Step up to the plate, ladies!

I am fresh back from a week long training session.  I was fortunate to tag on at the last minute and lucky enough to have a manager that is both flexible and supportive.  So off I go to a full week of women’s leadership training.  There were approximately 50 of us in attendance and we came from all over North America.  The training was local for me, so I came and went from the sessions everyday, while others stayed in the hotel.

Reflecting on my life prior to Kevin’s death, training wasn’t important to me.  I knew what my future was, it wasn’t about career, it was about retiring with him and just being and doing together-type stuff.  Take him out of the picture and things have changed dramatically.  Now I don’t know whether I will retire at my earliest possible date, I may just stay on, I just don’t know.  So when a spot came available for the training, I grabbed it.

It wasn’t a week of men-bashing, it was a week of contemplation, awareness, strategy and development.  When it began it struck me that there was a great deal of posturing in the room. That this was a collection of assertive, aggressive women.  I have worked with aggressive females before, some good experiences, some not so good.  There are those that will throw you under the bus and step on your writhing body to get ahead (but there are men like that too). Then there are those that will support you and look for ways to bring out your best.  Life is quite arbitrary in all sorts of ways, who we have to work with is usually out of our immediate control.  I think for this particular training, we all went into the week not knowing what to expect and, let’s face it, nobody wants to look or sound dumb.

We had some crazy good sessions and today, the final day, gave us a session with a financial planner extraordinaire – she was fabulous and if we could have taped the session and shared it with others I would have.  She wasn’t local though, and she will fly back some place south of the border and leave us to action what we learned.  (Max out that TFSA and get rid of that credit card debt! For us females, we may want to consider long term care insurance as we get into our mid to late 60’s.  And, so much more.)

We ended the training with a career planning discussion.  We were set up in groups of six, each group led by a senior “executive” high flyer (a female who has made it to that corner office) who talked through each of our plans, as well as having roundtable input from our peers.  It was at this point that I realized how far we had come from that first day.  The trust and honesty in the group fairly hummed around us.  If I had to use a colour to describe it, I would say it was a kind of golden yellow, the warmth of the sun at the end of the day.

I left the training feeling stronger.  Which is a relief because after the first two days all I could think was that there was too much to take in, and if I made new neural connections then I would have to keep “feeding” them, and if I didn’t keep feeding them then I would become a vacant, blathering idiot!  Anyway, I think if I did fire up some new neutrons that hopefully they came with synapses too – which would be a good thing, since I don’t want that stuff filed away in some dormant foggy area of my brain. This training really kickstarted me into thinking about my future and the degree of control I have over it. I met some remarkable people and I learned some pretty valuable stuff – not just work-related but life-related.  All in all a smashing success for me.

 

Monday, Monday

August is almost in the books and school here in Canada starts up shortly.  This time of year also brings with it the memories of birthdays past.  It would have been Kevin’s birthday tomorrow.  It was a week long event, at minimum.  His sister’s birthday follows two days later.  It was busy, and demanding, and absolutely exhausting, and I miss it so much.  His poor sister is left dealing with the hollowness of what was and now what is.  She’s actually talked about moving her birthday celebration to a different time.

Although Kevin’s birthday was a good thing, the impending return to work was not so good.  So while we celebrated birthdays, there was always the underlying awareness that soon structure would return to the house with Kevin going off to school.  He’d get his old 10 speed bicycle out and check the brakes, make sure his carrier basket was sturdy and well attached and that was about it.

As he himself would say, he was a man of extreme highs and lows.  Returning to work started the journey to low, and the first day of school when he met the kids in the classroom could either take him right to the bottom or level him out.  I remember one year he had a class with a couple of “identified” kids in it, not unusual, but it was the six or seven that should have been identified that were the problem.  When you have 28 kids in the class, having eight or nine identified kids  could result in chaos for everyone, a poor learning experience for others, and frustration for the teacher.

August this year started off poorly with the death of a very remarkable woman who was my daughter’s best friend’s mom.  She was also a former teaching colleague of my husband, a fun loving, kind and personable woman.  Her drive took her out of the classroom and into administration and her legacy is enormous as it was her incredible vision, passion and commitment that moved forward Indigenous awareness, education and opportunity within our province.  That was her day job, her full time job was as a mother, wife and friend to so very many.   She was only 52 years old.  Her loss is tremendous and will resonate for some time.  I can well imagine how the family is feeling.  Her death took me back to a place that can swallow you up in darkness instantly.

Today I heard a song by the Strumbellas and one line really  hit home.  “And I don’t want a never-ending life, I just want to be alive while I am here.”  That’s what is left for us to do, be alive while we are here.

 

 

The Twins

This past weekend I paid a visit to my son and his family.  They live around five hours away when travelling by car.  Two weeks ago his wife gave birth to twins –  boy and girl.  How his father would have talked up that!  No history of twins on either side of the family.  A completely unplanned pregnancy – especially since they already had three little boys, 6, 4 and almost two years of age.  Now they have 5 little ones.  Such a crazy chaotic life stretches before them!

It was awesome to meet the two newest babies – and they are perfect in every way.  Hard too, since it was the one thing that Kevin would go on about – how after he retired he planned on taking the grandchildren, the boys, there were no girls at that point, and have them come and stay with us for the summer.  He loved those kids and had great plans for them, plans he would never get to see through- so it was hard.  I have six grandchildren now, three of which never met him, that will only hear stories about their larger-than-life granddad.

When Kevin was close to the end, my son’s wife found out she was pregnant with her third child.  I couldn’t tell Kevin about the pregnancy, it would have broken him even more.  It was a hard thing to do, I know my son wanted his father to know.  But I couldn’t tell his dad, a man that family was everything to.  To know he wouldn’t be there for the birth of a child would have caused him so much pain. Right or wrong, I made the decision, Kevin had suffered so much, and he had anguished over everything, I couldn’t add to his burden.

As he got sicker, Kevin would tell me over and over that I got a bum deal when I married him.  How sorry he was that he got sick, for letting me down. He told me that I had to be there for the kids because he wouldn’t be able to.  His family was everything to him, and I like to believe that it still is.  Somewhere, somehow he carries a light to guide us forward.  That when I cradled those little ones on the weekend their grandfather was right there with me.  I believe his love certainly was.

What a crazy thing emotion is, that so much joy and so much sorrow can be in one’s heart at the same time.  But that’s how it was when I heard about the babies, so happy and so sad at the same time.  I say this often, because it’s true, I miss you so much Kevin.

 

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Gone

My coworker passed away tonight.  News travels fast and, it seems, bad news spreads especially quickly.  It will be a sad group that arrives at the office on Monday.  Fortunately, I am off that day.  This sort of news and how people will mourn can catapult me into darkness.  Tuesday won’t be much better but at least the initial shock will have worn off.  Those first raw conversations will have been replaced by numbness as people reflect on how brutal cancer is.

It is brutal, it is arbitrary, and it is shattering.  Life turns upside down in one fraction of a second.  You hear the words and everything drops away around you.  I vividly recall when Kevin got his diagnosis.  We went to the hospital for a pain in his back.  He left 12 hours later with a death sentence.  But that moment when the doctor came and sat with us to tell us what the pain truly was, I remember so well.  His words,  cancer, advanced cancer, stage 3 at minimum.   That moment in time felt both long and short, the time and place we were in seemed to stand still.  Everything fell away in that one moment of time.  The noise and the chaos of the hospital, we didn’t hear it.  We just looked at each other.  The shock of the moment created a connection through pain.  There is no thought, just pure anguish.

We went home, we were far different people than left that house 12 hours earlier.  Prepared to fight, scared beyond words.  And so it began for us.  It ended, just as it did for my coworker and her family today.  Heartbreak, desolation and despair.  Dark days and darker nights. Here I am two years down the road and I still find that the darkness can press against me.  You never stop loving, you don’t.

The Path

I walk ahead of you on the path.  A few steps but it seems an eternity.  Don’t worry I am here.  It’s dark but you aren’t alone.  I travel on ahead trying to find my way.  My path is already begun, my journey underway.  I know you are behind me, like so many others, and I want to help.  But I can’t.  It’s your journey, you have to find your own way.

It’s hard to move forward.  The first steps are the hardest.  You will fall.  I won’t help you get up simply because I can’t.  Only you can, only you know why you have fallen.  Only you know when you are ready to get back up.  You may need to rest for a bit, to simply lie down.  Rest until you are able to stand.  Stand until you are able to walk.  Realize that each step is a success.  When you fall, realize that everyone falls.  Then start the process all over again.

The path is a lonely one despite the fact that many are on it.  Some settle for abject darkness unwilling to move forward, not obstacles on the path, just part of the landscape.   Others find an inner light to guide them forward.  You will find your inner light, it takes time, but you will find it.  Know that there are many others around you.  You are only alone until you choose not to be.