On- A 15 minute Meditation practice

Meditation looks different for some people. And that’s OK.

There is a woman that lives in a cute little cottage on a hill. The cottage over looks the sea and contains a lush little garden in the back. The woman is old and wise and kind. She is soft and beautiful. She has infinite patience and she loves me so so much. I visit her every day and she is always happy to see me. Inside the house it is always cool and soothing. It smells faintly like lavender and chamomile and fresh air. We sit on a big comfy chair together. I talk and talk. And she listens. She nods and smiles and sighs at all things I have to say. She never interrupts and never offers answers or advice. Sometimes she asks questions and her questions always lead me to new insight. Sometimes, when I am feeling particularly low, she takes me by the hand and leads me to a room in the house- sunny, bright and empty but for a lone chest that sits in the middle of the floor. The chest is big and ornately carved. In it lives all my riches. She invites me to sit and look at them, touch them, take them out and feel them. What is in there? My children. My grandchildren. My mother. My sister. My family. My friends. And so much more. it is overflowing. This is my Hope Chest. This old woman is there for me to lay all my burdens at her feet. And I do. My worries pour out of me and pile up on the floor in front of where she sits. They turn into shimmery balls of light and when I am done, when I am empty of my grief, despair, dashed dreams-she gathers them up in her arms and we walk outside together. She smiles at me and asks me if I am ready to let them go. I always say yes. She releases them into the blue sky and we stand together and watch them float away. She has ultimate compassion for me. I stay with her for about 5 minutes.

I have a simple bracelet that I wear all the time. It is a bracelet made out of small wooden beads. There is a small silver charm in the shape of a lotus flower that dangles from it. I don’t think that there is anything special, sacred or even meaningful about this bracelet. It is a tool. I use it to keep track of the words I say over and over. A mantra, if you will. I have two and they are not deep or profound. The first of them is this: Thank You. That is all. Over and over, I state my gratitude for all the blessings in my life. To whomever or whatever is out there, I give thanks. I start at the first bead beside the lotus flower and I move along and each bead gets a declaration of thanks. I stop when I get back to the lotus flower. My second go round the bracelet find me repeating this: Help Me. That’s right. Life is tough and complicated and sometimes scary. I need shoring up. I need reminders that I am ok. I need help from whomever or whatever is out there. I spend about 5 minutest with my bracelet, going round and round. Thank you for helping me. Help me more.

Mine looks a lot like this but with wooden beads.

The last part of my meditation is actually the part that is the simplest but yet the hardest for me. I sit. Be still. Just be. Breathing and paying attention to my body and what I am feeling. Sometimes it feels like all I am constantly doing is reigning in my thoughts; bringing them back to centre. Focus on breath, forget about focusing on breath, bring it back to breath. This is so very hard for me. I practice it for 5 minutes.

Just breathe.

And then I am done. I do set a timer. And I use music to “set the mood”. I put a sticky note on my door so my kids don’t barge in. It says Meditating. Do Not Disturb. And by and large, they don’t. I turn the ringer and all sounds off on my phone. I make sure I am comfortable; not too hot, not too cold, that the room is a little dark and off I go. Lots of people will think this is not a proper way to meditate. It really doesn’t matter to me. I figure I’m good as I make a deep connection with my inner wise woman. I express gratitude and ask for help and try to be still while sitting with my breath. If that’s not meditation, I don’t care what is. This practice (and it IS a practice) helps me so much; to keep perspective, to not sink into despair, to be the eye of the storm in my sometimes chaotic life, to know that no matter what- my inner self is good, strong and always there for me. It’s 15 minutes of medicine.

On-Making a Joy Plan

Although I like to think of myself as being a spiritual person; one who is in touch with those parts of themselves and those parts of the universe that are not completely concrete, the truth of the matter is that I am a mostly practical, earthy type. I would say that I am about 12.5% Woo Woo and 87.5 Practical. I like to blend that little bit of Woo with the mostly earthbound. For instance, I am a regular meditator (at least 5x per week). That’s the airy, ethereal part BUT, I don’t sit in stillness and try to be one with anything. I already know I am one with everything. I just take that for granted. What can I get out of meditation is the question for me. How can it affect my life. Turns out- it does.

The individual, weird details about how I meditate are actually irrelevant. I made a whole bunch of stuff up and it works for me. It involves tapping into my inner wisdom, lots of gratitude, some pleading for help and stillness. The important, concrete part of my meditation practice is that I ALWAYS – with NO exceptions- gain some sort of insight into something during my meditation times. Some times it is a big insight and sometimes small but almost always noteworthy. I always keep something to write with and I will literally STOP my meditation and write the insight down. Or else I will forget. I have filled almost an entire journal with insights, ideas and solutions. My job is to implement them into my life. That is the not so easy part. What follows below is one such idea I had that came to me during a meditation. I am not claiming to have invented this. Someone else could certainly have put this out there. I am saying that My Head is the first place I heard this. It is – how to implement many small joyous things into your life every day so you will experience little bits of joy on a regular basis. In lieu of sitting around waiting for giant moments to pop up. Like…after 26 years the Toronto Raptors won the NBA Championship! My city and our entire country is overjoyed right now. We waited 26 years for this. Too long. Make a plan for experiencing Joy, right now. Then start soaking it up.

THE JOY PLAN.

Step one- Consider yourself a Sensual person. You are. And by that, I don’t mean “sexy”. I mean, you are a person who experiences the world through your senses. Yes, there are some of us with structural or sensory challenges for whom those physical senses are impaired or even non existent. Those folks can do this exercise too with whatever senses available to them. Accept that you are a creature of sensuality. Think of small children and animals who seek out sensual fulfillment every minute of every day. Rub my belly. Play with my hair. What’s that sound? I think I will just stare intensely at this blade of grass. You are that creature. It will be good to get in touch with your little kid/animal nature.

Step Two– Consider all five of your senses. You know what they are. Sight. Sound. Smell. Taste. Touch.

Step Three– Under each of your senses, list FIVE things that bring you joy within that sense. Five things that bring you joy when you SEE them. Five that bring you joy to TASTE. And so on.

Step Four- Break it down or organize it how you want. But be sure to do this. Take the time to acknowledge, notice, and savour them every time they come up spontaneously. AND, take the time to make concrete plans for IMPLEMENTING these things in to your every day life to the extent that you can. That’s your Joy Plan.

Here is mine.

SIGHT- a perfectly brilliant blue sky with pure white fluffy clouds. A painting of my grand daughter. Green leafy plants in white plant posts. A lovely dressing table arrangement. Very foggy mornings.

SOUND– Rain, rain,rain. Drizzly rain, hard downpouring rain. Wind chimes. The soft jangle of bangles on a woman’s wrist. Babies cracking up. The sound of ocean waves.

SMELL– All my favourite delicious perfumes. The sea. Rice and peas cooking on a Sunday. Towels that have been dried outside in the sun and the wind. Dried eucalyptus leaves.

TASTE– Ackee and saltfish with all the fixins. That first sip of tea in the morning. The taste of some one’s mouth when you kiss them for the first time and it confirms that you really do like them. Cherry tomatoes warm from the sun, straight off the vine. A glass of Pepsi with ice on a hot day.

TOUCH- the top of a baby’s head. Cool, crisp clean sheets. The feel of your lovers back against yours in the middle of the night. A really good massage that includes scalp and feet. The first 10 seconds when you sink into a hot steamy bath.

I have way more than 5 for each sense but you get the idea, right? Some of these I can deliberately incorporate into my life and some I need to be on the look out for. When those times just show up, I need to jump on them. Go ahead and ask the lady in the grocery store if you can just squeeze her baby’s thighs for a minute. Who knows, she might say yes! The point is to make it a conscious effort. Once in a while Joy will show up like a big, lovely surprise. Celebrate and treasure those moments. But, don’t live a drab, grey existence waiting for those times to happen. Cutivate your joy EVERY DAY. I can make a lovely dressing table, watch videos of laughing babies, keep dried eucalyptus leaves in my house and kiss that guy… Yes, I can. That’s me chasing down Joy. It is a worthwhile pursuit.

On- Dating Over 50

I decided to throw my hat in the ring. Try to get me a boyfriend. But I have criteria. So that will make it harder. My mum says I am too picky. Ahm… no. It’s not pickiness. I have CRITERIA. And I know that my criteria are completely reasonable.

Here they are:

Can you be close to my age? Within 5 years on either side is fine. I need to converse with someone who has the same cultural references as I do. When we talk about “Old School” we need to be talking about the same era. Vintage Beyoncé is NOT Old School.

2006 is not Old School

Can you be gainfully employed and living an independent life? At this age, many of us are still taking care of almost grown children (and some grown ones as well), maybe have grand kids and some of us are starting (or already IN it) to care for aging parents. That is all fine. I only want a person for whom the last 5 decades or so resulted in something meaningful. And I want to obsessively show you pictures of MY grand kids and have you commiserate or be jealous. Also…can we talk about men with a little grey in their beards? I LOVE that. When did that get sexy?? Hot Grandpa is a Thing.

Sit down and be quiet for about an hour while I show you these pictures

Can you live within the GTA? I am not driving farther than the confines of my very large city to meet anyone. Why would anyone think that it is a good idea to BEGIN a relationship that is forced to be long distance? If I have options, I am not choosing that.

No. Nope. Never

Can you be reasonably attractive TO ME. You don’t need to be Idris Elba. Although, I will say, I wouldn’t turn away an Idris facsimile. I just have to feel like I wouldn’t mind you touching me one day. I mean- I have preferences as we all do but apparently Idris is all married now so that option is out. It’s not shallowness to say that I need to feel a certain attraction to the person.

You don’t need to BE Idris. But wouldn’t it be nice if you were?

Lastly, I need a black man in my life. You will get zero apologizes for that, friends. I am wary and distrustful of white men. That is my default position. White supremacy caused that. Not me. And I will remain so, until that system is dismantled. I will not be spending any time educating anyone about how systemic racism is real or how it has worked to prop you up. Nope. This is not to say that there aren’t any “woke” white guys out there. Of course there are, BUT they are few and far between and I don’t have time to sift through the masses. Did I tell you that I am 52?

Ahm…just resting this right here…

Throwing my hat in the ring means- going on a dating site. Go ahead and groan. You can’t groan anymore than I have. And hey, my neighbours met on a dating site and now they are in a happy, long term relationship. I know other successful love stories like this so I know of the possibilities. I mean, theoretically, it is possible for me to bump into Mr. Right at the grocery store, or have a lovely Dad accompany his daughter to my prenatal classes- right??? Basically, I have no venue for meeting eligible men. I am NOT the one going to clubs and what ever social scene folks my age are in to these days. I need to be in bed by 10pm most nights a week. It’s an actual GOAL of mine. As a labour doula, who is also 50-something, I need to be stocked up on as much rest as possible by the time I am heading to a birth. This is sounding bleaker by the minute.

So, I did it. Threw my hat in the ring. This website http://blackpeoplemeet.com got my money. I have tried one free dating site after another and I can tell you, they are full on circus freak shows of mind blowing proportions. You will spend your lifetime spinning straw into gold with nothing to show for it at the end. This time around, I figured the laying out of cash would attract a higher caliber of people. Browsing through the website it appeared that to a certain extent, it is true. At the same time, don’t be fooled. Jack ass men have money too. So even though there may be less sifting to do on the paid sites, you will still be doing some of that.

I had great initial success….if you count success by how many people message you after you post your profile. Within 48 hours, I had 12 messages. I thought that was a lot! I was exceedingly flattered. Every part of my being that pathetically depends on Male Validation Based on Appearance was soothed by this initial response. Don’t get excited yet though. Let me break it all down for you through the numbers. It’s a little bit of a reality/vanity check.

1/12 was a white guy. Dude. Why. Are. You. Here? I asked him this straight up. Buddy said he was there because he loves black women. *cringe* I pointed out to him that as this was a site for black people to meet each other, then by way of logical thinking, the women on the site were interested in black men. He didn’t respond. After you finish reading this blog post, go here to read some more about the fetishization of black women and you will learn why I am not showing up for it. https://hellogiggles.com/news/fetishization-black-women/

2/12 lived in the States. One of them insisted that we would fall in love and then settle half way between Texas and Toronto. Ahm…No. The other guy lived somewhere in upstate New York and suggested that we drive to Niagara Falls for a meet up. Ahm…No.

2/12 were under 35 years old. What? They both served me that line about how “age is nothing but a number” I told them both that I was unable to keep up a conversation at the moment as I was in the middle of a hot flash. I asked if they knew what that meant. I suggested that if they didn’t that they should go ask their Mothers.

2/12 had no profile picture and no info about themselves. That’s an immediate NOPE. In my profile, I wrote extensively about myself, posted 5 pictures and you think I am just going to start speaking with you, Mr. Anonymous Serial Killer? Yeah. Right.

3/12 were just a No. In terms of looks, attitude or horrible spelling and grammar on their profiles. That’s right. I judged them on that.

That leaves TWO. 2/12. How pathetic is that? Two nice men who fit all my criteria PLUS had interesting profiles; detailed, funny and grammatically correct. That’s right. I judged them on that.

Here is what happened- one guy ghosted me after a couple of conversations. And I am NOT chasing anybody down. Old Jamaican saying- There are two things you don’t run down (ie. chase)- the Bus and a Man. Move along.

Now, we are down to the last guy standing.

ONE guy. Out of twelve. Those fantastic 12 messages that boosted my ego…not so impressive now, is it?

I am seeing him for the third time tomorrow.

It looks promising. Stay tuned.

On- Daddy

Daddy was a Putterer. He loved to putter.

This is the one where I talk about my Dad. The blog post where I will discuss all the complicated feelings I had about my father, the complicated relationship we shared and how I came to be where I am with my feelings about all of that. I truly hesitated to write this post as it feels like Daddy Overkill. In the podcast that I share with a couple of my doula friends, on the day after Father’s Day, we drop the episode where we speak about our Dads. And it is a doozy. The Pragmatic Doulas podcast. http://anchor.fm/thepragmaticdoulas In this episode, I cry, and if my tears are at all a source of intrigue for you- go listen to it.

So, here we go. His name was Eddie. Yes, I did say WAS. My father passed away in 2017. It was a short illness (lung cancer) and he had as beautiful a death as one could hope for; surrounded by all the love in his life. That’s the end of his story. The beginning was not that ideal. He was the 3rd of my grandmother’s 4 children. His father was the 2nd of the three men with whom my grandmother would have children. She never married any of them. She minded them on her own. So, they lived apart and my as a child, my father was shuttled between the two of them. Neither one of them provided him with a stable, loving, environment. My grandmother was raising all 4 of her children alone and to be fair to her, who knows what she faced in that struggle. It was 1930s/40s Jamaica and I can only imagine what things were like for her. My father’s childhood existed under the canopy of depression and war. When I think about those days I imagine everyone being desperate, scared and hungry. He was born in 1935 and was 10 years old when WWII ended. It was the times. Listen, passing judgment is a mean thing to do. And this isn’t my intention with any of this. I truly have no clue what my grandmother’s upbringing was like and how she came to be who she was but I remember her as a sharpish, slightly miserable woman who rarely had a warm word. I don’t remember her ever hugging me, even though I lived with her for the better part of my first 7 years. She complained a lot and judged others harshly. That’s what I remember of her and this was my father’s first imprint.

We threw him a big 80th Birthday bash. And he played the Man of the Hour.

My grandfather, I remember only vaguely. I probably saw him a couple of times in my life, even though we lived in the same city. He lived with my father’s younger sister and her family. My sister and I learned a little more about our grandfather when we made contact with a cousin a few years ago. Contrary to my very close ties with my passel of cousins on my moms side, I never had a relationship with my cousins on my dad’s side. Making contact with her felt delightfully fulfilling. She told us what she remembered of our grandfather. He lived with her and her family, so she saw him on a daily basis. He was a distant, emotionless man who took no part in the life of his family. He worked, gambled and kept to himself. We THINK he was born in China, although he came to Jamaica by way of Singapore. Why did he leave Asia? Who did he leave behind? Do we have family there now? In all the years she knew him, our grandfather never spoke of himself or his life in China/Singapore so these questions remain unanswered. Our cousin has no warm memories of our grandfather. This was my father’s second attachment person.

It is no wonder then that when I came along, my dad had no idea what to do with me. He had no example of what fatherly responsibility looked like; fatherly love and affection, family life, emotional connection and intimate communication all were foreign concepts. In his twenties, my father was a bit of a playboy, a compulsive gambler and spent a lot of his time playing the horses and charming women. In my very early childhood, he simply wasn’t physically there so I barely knew who he was. My mother had left Jamaica and I was being cared for by my Aunt. He never came to see me nor did he support me in any way. He used to come to the place where I lived to drink and gamble and even though I was literally 3 minutes down the road, he never came to see me. That still stings a bit. Later on, when we did actually live together (we immigrated to Canada in 1974), he was so emotionally distant, it was as if he still wasn’t there in body. At home, he came and went with no hellos or goodbyes. To this day, this irks me an unreasonable amount. When my children do this, I yell at them through the upstairs window. Don’t leave without saying goodbye! My Dad did not participate in any family gatherings and did not maintain any social connections-he had no friends. In terms of adaptation, I had the all encompassing nature of school, the acceptance of friends, the cozy belonging of my mother’s family and ultimately the resilience of childhood to help me with me with my transition to life in Canada. My mom also had her family; two close cousins and their families and we all lived in the same apartment building. I also now know that my mother possess a resilience of spirit that remains firm to this day. It has always served her well. It’s something I know that we don’t all have. She also was raised within a family that cared deeply for each other and whose relationships were based on love, support and co-operation. That was her foundation. My father came to this country, found small work at Gulf Gas station, observed what Canada expected of him and in as much as these things are conscious, decided exactly which bits of Canadian life he would participate in and which he would not. He chose hockey, baseball and nature shows on television. He kept up with his horse racing and he lay down on the couch a lot. And that was all. Family, friends, socializing and happiness seemed like they were for other people.

This is an example of how my Dad changed. In their later years, this game of Chinese checkers was a daily routine.

Modern psychology now tells us that early infant and childhood attachment is crucial to healthy emotional development. Babies need tons of physical contact and attention to their needs so that they can move on to the stages of development that require them to be more independent. They need the anchor, the life line, the safety net of a good solid support system. The luckiest of us get all of that. At the very least, most of us get a good semblance of that in our early formative years and it enables us to move through life with that as our foundation. When I think of my Dad, I am very grateful that I am able to picture him as the emotionally lonely little kid that he most assuredly was. I am grateful because it has allows me to see him separate and apart from ME which I think is a sign of a sophisticated maturity. Or- a sign of being old? I mean, he was 31 years old by the time I was born. He had had a childhood of being shuttled from one parent to the other; neither of them capable or willing to provide him with stability and grounding. That was his foundation. Yet, he survived and he was able to make a life for himself. In his late twenties, he found my Mum and in doing so, he found the first person to ever truly love him. She displayed a kind of straight up love to him that I can only imagine he had only observed. Over their life together, she showed him love in all it’s forms – of a woman for her man, the love of family, a parent’s love for their children and the love of Self- as she maintained her autonomy and independence throughout and within their relationship. He absolutely learned from her. Slowly but surely, he did evolve and by the end of his life he was a different man. Admittedly, the differences were subtle. His childhood foundation of instability and rejection allowed his lens for love and family to only see so far- but he did his best. I know that now. I think he grew to understand the value of love and family even if he struggled to show it outright. Love came into his life even if he wasn’t looking for it and it transformed him. My father’s entire life is an example of the transformative nature of love. It is his legacy. A broken little boy was shown that there is more to life than just getting through it; that unconditional love is a Thing and that it can redeem you.

Eddie’s Legacy

“DID YOU GET YOUR PERIOD?”

This is my inaugural publication and I got to say I am a little nervous.

Who do I even think I am writing a blog about anything? Granted, this subject matter is near to my heart. Me. On Being 50 something. Being right here, right now, in my 52nd year is providing me with so many insights. Admittedly, I am self centred and pompous enough to think that you may find some learning and enjoyment from my words.

That opening paragraph alone will act as a deterrent to the 20 and 30 something’s. Maybe even the 40 somethings will hesitate and think to themselves I’m not ready for that yet.

The start of each decade of my life heralded some kind of profound change. Some of them good, some not so good- all a learning experience. Marriage, divorce, health issues all showed up at the beginning of each decade. It happened when I was 30, 40 and then again at 50. This time around it is the onset of menopause. The official cessation of my reproductive capacity. I stopped having babies two decades ago but I was still getting invitations to party. I was just turning them down. Menopause. IF that doesn’t spell old woman, I don’t know what does. Your ova are all used up and your uterus retires.

My identity for a very long time was wrapped up in the notion of me as Mother- The Knower Of All Things. Even when I decided I was not having any more babies, I still HAD actual babies to care for. Being a mother infused every minute of every day. I had other activities, friends and responsibilities outside of the house and away from my children, but every decision I made, every plan laid out, every consideration, was made with the view of my children’s well being in mind. This is what we do. Your living and dying is tied up in how it will affect your kids.  Am I right? So, yes, the end of such an all-consuming job most definitely is a big deal. I had been thinking about this for years. I looked at menopause as it loomed down what seemed like a long, long road. Eyed it with curiosity and a bit of defiance, never really believing it would happen to me. Maybe I would be the one woman in history to remain fertile in to her 90s. My cousin and I both super fertile and both in our late 40s, would always say “I bet I could get pregnant right now” We would joke and although I am a birth support professional and know perfectly well the slimness of the chances of a 48 years getting spontaneously pregnant, I still kinda sorta believed it.

When I was 46 and still having regular periods, I had a friend who was a year or so older than me and she missed her period one month. She just happened to be dating a younger guy at that time and they had been having unprotected sex. This particular friend had no children; had never even been pregnant and so the chances of her being pregnant at that age were remote to say the least. But she bought a pregnancy test anyway. I was with her the day she took the test. We perched the test stick on the edge of the bathroom sink and stared intently at it as nothing happened. No little sign in the window indicated that a baby had started to grow inside of her. She wasn’t pregnant. For her there was a mixture of disappointment AND relief. This is a common combination of emotions for a lot of people when a late period shows up and then turns out to be just that- a late period. In this case, that late period signalled the Beginning of the End. I remember giving her a hug and feeling sad for her. Never having had children was a source of sadness in her life and it reminded me of how the question “did you get your period” is a question that we ask each other throughout many of the decades of our lives and it means something different at each stage.

AT 12 YEARS OLD- “did you get your period?” You ask your friends this to find out if you STARTED your period for the first time. Are you worthy of being initiated into the club of Kotex and tampons? Are you grown up enough to moan and declare “God, I have the worst cramps ever”?

AT 21 YEARS OLD- “did you get your period?” You ask your friend who is having a pregnancy scare. And there is celebration when her period comes. Oh my god, the relief! You are NOT pregnant. Back to regular life! But now, be more careful….

AT 30 SOMETHING YEARS OLD- “did you get your period?” you ask your friend who is trying to get pregnant and if they did not get it and the absence means pregnancy, Yay! You celebrate that. If they do get their period, you encourage and support them in their efforts to conceive because infertility is real and it is a bitch of a process to work through.

AT 40 SOMETHING YEARS OLD, the question- “did you get your period?” is still relevant. Sure it may be that your friend is pregnant but alongside that possibility stands the notion that this might be it. The END. The end of ever needing to ask your friend that question again or of anyone asking you.

After my friend had her negative pregnancy test, I remember feeling very detached from her experience. I had 5 children and 2 grandchildren at the time. My periods were still like clockwork and I truly looked at her as if she was someone experiencing something I would never feel. Something I would need to support her through but that would never affect me. I couldn’t relate. Well…fast forward a couple of years. My period was due on a particular day…and it didn’t come. It continued to not come for 4 days. Not a huge amount of time to be late but still noticeable for me. A few months later, I had a period that showed up 10 days late. Then another one 5 days late. This up and down continued for about a year and a half (don’t’ let me tell you about the anxiety and hot flashes and insomnia that went along with that…that’s another post). Then about a month before my 50th birthday, I missed an entire period. WTF. NOW, I was IN it.

As of today, I have answered NO to the question “did you get your period?” 9 times. No one asks anymore. Because it is fruitless. Like my uterus.

Another 3 missed periods and I will be through it. The transition. The menoPAUSE. I am planning a party. A Crone Party. There will be cake. And I will dispense wisdom. Because transitions need to be marked. If we believe that we should always learn and grow through all stages of life, then Rites of Passage never end. I feel unready but deserving and I’m going to tell you all about it.