I’ve always had an aversion to antiques. When I was very young I remember going to church with my parents every Sunday and that musty, old smell that I suspect came from the old wooden pews assaulted my senses in a most unpleasant way. Beyond that I never gave it much thought until I was in grade 3. My class had a field trip to Pioneer Village and when I entered what was once a homestead for a Blacksmith’s family I immediately recognized that smell. Musty, old, damp – but more than feeling the unpleasantness, I had a very sudden and overwhelming feeling of fear. The furniture, the bedding, everything in that home made me feel creepy….and afraid. Being just a child, I didn’t understand the emotions running through me but I knew I had to leave the building.

Ever since then I have been conscious of my reaction when in the presence of antiques, particularly those from the early 1800’s. I’ve often wondered if perhaps I lived a life during this time that was in some way difficult; my subconscious recoiling from the memories of an unhappy time. I’ve tried to reason with myself, I am, after all, an adult. I’ve forced myself to wander through flea markets where antiques are abundant. They’re just things, I tell myself. They can’t hurt me. Maybe it’s just the old musty odour? But no, I’ve actually felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up in the presence of certain antiques. I’ve even felt nausea and had to make a hasty exit before I embarrassed myself. Over the 57 years of my life I’ve come to accept what I cannot rationally explain and I simply avoid antiques and turn of the century/old homes.

Is my fear of antiques normal? People are afraid of dark places, confined spaces, open spaces, water – is there anyone out there who has a fear of period pieces? If I’m accurate in my notion that I’m tapping in to the hardships of another life, are there people today who have a fear of fire because they were burned as witches in the late 1600’s? Or maybe someone who rejects a job of labour because they lived in Cleopatra’s time 30-44BC, and suffered the hardships of slavery in Egypt? I did search the internet for answers and while I could find no official name for my fear of antiques, I did find out that it isn’t as rare as I’d initially thought. (So either I’m more normal than I thought or there’s more abnormal people in this world for me to relate to!)

If scents are merely a powerful suggestion can we train our subconscious to overcome irrational fear? Maybe. I imagine hypnosis might help, therapy even, and for those with fears that impair their day to day lives, like the fear of darkness or open spaces, some mode of healing is necessary to help them live a normal life. I’m fortunate in that I can easily avoid the objects of my fear. I do enter a church periodically, and I note that those built in the last 50 years have no effect on me. Take me on a tour of an old cathedral however, and I’m bee lining for the exit, fast. I don’t frequent flea markets and avoid antique shops like the plague. I will never own a century home, by choice. And every now and again I test myself, just to see if I’ve outgrown my fear but as soon as I smell that old familiar mildew, musty scent, I get that creepy feeling again, and I bolt.

I’m not what I’d call a super modern girl, so while my taste leans toward traditional in dress and décor, I do favour items from the 1940’s on. In short, I will not outbid you at an auction for that red velvet settee.

red velvet settee.png

The path of life

I wish I could say that I know the purpose of my being, the path I am meant to walk, but I don’t, and just when I think I have it all figured out, my life takes another turn that brings my purpose for being here to question, again.

I admire those who seem to know from a young age, why they are here, and what they are meant to do; the Nelson Mandela’s and Joan of Arc’s of the world knew early in life what their path was, and though they couldn’t have known how or where the path would end, they seemed to walk it with confidence. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that knowledge? Granted, we can’t all be meant to walk a path as grand as them, but their fame can’t be the purpose of their lives, rather it was a byproduct of their intended deed, a perk. It seems that we are destined to walk the path of life in order to understand its’ very purpose. (It’d be easier to just be born with the brain we die with)

When we are young we forge through life recklessly, with little regard to our long term purpose. We’re eager and curious, there’s so much to explore, and so much fun to be had. It’s only as we age that we start to reflect more on where we’re going, and why. We observe more, accept more, and challenge less, and the experiences of our lifetime start to make sense.

I have very fond memories that go back to my childhood, of a woman whom I adored. She was warm, loving and kind. She was my Godmother, and her path in life was long and hard. She was born in Latvia, an identical twin. Both girls married then immigrated to Canada. Each had just one child; the sister a son, my Godmother, a daughter, but this was where the similarities stopped.

Soon after they settled, she and my Godfather opened a dry cleaning business and it was then that trouble began. My Godfather was a young man when forced into German military. I can’t say what atrocities he witnessed, but it tortured his mind to his dying days and throughout his life his method of coping was through alcohol, lots of alcohol. Often in drunken stupors he would neglect to make his deliveries and friends of family would have to step in to help. My Godmother worked tirelessly to keep things afloat, just barely making ends meet. She ran the storefront, raised her daughter, and nursed her husband, never, ever saying a cross word about him. After 30 years, they closed the dry cleaning business. He got work in a factory, and she in a coffee shop – both were in their sixties and life seemed to be coming together but his random drinking binges continued.

She watched him closely, kept no liquor in the house, nothing to tempt him, She had to dispose of her perfumes and baking extracts because in desperate times he’d resort to drinking even those. This was alcoholism unlike anything I could’ve imagined and I understand from witnessing this, what addiction really is, and it’s frightening. In sober moments he was the kindest man and I should point out he never raised a hand to anyone; he was not a violent drunk, which is why it’s so sad, for all of them because my Godmother and their daughter lived in constant fear of the next binge.

One day, on the hunt for liquor, he consumed something in their laundry room that killed him (which tells you how desperate he was) and for his wife and daughter there was finally peace in their lives. My Godmother mourned her husbands’ passing deeply because despite the difficulties he’d caused, she understood his struggles and loved him despite them. The daughter married and my Godmother enjoyed a happy family life. Eventually she met and married a widower; a kind man who treated her like gold, took her dancing and to concerts. He took her to Latvia to visit her 96 year old mother whom she hadn’t seen since she left in her twenties, because there was never the money for travel. They entertained (she was an amazing cook) and for 10 years she had a happy home, for the first time in her life.

Then he died of cancer and she withdrew to the comfort of her daughter and son in law, eventually finding her peace in her remaining family. Then her daughter passed, suddenly of kidney failure and for the third time she mourned the loss of a loved one, but this was harder because her daughter had shared the hardships of her life and losing her was like losing a piece of herself. She was never quite the same after this loss. She was still stoic and loving and kind but there was a sadness that tugged at your heart strings.

Her son in law, the last remaining family (they’d had no children) was now retired and desperately missing his wife. Where both were now alone in their grief, he suggested she move into his home, and with her agreement set about renovating to build a small apartment for her. Two weeks before she was to move in he dropped dead of a heart attack – the last family she had was now gone, and again she grieved. She lived quietly for another 13 years, alone. She had put away all her photos because she couldn’t bear to look at all she’d lost, and when visiting with her we were lost for words because there was really nothing you could say or do to ease her sadness. She simply didn’t care anymore, and said as much.

She passed nine years ago, after a brief episode, at the age of 94, finally returning to her loved ones, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. She was so strong, so loving, so kind, and so undeserving of the pain she endured throughout her lifetime. One can only marvel at the path she was meant to walk because she was meant to walk this tragic path, and she did so with grace and dignity, masking her pain with every step.

I truly believe that we all have a spiritual purpose in this world, a path we each are meant to walk, our lessons specifically designed to provide spiritual growth. The events that cause us joy, pain, even tragedy, are intended, and it is our mission to extract the life lesson from it that nurtures our spirit. My Godmothers path was clearly meant to house pain and suffering. My path to date has been uneventful by comparison but with age I’ve come to see those events I have experienced in a very different light. Everything I have witnessed, felt, endured, has enlightened my spiritual mind and I’ve learned to remain open to all new experiences, even the painful ones.

So while I’ve come to accept that my presence in this world isn’t meant to be on a grand scale (I will never be famous) my impact in this world is no less important – it’s just subtle. When I reach the end of my path I want to know that I put my time here to good use so rather than try to figure it all out now, I simply remain open to whatever comes my way, trusting in its’ source, and knowing it is meant to be.

The rest of your life.jpg

I am the Garbage Nazi!

Let me start by proclaiming that I love my husband of 35 years dearly so when I bash him it’s understood that I do so most lovingly.

I am the garbage Nazi, and he…….is a garbage delinquent!

Recycling is very important to me. I rinse my containers, collapse my corrugated cardboard, compost food scraps, and separate all paper, glass, metal and plastic. I have bins for every type of refuse. In short, I am a responsible garbage citizen.

So it baffles me when my husband asks (DAILY) ‘which bin does this go in?”, or when he salts the driveway after shoveling and I find the plastic salt bags in the composter. Sweet fancy Moses man, this is simple stuff! (clearly I’m not nagging enough!)

I walk every day through  my neighbourhood, for fresh air, and occasionally (ok, garbage day) I take note of what people put out and I’m blown away by the amount of ‘garbage’ from each household. Our garbage is picked up every 2 weeks and compost is the same time frame but on opposite weeks. I raised 3 children and had a dog (lots of poop) but I still only put out 1 bag of garbage per pick up. I usually had minimum 2 bags of recycling, weekly, and the compost bin was always in use – this was a family of 5 (plus the pooping dog) So what is in those 4 and 5 bags of ‘garbage’ coming from these households with few or no children?

And how is it some people just literally toss their trash onto the curb; no bags, no ties, just tossed. And when it’s not picked up they just leave it for several weeks assuming it will eventually disappear. (fyi, your neighbours hate you)

Now I realize garbage has become something of a chore. The rules have indeed tightened and the garbage men have developed airs – it’s like they’re picky about what they will or won’t take, depending on their mood. Recycling is in a blue bag. Garbage in black. Plastic in clear. Boxboard is collapsed and tied together, and if you God forbid, put anything in the wrong bag or wrong colour, you get a big orange sticker that clearly tells the world what you did wrong. The order of your garbage matters too. If the recycling truck is first to arrive and your blue bag is not in front of the rest, they’ll drive right by, as though they can’t see it. (perhaps if we gift wrapped it?)

There is also a limit as to how much garbage you can put out each pick up. I found that out when I tossed out 4 rooms of carpet, neatly bundled to meet garbage standards, but they would pick up only 6 biweekly, which meant my carpeting would’ve sat at the curb for 21/2 months (I don’t think so) The night before my next pick up I went out and redistributed all my garbage to my neighbours so each household had just the right number, and of course all was picked up, which got me to thinking. These guys had to notice that the same bundles of carpet were in front of 4 houses.

If they’d bother to look around when they come to a home with more than the allowable amount they’d note that neighbouring homes are well under the household limit – all they have to do is look up. Wouldn’t logic tell them to just pick up the garbage because the collective total is well within limits? Apparently not. (I guess rational thinking is not on their mandate)

Last December I put out 15 bags of leaves for compost pick up and I was stunned to find a big orange sticker on my bags that stated they were rejected because the contents were frozen – seriously? It’s December, in Canada,,,,,what isn’t frozen? And how are they any less compostable when frozen? (I think what we have here is one lazy garbage man……but he’s messing with the wrong woman) I called our regional waste management office to complain (several times) and they tried any number of excuses to justify the lack of pick up but I persisted,,,,,and persisted,,,,,,and persisted,,,,,,and the next day a special truck was sent out to take my leaves. (course now when they pick up my garbage they toss my trash can into the ditch so I have to crawl down and fish it out – guess that’s the price I pay for being a responsible garbage citizen!)

I get that the worlds’ trash is becoming a serious problem, and I grudgingly acknowledge that the rules and limits are in place to deal with that, but I’m not the offender you need to discipline. (My husband on the other hand is probably guilty of committing a garbage offence at least 3 times a day) All I ask is that our trash collectors exercise some common sense. Discipline those who really warrant it and trust that the rest of us are playing by the rules. Correct us when we are legitimately in the wrong, not when you feel like it.

How about creating a mandatory training course for repeat offenders; kind of an ‘Idiots Guide to Garbage’ . (I’ll personally register my husband) In the interim, let’s work together to enforce the rules because we all have a vested interest in keeping our world clean, and I’ll keep working on my husband because………… I am the garbage Nazi!

cop  garbage can

Need an Ear?

There was a time in my life when I would’ve scorned the concept of ‘therapy’. If someone needed a ‘shrink’,,,, well, they must be nuts.

Then came reality. (Ok, I was young and stupid)

In my adult years I witnessed everything from loneliness, grief, and insecurity, to full on depression, and to say it humbled me would be a vast understatement. The ‘reality’ is that we are all frail…and we are all strong. The strength comes at our finest hour, and the frailty, at our worst.

I can remember when those I loved were struggling, and while I did all I could to help, I didn’t… help. I realized late in my life that sometimes we need help beyond that which our friends and family can give, the help of a stranger. Someone completely removed from the situation, unfamiliar with the players and unbiased. This individual listens with clarity, with compassion, for all involved (there’s the clincher, the unbiased part) They don’t have any predisposition to anyone, no favourite, no concern really, as to outcome, only that the outcome be fair and just, to all involved, and when that fails, they provide compassion and reason. (If you can’t change it, learn how to live with it) And they help with that too.

The young mother who struggles with job stress, raising children, running a home, and nurturing her marriage.

The middle aged man who is ‘down-sized’ and now struggles with the loss of his professional identity.

The betrayed lover who blames themselves for everything they think went wrong,,,,,inadequacy.

The grief stricken partner who can’t seem to move beyond their loss.

The teen who struggles with self-esteem (or lack thereof), who doesn’t feel as though they ‘fit in’, anywhere.

The adult child who watches helplessly as their parent deteriorates, slowly, before their eyes. (The hero becomes the helpless, and the very notion that the parent is now dependent on the child can be frightening.)

These scenarios are all too familiar, and I suspect we each could relate to all, or most of them, but we may not be able to help them. And not all of us are strong enough to cope…. alone.

That’s where therapy comes in, and thank God it does!

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t at some time in their life needed the ear of an impartial listener and it isn’t necessarily that of a professional. Sometimes it’s a matter of a person coming in to your life at the right time, or saying the one thing that resonates; that breaks through your dilemma, shakes you up. Sometimes they’re words of support and encouragement, sometimes advice (usually positioned as a question) and sometimes the words are harsh realities that you need to face in order to move on.

I am not ashamed to admit that I have needed such advice. Sometimes in the crazy, erratic, hectic lives we lead, something happens that shakes us to our very core. It humbles us. It frightens us….but thanks to therapy it also brings us back. Back to reality, back to our senses. Back to our strength. Back to our confidence. It reminds us that we are not alone in our frailties; in fact we are among friends. And friends build up friends.

I would never divulge the stressful scenarios of those close to me because much as I think it is so normal to struggle with life events, it is also very private.  I do however, take comfort in knowing they, like me, had the confidence and encouragement to seek help when it was needed because we all need help at some point, and there’s no shame in asking for it.

If you struggle with anything, take comfort, because for every need there is an ear (often in the most unlikely place) There is someone willing to listen, a friend, coworker, even a stranger or professional. Seek them out. You’ll know it’s right as soon as you start talking…..and don’t stop…until you’re healed.

Need an ear