A little mid-day mush

I first came across this sonnet by Pablo Neruda in Patch Adams when it was read by Robin Williams’ character and I fell in love with its simplicity, especially the third stanza.

Every so often over the past two years, The Brit has left those three lines on a note and hid it somewhere for me to find – my backpack, in my lunch or under my pillow. It not only reminds me how sappy thoughtful he is, but how truly applicable those particular words are to our relationship. I feel like the luckiest – and maybe cheesiest – girl in the world when I say I’m living a real life fairy tale. 

Anyway, I stumbled across the sonnet again today and am feeling a bit nostalgic so I’m sharing it below, for the hopeless romantic in all of us. Happy reading!

Sonnet XVII

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

What does courage mean, anyway?

Courage is a word that we often hear associated with people who save lives or are taking risks to change the world. It’s not a word you normally use to describe people who voluntarily turn their lives upside-down. A year and a half ago, my girlfriend used it in this different context.

We were sitting on her couch catching up after I moved into my sister’s place. My marriage had ended, my ex and I had sold our house and divided all our property. It was the loneliest and saddest and lost I had ever felt – and it was entirely my doing.

She carefully asked how I was coping. We sipped wine as I told her I was scared and had no idea what I was doing but deep down, something told me it might be the right thing. I said I felt felt horribly guilty for hurting someone I cared about.

“It took a lot of courage to do what you did.”

Pardon? 

There’s nothing courageous about breaking someone’s heart or choosing to walk away from a life that by all accounts, was relatively comfortable and happy by most people’s standards.

The definition of courage is the ability to do something you know is difficult or dangerous.

I’ve started to realize that perhaps she didn’t mean it took courage to break someone’s heart, or sell my house or eventually move out west later that summer – what really took courage was being true to myself. It just manifested itself in those actions.

There is courage in having the gonads to chase what you truly want. I was scared beyond belief when my marriage ended, when I sold my house and when I moved out west. I had no idea where I was going, what I was doing or where I’d end up. I just knew I needed to try. 

I also had to accept that happy by most people’s standards doesn’t necessarily equate to happiness for me. We each are responsible for defining and living our own happiness – whether what means a nomadic life of travelling around the world solo, settling down with kids mid-20s, climbing the corporate ladder at any expense or having a family later on.

A wise friend recently said he’d rather regret doing something than wake up one morning and
realized he hadn’t done anything at all. It’s a great way to look at things.

Too many people do what other people think is the right thing to do or don’t follow what they truly want for fear of rejection or perhaps hurting other people. I know this firsthand. The only thing more painful than hurting someone you care about it is lying to yourself.

A nurse studied and wrote about the top regrets of the dying a few years ago and the main sense of remorse was not having the courage to live a true life and not pursuing what made them happy. So, it appears I’m in good company, although thankfully I’m not dying – just yet anyway.

The difference between those folks on their death bed and me is that I’m chasing what I want to do now while I still have the time. I’ll learn from their mistakes and make the life happen that I want to live, instead of living the life everyone else thinks I should. 

If that makes me courageous, then so be it. Let’s be honest, I’ve been called way worse.

Was there a time you felt scared to make a big change? What inspired you to do it?

Letter To Dad

Dear Dad,
Today marks our third Father’s Day without you. Three isn’t a big number, but it’s the days in between those years that have been long.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been bombarded with ads for the perfect gift: a tool set from a hardware store, a particular golf club to help you improve your swing, a pair of pants to improve your style. (For the record, you were always the nicest dressed man I knew.)
The painful absence of your loss has made me realize there’s only one gift that matters and it’s something you can’t buy at a hardware store – the gift of more time.
While you’ve given the gift of time to three other men through your donation, it doesn’t change the fact that I’d give up a lot of things just to have you back for a few moments.  
That being said, I’ve made it a priority to not be regretful for the time we didn’t have, but be appreciative for what we did. In the 24 years I had you in my life, I remember you saying countless times “not every little kid/teen/girl has what you do.”
The older I get and the more people I meet, I realize how true this statement is. Not everyone was able to participate in a sport each year that cost the equivalent of a new vehicle. Not everyone had the opportunity to go on family vacations, sometimes more than once a year. Not everyone was fortunate to have a relationship with their Dad like I had with you.
Just because your accident took you away from us doesn’t mean that our memories are gone, too.
I still remember you coming home from work and opening your arms for a famous bear hug. No matter how bad your day was, you always made us feel like we were the most important part. When I think about it hard enough, I can still smell your cologne and feel your arms around me.
As a child, I learned from you – how to sing AC/DC before I could recite the alphabet, how to give cheeky replies, and how to get exactly what I wanted with a simple “pretty please”. (You never could say no…)
As an adult, I learned to appreciate you both as a father and as a friend. Through your mistakes, you taught me the importance of accountability and forgiveness. 
I credit you entirely for my addiction to chocolate, teaching me to speak my mind even when sometimes I shouldn’t, my love of classic rock, and my inappropriate off-colour sense of humour.
You taught me not to settle and to always strive for what I deserved – in love, in work, in school, in life. Your untimely passing reminds me every day about how short life can be and I’m trying not to take anything for granted.
I hope you know how much you meant to me – to all of us – and that you’re desperately missed every moment of every day. While I’m slightly envious of all of the girls and women who get to spend time with their dads today, I know that there are people who are just envious of me and the incredible memories I have.  
I hope you’re as proud of us as we are of you. The four of us continue to keep your legacy alive, while diligently – albeit slowly – building our own. How great will ours be? Well, you never can tell with bees.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

Perspective: Time

The past few days have been a bit overwhelming.
Mike and I are moving tomorrow, our house closes in just over a week and I’m heading out to Victoria, BC for my second and final three-week residency as part of getting my BA in Professional Communication on April 27.
I also hit the ice for the first time in ages and surprised the hell out of myself by making an adult skating team earlier this week. However, all of these things combined don’t take up half the space in my mind as my Dad has the last little while.
Perhaps it’s because Sunday was the anniversary of my sister and I finally laying him to rest in Scotland, where his ashes were scattered with his Dad’s and Mum’s. Whatever it is, he seems to constantly be on my mind, more so than usual.
When I think about my Dad, I usually think about time.
In the initial days and months after he died, I remember trying to bargain with whatever greater power was listening to just have five more minutes with him. In my naivety as a 24-year-old broken-hearted, grieving daughter, I decided at one point it would be worth giving up the next 40 years of my life – yes, 40 years – if it meant I could talk to him just one more time.
In the moment, I meant it with every morsel of my being. Now, hindsight and a little perspective have allowed me to see how ridiculous I was for wishing my life away.
Some days, I feel like the last time I spoke to him was 100 years ago. These are usually the same days I torture myself by thinking about how I’m slowly forgetting him.
Other days, it’s almost as if I’m right at his bedside at Sunnybrook. His room – if you could call it that – was dark and gloomy. The unit had patient beds lining the windows and a “pod” of beds in the middle separated by curtains and concrete bricks painted a light colour. I remember how much it really bothered me that he didn’t have a window. The only light that ever touched his face was the glow of the monitors beside his bed that beeped every few seconds.
I can feel the cool air of the unit, the smell of plastic and hand sanitizer, and the sound of other families praying, crying and whispering at their loved one’s bedside. One night before we let him go, I crawled onto his hospital bed and lay beside him. I remembered him cuddling with me as a little girl many times, usually in an attempt to comfort me after a nightmare. It was my turn to comfort him.
When I think about it hard enough, I can still feel the crispy hospital blankets on my arms and his stiff pillow under my head. I grabbed my iPod, put an ear bud in each of our ears and played Joe Cocker’s ‘You Are So Beautiful’. I can still feel my Dad’s warm hand in mine as I held it tight, desperately wishing he would squeeze it back.
Right up until his accident, he’d tell me how this was “our” song. Once in a while, I’d even get a voicemail about it. His voice shaking from trying to hold back tears, he’d tell me that it came on the radio and it reminded him of rocking me as a baby. He always ended by telling me how proud he was to be my Dad.  
These days, it’s like no time has passed at all.  But I know otherwise.
He’s been officially “home” for a year; this July he’ll have been gone three years; in 21 years, he’ll have been gone from my life longer than he was a part of it. I know it sounds like a long time, but the past three years have flown by and it seems time picks up speed the older I get.
I’d be lying if I said that during the past 978 days since he took his last breath that I hadn’t wished for him to come back at least once.  I know it’ll never happen regardless of how many years of my own life I’d trade. (Thankfully, I’ve grown out of this bargaining phase….)
This time without him has allowed me to see that life continues to move forward, even if I insist on standing still. Since that fateful day in July, I found strength I didn’t know I had and I finally feel like 
I’m keeping pace with my life instead of watching it go by – it’s almost, dare I say it, empowering. I’m in control once again and for a control freak someone like me, that’s a big deal.
My siblings and I talk often about all of the things he’s going to miss – weddings, birthdays, Christmases, grandkids, and graduations. But just because he’s going to miss those things doesn’t mean we have to, too. 
Although I’d give almost anything to have my Dad back, I can’t spend the rest of my life wishing time away and looking backwards. Aging is a gift that you only get through living and I know too many people who have been denied this privilege.
If I learned one thing from my Dad, it’s to enjoy every second and live every moment just like he did. For him, it came in the form of spontaneous road trips, random trips to the Bulk Barn, meeting after work for appetizers and cheap beer, singing with his band, and loving his kids.
For me, it means following in his footsteps and doing what makes me happy. Today, it comes in the form of playing AC/DC in my office and remembering the last time I saw him sing. Tomorrow, maybe it’ll mean finally getting back to writing that memoir I started six months ago… Or maybe not.
One day at a time.