we never know where inspiration comes from…I’ve been told for years to write.. mostly by my well-meaning friends who are sick and tired of listening to me talk.. a mile a minute.. my brain is a kaleidoscope mixed ideas and images of the past, future, present, real experiences mixed with dreams and movies, books, information absorbed
I’ve always been told i was smart by my parents and i somehow had to step into that identity and have always known that i can rely on my brains.. since I am smart.. since I’ve been told that.
like we don’t know that we are beautiful until we are told..
need a mirror, we need an authority to decide about our qualities and then we live up to it. we form and live our early lives based on that conditioning.
so mine always been : you are smart..
that translated to a way of operating in the world.. i didn’t navigate the world by my looks like lot of other girls do although i figured i wasn’t unattractive, but certainly knew i didn’t turn heads, but what i knew that once i have someone’s attention i can keep it with engaging conversation and therefore earn their interest and respect.
it also meant that i went out in the world with not much direction from my parents, they figured “you’ll be OK, you are so smart”( isn’t that funny that we blame our parents even when they were telling you good stuff?) it was like giving you a car and trusting that you figure out how to drive it..
so i can compare my time during my teens and twenties to going through life like i would through traffic without utilizing or following the laws. got behind the wheel of managing my life and started driving with no real destination in sight following my own instinct.
Ran a few red lights, enjoying the thrill of not getting caught,
sliding through major crossroads and thinking that stop signs were optional,
letting the car run out of gas and living with the painful consequences of that,
paying a lot of traffic fines..
after two divorces, having lived 3 countries, (4 , if you count Quebec as separate and I do..)
being back in canada in a new city (Vancouver), pregnant and with a two year old receiving income assistance by default (i didn’t ask for it, they put me on it when i went in to ask for childcare subsidy and they told me that i am eligible)
i was so mortified even being in this office thinking how come i am among these people? i used to go to university and live in Florence, Italy? i used to work for guest jeans in Montreal? i was going to be an international lawyer. i was going to work for the UN.
I AM SMART..
i certainly didn’t look like nor come from any of the places these people around me come from or had led them to be here.
how did I end up here?
they gave me a purple stuffed dinosaur as a gift for Sebastian and i started crying..the first of many donated gifts that followed over the period of ten years.
i clearly remember the moment when i asked myself: What happened to my life?
it took me many years to answer that question, but one thing was clear. there is a fundamental problem in the way i choose men. and having to figure out how to survive and be a mom as an intellect living in a place i never wanted to , doing that i never thought i would and being a single mom which i never set out to be now had to take priority to figuring out the reasons for the above mentioned.
so i went back to the only thing that i could ever rely on: my smarts
and got doing what all good academic does: research in the library (this as before the internet)all the resources, books, single mother groups, services, parenting workshops, schools, courses for kids etc. and decided the task at hand was to be the best parent i can be under the circumstances accepting my situation . i had to stop being the rolling stone because kids required stability. i stopped complaining about Vancouver and emulating Europe because i understood that with two kids i would never be able to live in Europe under these circumstances and i slowly developed an enormous appreciation for Canada as strangers came into my life and took my plight seriously and offered support. I’ve found home. now i had to learn the traffic laws of the land.
i had to learn how to be a single mother both father and mother to tow vary dynamic personalities. although i’ve always known that i am not a typical Susie homemaker or Aunt Jemima, these were the images of nurturing women i emulated as the best type of mothers for a child to grow up with. i knew i wont be making cookies and be a super mom, but i also knew that as an a academic the importance of raising a child properly to have them become a functioning human being was an enormous responsibility and i didn’t want to have them grow up as weed.
I’ve lead so many lives, I’ve been to so many places, I’ve seen so many worlds, I’ve had so many experiences..I’ve met so many people from all over the world. my parents always said that i am burning the candle from both ends. I’ve read a lot of books, seen a lot of movies, been to many museums and studied a variety of disciplines.So I am scrubbing the kitchen cabinets and I am using an old facecloth and water and doing a pretty mediocre job, thinking it’s clean enough.
I am not a professional house cleaner and my mother would re-do it all, as she comes from a generation when women were taught how to be good housekeepers in order to be ‘good wives’ testament to my stubborn personality that not much of her training has rubbed off of me. i resisted it as i felt i was a different kind of a woman, i am a geek, an academic, a brainiac.
little did i know that that is not an attractive trait from a men’s point of view and knowing about history and geography and being able to talk philosophy is not going to help you in the bedroom and in europe that might get you some respect , but here in canada it wont help you much at the dinner parties either, as they all think you are a snub.
but what does it take to be a good girlfriend, a good mother, a good daughter, a good sister , a good wife, a good woman..
there are skills in life that we need to learn to survive.. yet none of them that truly enable you to function effectively in life are taught in school.
we all love a clean kitchen, a clean bathroom, yet we all hate to scrub the toilet or do dishes…. (thanks to democracy no roman slaves are available, so ok, we evolved to the point that we don’t exploit other humans to do work none of us wants to do…) where do you learn those skills? if you are lucky at home. i am still of the generation that my mother taught me some of these skills and against my best effort some of it got stuck.
however i spent twenty years telling my kids to put away their shoes and i am still tripping over them in the hallway…
ok, so perhaps i am not so skilled as a parent..
when i had them in those first few weeks, i was terrified and clearly remember thinking: how am i going to do this? this is an overwhelming, crazy job..why would anyone in their right mind would take on this amount of responsibility, loss of sleep etc.?
let alone that my body felt like it went through a meat grinder and i just wanted to sleep, but they wouldnt let me.. the baby needed feeding.. are you kidding me? i’ve been in labour for the last 20 hours and i am expected to stay up.. didnt i earn some rest? nobody trained me for this either!
i also thought i would never ever want to have anything close to my vagina again…
well, be careful what you entertain as a thought, as my marriage fell apart when i was pregnant with my daughter and i didnt have anybody close to my vagina for the next six years..
well, with the exception of a good old friend of mine who took pity on me and came out from montreal one christmas to show me i can still do the deed.
i was praying to make it to their 18th birthday and that’s all i was asking of life, so they would be able to stand on their two feet before i die.
fast forward twenty years.. my kids are now grown. i did it.. i dont know how,day after day, looking for and getting help along the way, miraculously , but i did and i didnt die.
i also was never taught how to be in a relationship or how to be a good lover.
we model our parents, we pick up clues from friends and society, but when it comes down to intimacy, how do we know what to do and say?
i’ve always said that my favorite man is a well-trained man.
i once had a boyfriend who seemed to have been very skilled at the dating game and i asked him: how do you know what to say? he said: “by saying the wrong thing too many times..”
who trained my men?.. other women
who trained me to be a woman?…other men
how many relationships we burn through before we learn our lessons. i cringe at the thought of how little conversation i’ve had with my first husband about our future together. we never talked about kids, financing or where we want to live or do. we fell in love, sex was hot, we figured the rest will just work out and we’ll wing it.. ouch! for the rest of our lives???
we put more planning into buying the right kind of milk?
we pile heartache upon heartache, we beat ourselves up, we beat each other up, we lose property, effort, hope over and over and then we pull ourselves together , dust ourselves off, we thought we learnt a thing or two and we move on, little better, little wiser, little more skilled..and yet have we mastered relating? have we mastered intimacy?
so here i am 52 years old.. my son is twenty and he is only staying home because he pays no rent, but what i say or do makes little difference in his decision process, my daughter moved in with her boyfriend a month before her 18 birthday and he is completely supporting her and i barely see her.
i took on jobs over the years that it had hours and demands compatible with being a single mom instead of what i really wanted to do which was to be a travel writer. i cant complain, i did manage to squeeze a pretty colorful life out of single motherhood by being a tour guide and an ESL teacher which still kept me travelling and connecting with an international crowd and when i couldnt, i spent winter nights on the computer researching on “international living” website planning my retirement.
after my self-exposed exile from the male gender thinking i just suck at picking the right partner i also made a few attempts at dating through online sites..little did i know that everyone out there on those sites come from similar failures and we are attempting to move on now with our baggage in hand..that was a huge learning curve to learn to let that go and not go on a date talking about my ex and my kids..
oh, yeah.. those life skills..
i bought the programs: how to online date..how to be ready for love..how to catch him and keep him.. how to avoid marrying a jerk? what men want?
my ex-husband used to tease me that i learn everything out of books..yes.. well.. when i am lost i ask for direction, or take out the map or go to an information source that’s what i learnt as an academic. i didnt come from the village growing up with aunts and neighbors where women are taught how to become women and wives.. i grew up on the eight floor of a prefabricated communist style apartment building that was designed to make us live in equal-sized quarters providing shelter to all regardless of social class. people came from all walks of life, we all had our equal-sized unit and the villages with the orchards and communities that my grew up n where the neighbors traded milk for eggs and watched each other kids and had no tv or money for electricity , so they gathered in groups for company and entertainment