It’s the eve of my fifth wedding anniversary. I like to begin some mental preparation in advance of the actual date because every year I create little secret amendments to our wedding vows.
This year I’m wondering why we didn’t rewrite the originals to swap out “from death to us part” or “cherish and obey” to “I will make every effort to initiate exciting and surprising sex until we can no longer physically have sex.” Or “When I feel a relationship rut coming on, I will use this an opportunity to deepen intimacy between us in some cost effective, yet lovely way.”
I know it’s a total boner-killer to announce that these are the new relationship objectives and then demand my husband do his bit to meet them. (sometimes it would be so much easier if my marriage was much less democratic) But it’s also foolish to think that I can get anywhere without his buy in. I also notice that I’ve got to renew my own spiciness before I can bring it into the bedroom (or the shower, or the kitchen table).
For these sorts of things feng shui is the most useful tool I’ve found so far.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, feng shui is the ancient Chinese art of placement. Although I’ve noted that every culture has their own form, I believe feng shui is the only formalized, widely practiced version… Please, tell me if I’m wrong.
Anyhow, it basically operates on the idea that our homes are a direct metaphor of our internal landscapes. For this reason, changes made to our living spaces, impact our energy, feelings and attitudes, which then attracts things, opportunities and people who reflect back your own energy, feelings and attitudes. Basically, it’s a very powerful tool for manifesting.
All you have to do is lay this Bagua Map over your floor plan. Line it up so your front door opens into Knowledge, Career or Travel. Then choose one or two areas you’d like to improve.
First, I look at what’s there and how it makes me feel to look at it or be in the space. Then I make an objective assessment if this is an accurate reflection of the quality of my experiences in that area.
For an example: This is what my relationship corner looks like this morning. It used to have our pee-stained couch in it, but we had it taken away and now the space is filled with this nearly-broken lamp and an assortment of kid’s toys. Next to the basket of toys, is a table which houses our cable box and iTV.
Can you detect a problem here?
Looks like Charlie Brown’s lamp — and I’m certain that guy wasn’t getting any action.
So clearly there are some issues.
Now, I’ve got to create a space in my relationship area that makes me feel the same quality of energy I want to create in that area of my life.
It is also possible to fuck this part up. Alice called me over to her place a few weeks ago. She was feeling intensely frustrated by the men she was currently dating. “They either put me up on some insane pedestal and then get all pissed off when I turn out to be human or they are just super immature. It’s like they’re looking for someone to look after and mother them.”
Alice had three framed pieces of art work hanging over a single arm chair.
When I asked her how the paintings made her feel, she said, “Sad and lonely, but they’re so beautiful. I just love them.”
Turns this is exactly how she felt about the men she’d chosen.
My space feels neglected and pieced together, but it is in transition. So I’ll keep you posted.
What’s in your relationship corner? Is it an accurate metaphor?
So, I’ve been asking for some guidance lately because it’s very clear that something in my thinking or in my world view needs to shift if I’m going to create a better life than the one I’m presently blowing up.
Here’s who showed up:
I met this guy through Alice. They’ve been friends for a very long time and she kept telling me
“You’ve got to meet my friend, Henry. I love him. He’s wonderful and he’s basically your male counterpart.”
So, of course, this has got me all curious because
- it’s a relief to know there are other people wandering this earth with the same brain as mine
- someone else thinks that brain-type is cool and not a big horrible mess.
The day finally comes when I get an invite to Henry’s apartment. Alice and I show up and this guy answers the door – eyes totally bloodshot from smoking pot since 9am. He ushers us into his suite, which is completely decorated in SeaHawks paraphernalia and porn.
“It’s not porn,” he says a little defensively. “It’s art.”
Someone please show me the gallery that sells this “art”. Because to me – it’s just a lot of shaved pussy, unnaturally perky tits and women looking over their shoulders, with their panties around their knees and their air-brushed butts thrust out.
I give Alice a long, hard look because really? This is what you think of me?
Turns out, Henry really is a sweetie and to prove it, he generously offers us some very high-quality weed and a beer, which I accept because it’s 12:01. The idea is to get into a happy frame of mind and then head off for lunch.
As we settle in, I start prattling on about my crappy job (that I hadn’t quit yet). I’m a little ashamed to say most of my sentences start with poor me-type phrases. Until I notice Henry shooting Alice a long, hard look like he’s saying, “Really? this is who you think I resemble?
Aren’t I corporate enough for you???
Finally he gets completely fed up, throws my jacket at me and says, “If you’re not going to shut the fuck up, then at least let me take you shopping.”
He leads me to a stripper supply store and makes me pick out a pair of go-go boots and a top that looks super slutty on the rack, but under a blazer is actually pretty passible. I also pick up a necklace that has just the tiniest hint of S&M.
My assignment, he tells me, is to start wearing this stuff to work, mixed in with my usual business wear and then let him know if it makes any difference. And because I was caught off guard and stoned (which sometimes makes me do reckless things), I agreed.
The next day, I wear my new boots to work. As I walk, I notice my posture change. My shuffle becomes more of a strut. Knowing I’m wearing something a little naughty makes me want to thrust my chest out. By the time I walk into my little cubicle, I’m feeling playfully flirty.
I flirt with a prospect and get past his gatekeeper to arrange a face to face meeting (which is pretty hard to do). I talk to a stranger at a line up in Starbucks and end up having a lovely and playful exchange. The folks who usually delight in micromanaging me, seem to sense this might be the day to keep some distance.
In short, I’m blown away. Because this guy I’d written off as being a pervy stoner actually saw and recognized something in me, I hadn’t in myself.
Years before, I’d been told by a therapist and on another occasion, by a psychic at a shopping centre, that I was a closeted dominatrix. I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. But now, because of Henry and his stripper challenge, I suddenly understood. Some of my power comes from playfully playing with power. I don’t need to shrink and cower in the face of opposition or even when people wield their authority cruelly. I can respond with attitude. The very attitude I feel when wearing a pair of boots and a necklace that was designed to attach to a piercing in my clit. (which I would never get, btw).
I just want to send out a big thank you to the man who was wise enough to direct me to the perfect tools to awaken what I’d suppressed. I’d never considered the playful aspect of my sexuality and how it might just be the power I needed to wiggle out from under the oppressive weights I’d placed on myself.
Now that it’s unleashed, it’s out for good. In this one act, he reminded me how to make discomfort a bit of a turn on. He made my life a lot more fun.
So I called Alice and thanked her for the compliment.
Who are the teachers in your life right now? And are they people you’d expect??
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The reason I lost my friend
I hadn’t heard from Alice for a while, so I popped over to her apartment unannounced with a bottle of wine. The way friends do when they’re hoping for a good gossip session.
“You can’t come in,” she said blocking her door.
When I looked hurt, she responded in a stage whisper.
“There’s a mouse living in my couch. It’s why I’ve stopped having people over.”
I don’t invite people to my place either. Not since we bought a new hide-a-bed sofa from Ikea and after the first week, I walked in on my son standing on the arm rest pissing onto one of the cushions.
Now I don’t even remember what colour the sofa was originally . It’s become a collage of ketchup and milk smears, pen scribbles and something that looks suspiciously like blood. I just chose to ignore the whole thing until my mother-in-law came to visit and requested a towel to put down so she could safely sit on the sofa to watch tv.
It was then that I took a cold, hard look around my apartment, assessing all that I’d accumulated over a lifetime and realized everything I own is crap.
This is never what I intended for my life. I always wanted to be one of those people who searched out unique pieces, lovingly handcrafted by artists and journeymen. So that I could fill my space and my life with beauty. People would say, “Oh my God! What an amazing couch.” I would wave my hand and say, “Oh I got that little piece after lightening hit a tree next to the hut where I was staying and a master craftsman carved it into this two-seater.”
But this little dream was dashed to pieces when I realized good stuff costs money. And so I’ve usually opted for the cheapest possible option – especially since having kids and realizing those little fuckers destroy everything.
Where all my kids’ shitty birthday presents end up.
The last time I went to Ikea, I had this unsettling vision that everything I was looking at was destined for the landfill in a couple of years. That’s all I’m doing every single time I buy loot bags at the dollar store or a toy at Toys R Us – just adding another layer to that floating island of garbage, strangling sea life out in the Pacific. Last time I heard, this garbage island was the size of Texas. It’s fucking depressing. And now I’m in a funk.
If I continue to live with the crap I have, I’ll be too embarrassed to invite people over and my family and I will live an isolated life. But if I buy new stuff I can actually afford, I’ll just be part of the problem.
And then I think I’m basically an asshole for caring about any of this at all. I also know I’d better be careful what I start inviting into my life with an attitude like that.
I once knew this woman who was basically a hoarder. She was also basically a witch. One time she invited me over to her house for a full moon ceremony. Since I was in one of those head spaces where I was just saying yes to everything, I went along. After casting the circle and calling in the “energies” she asked that all the clutter be removed from her house and from her life.
Three days later her house burned to the ground.
So I’m just going to put a funky looking tablecloth over my sofa, call up some friends and stop being such a pussy.
Deal with it. This is my fucking couch
Well, this is uncomfortable
So, as I’ve been struggling along, my mind has a penchant for grasping onto metaphors to help me understand.
I grew up in a Christian family. One of those church-on-Sunday-morning- or -else kind of families. And even though I’ve moved away from all of that, whenever I feel something approaching crisis, my mind always goes to a biblical metaphor for help. I just can’t help it. It’s just what my mind has been trained to do.
And it occurred to me that a midlife crisis is actually a sort of crucifixion. Because something significant has died in me and now it’s like I’m wandering around in the Valley of Death for a while and then I’m hoping I’ll just pop back up – as a better, more evolved version of my former self.
But while this metaphor is great as an explanation, it really sucks for providing any actual guidance through the whole process. Because it just yada yada yadas through the most challenging bit. I mean what was Jesus doing down in the Valley of Death for those three days?
Was he all calm and serene?
“Oh wow. I’ve just been murdered. And this. Endless. Void. What a nice change.”
How’s this for an idea… Don’t be a douche
Or was he more like me? Flapping frantically around, grasping for a strong drink and the perfect self-help class?
Maybe this is the reason no one mentions this part – because if anyone knew what a basket case Jesus probably was during those three days, no one in their right mind would listen to anything else he had to say. Check the vaults of the Vatican. That’s all I’m saying.
Perhaps being a basket case is just part of the journey. Maybe part of my natural, healthy process involves freaking out and and buying a bunch of shoes. Or signing up for Past Life Regression Therapy. Great! Or that free workshop about real estate investing. Oh ya!!
I’ve been to every palm reader, psychic, shamanic healer, pranic touch practitioner who puts a poster up in WholeFoods. I say yes to Ballroom dance lessons. Because it improves balance – who doesn’t need more balance?. Whatever it is, I’m totally game. Just fix me. Make me better.
And then something shifted and instead of being terrified that I now have no idea who I am or what I’m doing or where I’m going – I now see the gift in being cracked wide open. I will do, say or try anything just to see how it feels, sounds and tastes. Life has gone from being terrifying to a little bit of an adventure. The secret, I’ve found, is not to give a shit.
Here’s an example:
My kids have gotten into competitive swimming. At first I was all like, “good for you!” But then I realized what they’d signed me up for. Swimming practices six days a week. Often at some ungodly hour of the morning.
Then I was like, “Why are you trying to destroy my life?” Until my husband reminded me that when I got knocked up, I was actually committing myself to supporting theses little beings and driving them around to whatever they take a shine to. Forever.
Even though, he’s right, I still pouted every time I was forced to spend another weekend with a bunch of Tiger Parents who seemed way too focussed on comparing their children’s level of achievement to mine.
Then one day – while I was in the process of making this mental shift into a much less victim-y and much more-open-to-possibilities mindset – I just blurted out.
“Am I the only one here who is trying super hard not to stare at these fine young men in their speedos? Please tell me I’m not the only dirty old woman here.”
“Oh my God.” Said the little voice in my head. The one I usually ignore.
“That might have been the worst, most inappropriate thing I could have said in this moment.”
But a crazy thing happened.
One of the super uptight-seeming mothers who had been sitting quietly off to the side started laughing.
“Finally! Someone else said it.”
Then another mother started laughing and then another. Turns out one of them had Baileys in a flask hidden in her purse, which now got passed around. By the time our kids emerged out of the change rooms, we were laughing our heads off. Having a great time. Now that we’ve all cracked open a little to reveal our own humanity, weekend swim meets are fun.
I used to think my verbal impulse control issues were a curse. Something to constantly correct, but now I’m thinking this might be the gift that lights my way out of my own Valley of Death into something much more shiny and new.
Have magical things happened to you when being inappropriate?
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If only I really loved this part of the job
Moments before my husband is due home, I adjust my position on the sofa from one expressing languid relaxation to one implying grace under pressure. My freshly washed hair is fanned across the armrest, and, as his key turns in the lock, I fling an arm limply across my forehead.
He rustles out of his coat and pauses, reconsidering his habit of tossing it on the nearest chair. I hear the clank of wooden hangers in the hall closet and feign a weak smile as he approaches with tenderness, even a bit of reverence. Because what else can a man feel for a woman who spends the day working (from home, mostly) and then takes care of children, manages to perfectly clean her home, wash, fold and put away the laundry and still look so amazingly good?
Before he has time to ask about my day, I murmur wearily, “I’ve been slaving all day to get this place in order.” My husband kisses me a little more passionately than usual. He clearly finds the thought of me slaving exciting. In lieu of foreplay, he slips into an apron and makes dinner. Tuesdays are my favourite.
That’s because on Tuesdays, a lovely woman comes to clean and do laundry for four hours while I run personal errands, meet a friend, or play with the kids in the park. Because, as you might have gleaned from earlier posts, I’m a bit of a handful, I felt like I needed this one thing to make him think, “Holy Shit! I married an amazing woman.” For this reason, I was certain my husband must never ever find out.
Is this what it’s all coming to?
We are reminded from toddlerhood never to lie, but those fibs that make living and raising children with a man possible should be lumped into a different category. I wonder if it’s only my dysfunctional brain that makes marriage work this way.
While growing up, my grandmother taught me womanly arts: how to separate an egg, get blood stains out of a white shirt and to sew on a button. She also taught me how to avoid unnecessary fights.
Although she juggled being a mother and a full-time schoolteacher, my grandfather nevertheless commanded that the kitchen floor be waxed every week. Gran wanted to comply because her man believed a freshly waxed floor was a sign of an orderly house; a sign of love. But it was a soul-destroying task that had to be done on hands and knees, easily consuming an entire day.
My grandmother admitted she was dangerously close to hating her new husband early in their marriage. Until, that is, she began to smear a bit of floor wax around the door frames an hour before her husband came home. When he walked into the kitchen, he smelled floor wax and everyone was happy.
It may have been a lie, but it sounded like wisdom to me. When Grandpa died in 1998, they’d been married nearly 60 years.
In this instance, I think lying is okay if it saves your relationship or your sanity. So why is this subject so taboo? I took an informal survey of my closest, smartest coworkers. Just two admitted to telling untruths in a loving, stable relationship.
But now, at this point in the whole mid-life crisis journey, I feel like it’s time to come clean. And guess what? It led to a rather interesting conversation in which I explained that for our family’s bottom line, it is far more cost effective to prevent me from going crazy than to actually let me go crazy. (topic for a later post, I think). So the cleaning lady is here to stay, I think.
The ultimate wife and mother…if you don’t care about her having a vagina or a brain
But that doesn’t mean I’m honest about everything…. Last week I stopped my husband from repairing our broken garburator by telling him our neighbour’s son needed to fix it for his school project. I paid the plumber in cash and shredded the invoice. In the moment, it seemed an act of love: the garburator got fixed by a professional. My husband still feels manly. I didn’t have to drive anyone to emergency. Harmony is maintained. Love reigns.
But sometimes I need to be sure he does know all of this really is about love. So I’ll let some stories slip and make sure I’m ready with a laugh and a kiss when he finishes reading this piece.
Who in your life appreciates what a smart, funny, resourceful person you are??
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I’m a bit stressed out writing this because all week I’ve been planning this one blog and then I just went and did something stupid and ridiculous, which I just now realized is a much better story. But I have no idea if I can tell it as well.
Also I don’t have any hilarious pictures of this little doozy. For which my husband is exceedingly glad. As I write this, he is sitting on the bed next to me, pretending I don’t exist – so I can tell he’s still pretty mad.
Right after I post this, I’ll call my oldest friend, Stephanie. I can already hear the gasp of astonishment, like she’s saying, “Because I live in a comfortable house with a backyard and a deck and separate floors with rooms and doors that lock – simply tonnes of places to escape my spouse – I can’t imagine why two sane people would sit next to one another on a queen-sized bed, arms crossed, planning their respective divorces and hot rebound sex with some nameless, gorgeous whomevers instead of … oh I don’t know, talking?”
Welcome to married life in fucking Yaletown. This is a community full of 900ft2 apartments, where a family of four tries to pretend that they’re all not seriously getting on each other’s nerves. There are plenty of benefits to this lifestyle, but all I’ll say about that right now is that the small spaces force us to do our living outside.
Which is why I chose to air some dirty laundry on the field in the middle of the school’s annual BBQ Carnival Fundraiser. I have no idea what made me turn to my unsuspecting husband and say, “So where is all this anger coming from?”
He shot me a look, which I can only describe as exhaustion mixed with deep annoyance and said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
To which I replied, “You’re not being honest. I can feel how distant you’re becoming. I feel like we’re not connected at all and I feel like you couldn’t care less.” and with this, I just burst into tears. But I’m instantly embarrassed so try to pretend that I’ve got allergies. While my husband hisses to my daughter, “Get your stuff. Time to go home” And I’m not even drunk. I’m totally sober, wondering if this is what menopause looks like or if my mental illness is becoming even more mental.
But we couldn’t get out fast enough. In the 6 seconds it took my daughter to grab her book bag, 4 moms I know come by to start a friendly conversation, see my face and make a bolt for it. I got a couple of pity looks and one solidarity sista look. And then this one woman passes by making an exaggerated attempt not to notice the scene in front of her, but I can see her taking it all in and I just know what version of the story she’s dying to tell anyone who will listen. By Monday, a dozen versions of my little public meltdown will be whispered in a dozen different coffee shops. She’ll tell mutual friends and strangers too all with fake concern, but will paint a picture putting me in the worst possible light, “Well of course everyone fights from time to time, I mean we’re all only human, but things must be pretty bad for them to do it in public like that. I just feel so sorry for him. He’s such a reasonable, private person.”
And you have a bizarre need to consistently behave like an asshole, but at least I can medicate my problem.
Now what’s rattling around in my head, while I also consider the best way to begin an apology, is – is this little scene an example of me being a hormonally-unbalanced, weirdo or have I just hit that point in my mid-life crisis where the boundaries of who I’ve been trying to be and who I actually am are starting to collide and I’ve just stopped giving a fuck?
I guess time will tell.
What explosive impulses have you been stuffing down these days? Are any starting to trickle out?