The Red Wheelbarrow

The Red Wheelbarrow

In 1994 I was a different person, or so I thought.  I was young, naive and pretty headstrong. I got into the University of Alberta with mediocre marks thinking I didn’t belong. I was full of ideas but low on self-esteem and confidence. I was on the brink of adulthood with no plan, no map and no idea. I did have opinions, gumption and no filter. I was happy to voice an opinion without thinking through consequences, and hurt feelings. One thing I did know is that I wanted my English Professor to admit that not everything was full of metaphor and that it was not possible to write an eight page essay on a 16 word poem. It was hard to believe that “so much depends on a red wheelbarrow” or any other wheelbarrow for that matter. so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens.  By William Carlos Williams Twenty-two years later I had barely thought of that class or the petite young professor with her long blonde hair perched on the table at the front of the room gracefully dodging the class’ criticism and negativity. I do however think often about the texts we read. I will never forget Frankenstein and its connection to the modern day question of humanity. I won’t forget the astonishment I had when reading Obasan and the realization that Canadians are just as guilty of human atrocities as other countries. Honestly, I think that book was the beginning of my passion for social justice. The spark of my feminist roots can also be traced...
Saying “No!”

Saying “No!”

So I suffer from a classic problem, I am a pleaser and a fixer. I have a superhero cape that I keep folded up in my emotional closet. I put on that cape far too often and try to save the day. Usually this comes at great cost to myself.  Because you see, most people don’t want to be saved. The ones that like to be saved are like kryptonite. The trouble with this way of being in the world is that it is easy for me to get lost in the ever growing list of priorities. The needs of my children, spouse, extended family, my students and my clients often come before mine.  I will fight off other people’s villains without thinking about whether it is what they want or what they need me to be doing. Often I solve people’s problems that they didn’t know they had. If it goes unchecked, I get tired, emotionally spent and then I get angry and resentful. I have learned this lesson over and over again. I have done my own emotional work to try to resolve it. But if I am stressed, overworked or not taking care of myself, I fall back into the pattern. You see the issue is mine. No one intends to take advantage. No one is out to treat me badly. The people in my life are just trusting that I am doing what I do best. Either that or they are just busy with their own lives and own issues. The issue is my boundaries.  Sometimes I have to say “No”. It is not something...
Moments that Matter

Moments that Matter

I was 12 years old, I was riding my bike home from one of my best friend’s houses. My mind was wandering. I was thinking about the meaning of it all.  What is the point of life?  As you may guess I was a bit of a dramatic preteen. I recall vividly having the knowledge of how much of my life I was likely to forget. It was a strange realization. I was overwhelmed by how little each individual moment mattered because I was likely to forget it anyway. Instead of being swallowed by the insignificance of this fact, I found it very freeing. I remember the temperature of the air, the feel of the sun and the slight breeze in my hair as I let go of the handle bars and felt like I could fly. I also remember the complete certainty I had that I was never actually going to remember that moment in time. Those seconds were just for me and only for me.  They were not for some future self. I could do whatever I wanted with that moment. Ironically it is one of the clearest memories I have from my childhood. There are flashes of moments like this throughout my life. I remember clearly as it was yesterday my husband’s arms around me standing on the floor of a U2 concert at Commonwealth Stadium. Bono was singing “One.” The night was beautiful.  I had just finished my Master’s degree, a feat I never could have imagined I could accomplish. I had two healthy happy young children at home, an adoring partner and I remember...
Handprints

Handprints

“Mom! Look how much my hand has grown!” We were sitting on the bench at Fountain Park pool waiting for my daughter to get dressed after their yearly round of swimming lessons. There is a public art installation of the hand prints of donors that helped contribute to the renovations done over a decade ago. My son’s hand has grown from Landon’s size to more like a Jacques-size hand. He tells me that he can’t wait for it to be a Gary-sized hand. We have done this for years. Sometimes it drives me crazy. I want to get home to make supper or I have some other seemingly important thing to do that likely isn’t important at all. Each time we put on our shoes one of them needs to see who they are that day. My kids are getting older and their emotional lives are more complex. This time my son asked, “How old is Landon now?” I’m guessing Landon is about 20 or so. It is interesting to think of the years. How is he doing? Does he still live in St. Albert? Where is his family? My son and I talked for quite awhile about Landon. It is amazing the life we made up for him in our heads. Once my daughter dried her hair and joined us, she joined in on the fun. She decided that her hand was more the size of a grown up hand.  You see at 10 she is growing fast and in her opinion is practically an adult. There has been a lot of talk about public art in my...
Selfish

Selfish

In the age of Selfies, Facebook updates, Tweets and Instragram it is easy to see how self-absorbed we as a society are becoming. We post pics of our food, tell the world about our workouts and about how we are feeling minute by minute. We as a society beg for that feeling of connection through our computer. I have had a fair bit of time off the last few months. This has been a stark contrast to the 8 months before. I was teaching, counselling, care-giving, parenting and running around like a frantic chicken. I wasn’t sure which way was up. It took a toll on my physical and mental health. It also took a toll on my relationships. I didn’t spend time with people that are close to me. As a result some people in my life were left feeling unimportant, left out and ignored. I felt like I was just putting out fires rather than actually living my life. I have taken a lot of time to decompress these last few months. I have been able to get to a few household projects that I’ve ignored for years. I have been able to run, read and visit with friends. I deserved this time. More accurately perhaps is that I needed it. Still I often feel guilty and selfish. I find that in my practice I am often encouraging people to slow down, and take better care of themselves. I tell them that it is okay to be selfish. I often need to take my own advice. I’m not surprised that is takes my clients a while to hear...
Dear Dad:

Dear Dad:

A few years back my Dad turned 70. It was a bit of an eyeopener for me. I remember when my grandfather turned 70. He seemed so old. My Dad has never struck me as old. When my Grandpa turned 70 he used to tell me while saying goodbye to us at the airport that he has had a good life. It felt like he was preparing us for the sad reality that we might not see him again. He lived across the country so we only saw him a couple times a year. These words always came with a few tears. They never felt desperate or regretful, the tears were more of an acknowledgement of what we meant to each other. He lived for 23 more years. So when my Dad turned 70 it felt a bit weird. He has outlived his own father. I’m not sure my Dad expected that was going to happen. He has always been a bit paranoid about his health. In my mind at 70 he magically turned into a senior. It isn’t a transition that I particularly liked, at least not at first. I don’t like the idea that my Dad won’t be around some day. When I was growing up my Dad in many ways fit the stereotypes. He was a salesman for Kodak which meant he was away for work often. My Mom was left to single parent us a good chunk of the time. She was a stay at home Mom. She sewed and cooked as well as took care of most of the mundane child rearing stuff like...