined but not precious; captivating without being ornate - a pretty cocktail dress that makes you stand at full height and want to dance, not a corseted gown that forces you into pretending you are someone else. Quotable without cliché. 

Fitzgerald is flawless at translating into text the breathless reclining ennui we (I) associate with youthful wealth and the excess of the Roaring Twenties - wealth that has been granted rather than gained; excess that attempts to feed the gaping maw of meaninglessness. Yawns, whispers & mumbles seem to be the main methods of communication for the inhabitants of West Egg, the creatures of East Egg exerting themselves only far enough further to add sneering to the repertoire.

It's easy to be seduced by both the richness of the scenes & the beauty of Fitzgerald's language. It's easy to overlook the sneering that is exercised by both the inhabitants of East Egg & Fitzgerald himself. It's easy to be sucked into the glamour, right up until you are slapped in the face with the violent, amoral seediness of it all. The adultery. The scheming. The abuse of self and others. It's an ugly world in an alluring wrapping, scene after scene of beautiful decay. It's a short short novel and so beautifully constructed in plot and language that nothing is missing.  

I loved this book. I really did. I should really learn not to judge things by their 'American Classic' or 'Oprah Book Club Selection' status. ;-)

Amazon Associate Link

I may have mentioned this every month for the past year, but I LOVE MY BOOK CLUB. And it was such a treat to get to host this month for such a fun, theme-party-friendly meeting. Themes make planning so much easier, and as much as I made fun last year of people having Gatsby themed parties with no apparent awareness of Fitzgerald's message of condemnation for the excess. And yet ... Gatsby patio party it is! 

Of course, I don't have Gatsby's budget. Let's face it, right now I don't even have Nick Carraway's budget, so we settled for food, dressing the patio up, download a free font for a bit of home-made signage and find recipes for a signature drink or two, et voila - suddenly the back yard is East Egg.

Toasting our amazing group
Of course, all the sparklers and deviled eggs in the world wouldn't matter without the fabulous ladies, great conversation, and laughter. When you move from 'ejaculate' to 'evocative' in a matter of seconds, you know you're at book club. 
Happy Hostess

The Menu
Gin Rickey (Welcome Cocktail)
"the well-disciplined child held to her nurse's hand and was pulled out the door, just as Tom came back, preceding four gin rickeys that clicked full of ice."

Hors d’Oeuvre:
Angels on Horseback (oyster & shrimp), Classic Meatballs, Deviled Eggs, Mixed Olives, Waldorf Salad, Spinach Dip & Crudités, Mixed Nuts 
"On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d'oeuvre ..."
Lemon Bundt Cake
"Together we scrutinized the twelve lemon cakes from the delicatessen
shop. "Will they do?" I asked. "Of course, of course! They're fine!" and he added hollowly, ". . .old sport."

Lemon Tea
"I had them both on their feet with the desperate suggestion that they help me make tea in the kitchen when the demoniac Finn brought it in on a tray."

French 75
"I had taken two finger bowls of champagne and the scene had changed before my eyes into something significant, elemental and profound."

Beautiful flowers perfect the scene
PS - I apologize for not getting this posted sooner as I know Little E likes to look for her mention. It was a bit of a crazy week. 
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