Uncovering the Now

So we found a tick embedded in my kid’s scalp from a hike last weekend…always a fun find. As it happens, she was in the woods again today doing a cross country meet with her school. Being the absolutely chill, uber not paranoid, completely relaxed mom that I am, I went to find her in the woods after leaving the pharmacy armed with the anti-Lyme meds. And since I happened to be in the woods, I took myself on a mini solo hike.

Being on maternity leave, I constantly have this feeling like I should be using this time to accomplish something (other than, you know, raising a tiny human). I should be looking for that next goal, completing that desired project, figuring out my life. Except, I had those as goals on my other maternity leaves, and I don’t think I ever did quite figure out my life. I had decided that this time, I would just aim to be present. I practiced this on my hike this morning, and you wouldn’t believe how much more pleasant a hike it was, how many more details I noticed, and just how much more fulfilled I was by the experience. Although living in the now is something I’ve always aspired to, it’s something I have perpetually sucked at. But succeeding today felt victorious, and it reminded me of a story that I told my daughter about when I was her age and doing a cross-country run of my own.

Each class was scheduled to run at a different time. When I got to the finishing line everyone was cheering, and I thought Wow, I must’ve done really well. Slowly, I noticed that I wasn’t running with my peers. Everyone was clapping for the leaders of the group that followed my class. I was in fact the last one from my class to have passed the line. I was never a fast runner, nor have I been a quick student in the art of being present. Some people are, and they make it to that particular finishing line without much effort. The just GET it. Me, I have been finding my way there with much faltering and struggling and with excruciating slowness. But accomplishing this goal this morning was like arriving at that finishing line. It didn’t matter that others had passed me along the way, and that there was no fanfare just for me. I had made it. At least for today.

Re: The Way of Integrity

The Way of Integrity by Martha Beck

I’m a bit of a self-help book junkie. I love to read self-help books, whether memoir in nature or this-is-how-you-do-life directives. There was a time in my life when I needed the ideas and inspiration they provided, I was looking for someone to kick me in the rear. Now, I look at these books more as guideposts. Sometimes the books I read don’t sit well with me, and so they actually steer me away from the written text and more into myself (this happens most especially with “radiate positivity” type messages… I’m more of a be your authentic self even if you’re grumpy type of person), and sometimes the books provide exactly the message I need to get me to the next level of my own personal development. I am also, you could say, a personal development junkie. Being an introvert, I look to books as my teachers.

I have this thing that started several years ago. I’ll often walk into my local library, look at the books on display of this one particular bookshelf, and a book will just pop out at me. It’s happened several times over the years, and each time it’s a book that I didn’t know I wanted or needed until I read it. This happened last week with Martha Beck’s The Way of Integrity, the book I’m currently reading and my latest “teacher.”

Self discovery is a process of removing layers, and this book matches the layer I am at in an eerily perfect way. So much so that I just feel calmer when I’m reading it, as opposed to the high alert can’t sit still much to be done setting which is my standard. This tells me, without question, that this is the book for me at this time.

My library trick has not let me down.

@themarthabeck#youaremyteacher
#book#thewayofintegrity#reading#selfhelp#integrity#truthfullness

What Happened After I Surrendered

I had this moment, at the start of March 2020. I was lying on a bed in a hotel room. My son was lying againt me, my daughter and husband in the neighbouring bed. We were watching some tv after a day of exploring – the kids were on spring break. It was one of those tired and cozy moments, no one was fighting or asking for snacks, everyone was relaxed. And in my relaxation my mind wandered as it’s wont to do. I thought about being 40, how the most important people in my life were in that very room. I thought about the goals I still hold for myself. And in that moment I made a decision — a very clear, solid-in-my-soul decision: I decided to get my tubes tied.

I’ve been very honest in the past about my miscarriages. I write about them honestly because many don’t, because so many women experience that particular pain and feel very alone in the process. I write about them as a part of my own processing, also. The last time I wrote about my miscarriages came after this date last March. It was my closing of doors, my moving on, my good-bye. After years of either trying for another baby, or, at the very least, secretly hoping for one, I was ready to move on. I surrendered.

There’s a certain liberation that comes with the act of surrendering, a freeing of the soul. It’s like I had placed this idea of another child into a hot air balloon, and then tied it down with weights. Finally freeing the balloon removed the weights within myself, too.

But I never got that operation. One week after that hotel room moment, the world was engulfed in a global pandemic. I wasn’t making any unnecessary doctor appointments, let alone trips to the hospital for elective surgeries. So life went on, much as it had been. I certainly wasn’t trying to have another child, and I certainly didn’t think it was any more possible than in any of the previous 6 years.

What I did do was continue to grow. Without that added weight holding me down I allowed myself to breathe and move forward. I completed goals, set new ones, then completed those too. And with every step forward I healed that place within myself that had been in pain; the very raw pain that only someone who has experienced pregnancy loss can understand. And as I healed I came to an understanding, one that I could only come to because of my emotional surrending. I was not a victim of pregnancy loss. It’s something shitty that happened to me, a few more times than I’d have liked, but I wasn’t a victim. This is just life. Messy life. Beyond my control life. Let go of expectations life. Good things and bad things will happen life. I am the only thing within my own control life.

And then a funny thing happened. I had a moment last November when I was sure I was pregnant — I felt it at my core. And I needed to think about it, to really assess my feelings around it. And I realized that, were I pregnant, baby would have been as welcome as always, but, if not, it was okay. My life was okay. No sadness. No attachment. No expectations.

And in fact, I wasn’t pregnant. And, aside from confusing my strong sense of intuition, I really was okay. I was in my forties, I had plans, life was moving on.

Later that month my daughter, ironically, asked for a baby sister in her letter to Santa. And I laughed, and I told her it wasn’t going to happen.

And then, a month later, I was. I was actually pregnant.

And trust me, no one was more surprised than I.

Resting on Mother’s Day

There’s a certain level of fear engrained into any pregnancy that follows miscarriage. It’s hard to relax, it’s hard to just enjoy the process. Every day you wake up wondering if everything is okay. Every trip to the bathroom you wonder if you’ll see blood. Rather than look to a future with your baby you think only day by day, refusing to allow yourself to become too emotionally attached to either process or outcome. You take nothing for granted.

Yet I had this feeling, a small voice from somewhere deep within. That I was pregnant now, just as I had turned my back on the whole idea, just as I had moved on: it was too perfect, too textbook. On the outside I didn’t want to admit it, I wanted to keep myself protected just in case. But on the inside, I felt, at my core, that this was divine timing at its finest.

Now that I’m nearing my 3rd trimester, I’m finally allowing myself to breathe. I’m listening to the little voice telling me that everything is going to be okay, rather than heed my fears. I’m living with the understanding, the knowledge earned through experience, that no matter what happens, the outcome is perfect. I have no control over the rest of this pregnancy. I have no say over whether or not or when or how I will get to meet this baby, but the outcome is perfect. As it was meant to be. I am still surrendered to the process. I am still only in control of how I choose to handle each day along the way.

The fears are still there — they don’t simply disappear. This is the natural side effect of loss. But I’ve gained wisdom, I’ve gained knowledge and, I’ve developed a strength only experience can define. And I am going to be okay. No matter what. I am okay.

-mtg

My Secret Book of Longings

“All my life, longings lived inside me, rising up like nocturnes to wail and sing through the night.”  – Sue Monk Kidd

Have you seen the new Disney+ movie Soul? To give away the ending, the main character, Joe, realizes that his lifelong dream of being a professional musician is actually not the raison d’etre of his life. He spent a lifetime with this one, singular goal, only to realize through the eyes of a new friend, that life’s happiness actually resides in the little splendours, the small joys, the tiny sparks in our day-to-day: watching a maple seed helicopter in the wind, the taste of a lollipop, the scent of freshly made pizza. The message is that life is less about what you do, and more about how you choose to live. 

I was reminded of this message while reading The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd. A fictional story about the wife of Jesus, I was fascinated from the get-go by this type of character. I’m not here to discuss the merits of the story from a historical perspective–it’s fiction, after all–but as someone who is more about spirituality than religion itself, I love this notion that Jesus had a wife, and the idea of whom such a wife would have to be. Like it or don’t like it, my own personal perspective on Jesus is that he was just a man, like any man, walking the earth in search of a more meaningful life. The difference, in my mind, between Jesus and the average Judas is that he learned how to go within, he learned how to speak the language of the universe, he learned to find joy in the everyday. The book is careful to depict him as a working man, going wherever he can to find work to support his family. Whether fishing, or doing carpentry, or working construction, the work he did mattered little to his spiritual progress. His ambitions were not professional. 

Let me be clear: I believe we are all capable of achieving this level of meaning in our lives. But very few of us do. 

So if Sue Monk Kidd wondered who the wife of such a person could be, I think she hit the nail on the head. Fiery of spirit, independent of mind, courageously vocal, the character Ana is also a thinker and a feeler, naturally motivated to follow her heart from within. The spirit of Ana speaks to the spirit of me, and tells me that my own longings are ages deep. When she speaks of the longings in her heart of hearts–the longing to be a voice of women, a voice to be heard–it reminds me of the longings in my own heart of hearts, which are not that different.

For years I thought that my purpose in life was to write. Writing is really the only thing I have consistently been driven and inspired by. But like Joe in Soul, like Ana, I’ve learned that even then, writing is just something I want to do in life, but still doesn’t make me who I want to be. That, I believe, is the more important question. In your heart of hearts, your longing of longings, who are you? And are you being that person?  What else are we here for, if not that?

-mtg

In My Fortieth Year: Life, Love and Lessons

A year ago I turned 40. As my birthday approached I heard messages such as “it’s not so bad,” “it’s just a number” and “it’ll be okay.” Perhaps because I’m stubborn, but I decided that I didn’t want 40 to be just okay. I wanted 40 to be reverent, I wanted 40 to be inspiring, I wanted 40 to be a game-changer. 

Now, one year later, I can say with confidence that it was. Forty was a teacher, and 40 taught me several valuable lessons. 

Forty taught me to celebrate. I celebrated my birthday, I celebrated myself, I celebrated my life. […]

Continue on with the article on Elephant Journal:
https://www.elephantjournal.com/2020/09/in-my-fortieth-year-life-love-and-lessons/

If this resonates with you, share.

-mtg

20/20

I sat down to write a poem, and what came out were my own personal reflections on what the year 2020 has been for me. I hope you enjoy. Feel free to share if this resonates for you.

What if you were being forced into alignment
Or enlightenment
What if the Earth said, Ok, that’s enough
And what if you ignored the message
What then?

What if the Universe wanted us to open our eyes, to look, to see
What if 2020 was chosen 
Like a bonk on the head
Obvious, so even the short-sighted could understand

What if we were given a choice
Between 30 years of wallowing
Only to awaken one day with it all figured out 
But with no energy to spare
Or six months of sitting in your own waste
Thighs deep
Stuck
Through, being the only way out

What would you choose?
If the process was the same
The nervous energy, the fear
The anger
The sloth-like-mind-numbing monotonous doing
The flicker of being
The question of sunlight, of presence
Before tripping back into darkness
Wondering if you have the strength to climb out again

And what if you climbed
And you told fear to shove it

What if you could learn
In half a year instead of 30
Would you remain there, stuck up to your thighs
Or would you start to climb?

What if it was all possible – what the Earth intended – 
What if it still is?

What if the Universe is speaking to you now?
What if you look back, in 2021
Would you have seen light? Been light?
Or let it slide?

-mtg

Self-Care Yourself this Holiday, Mama

Self-care is still needed, I think at this time of year, more than ever. As moms move about making their lists and checking them thrice, making sure there is holiday joy for all and holiday magic a plenty, we can get a little run down. For me, the forced staycation actually feels like a blessing. I can just stay home. I don’t have to gear up the crew for anyone at any time. I don’t need to entertain. I can just breathe. We all get a break. I didn’t realize how much I actually needed this until all other options were taken off the table. All that to say, I was re-reading The Secret Life of Bees, and I came across a passage that reminded me of a realization I came to earlier this year, and one I’d apparently forgotten. The time to regroup, revamp and reaffirm is now.

#selfcaremama#selfcaremom#selfcarematters#selfcare#suemonkkiddquotes#holidays#downtime#staycation#staygrounded

Writing & Romance

A year ago I decided to write my first book. I’ve always been dedicated to the art of writing, I’ve always been drawn to words, but as a multi-passionate personality, my writing has crossed many genres. I’ve written poems and song lyrics, I’ve published essays and opinion pieces, I’ve written short stories and blogged on the not-very-regular. But, I’d never written a book.

When it came to choosing a genre for my book, no one was more surprised than I when I decided to write a love story. I love a good romance, I’ve always been a sucker for a true love story, but I never pictured myself as somone who would write one. But write one I did.

Setting out, I decided to avoid being too mainstream. I didn’t want to write about young love with barely-of-age characters. I wanted maturity, I wanted depth, I wanted the characters to reflect my own age group (that is, the over 40 club). I hope I’ve achieved everything I set out to achieve. For a first novel, I’m excited about it.

Set in the fictional town of Came to Stay, Newfoundland (based loosely on a town I vacationed in one summer, Duntara, Newfoundland), this is a love story for Newfoundland as much as it is about its characters, Chiara and Mike, two adults who must work through their personal challenges if they are ever going to find their way to each other.

I hope you enjoy.

https://mariagiuliani.ca/books-etc/came-to-stay/

-mtg

Finding Freedom in Labels as an INFJ

Labels get a bad rap. This happens due to the tendency people have to use labels as neat and tidy boxes within which we can make sense of the world and our fellow humanity. Like a mother trying to keep order in a toddler’s playroom, it can feel good and uncomplicated to be able to place blocks in the block bin and stuffies in the stuffie bin. The order helps us make sense of the chaos — when we can see things as black or white it removes complication from our mind. The problem with this is that life exists in the gray areas, people exist outside of the neat and tidy boxes in our minds, and the labels can be limiting. As such, those labels can be harmful as they lead us to feel trapped and pinned down rather than free to jump around from box to box. 

And it is not only others that put labels on us, we often put labels on ourselves. Sometimes, when we find a label that makes sense to us, we grab it and put it on like it’s a new favorite sweater discovered when rummaging through a department store. We’ll wear that sweater proudly, daily, and refuse to take it off, even when it starts to smell. The sweater, as a label, makes us feel comfortable and protected. It gives us something by which to define ourselves when other words don’t seem to work. A label can feel like home.

The problem arises when we get so comfortable in our labels, when others get so insistent in hanging on to the labels they’ve created for us, that change and growth can no longer happen freely. We as people are meant to learn and grow, daily, yearly, and whether it is us keeping ourselves in boxes, or whether we are being held down by others, any hindrance to our personal growth and development is an injustice to our very reason for being. 

However, that being said, I don’t believe that labels are all that bad, in and of themselves. Labels, when used wisely and judiciously, are actually quite beneficial. Labels can help us make sense of ourselves in a given period of time. As we try on the label, as we fit it to size, we have the opportunity to see what we like or don’t like about it. We can keep the parts we like, we can do away with the parts that don’t work, and eventually, we can even do away with the label altogether. Maybe you like the arms of one sweater, the trunk of another, and the neckline of yet another. We forget that labels can be cut up and pieced back together in a way that makes sense for ourselves, in a way that makes us comfortable while existing in those gray areas.

Throughout my entire life I have felt like a black sheep. This was the label I gave myself within the context of family and friends. Sometimes this label was used to bolster my independence, and sometimes it made me sad. My family and friends didn’t think of me as an outsider, as I did, but to make sense of me they labelled me shy. I wasn’t shy, I was misunderstood. I didn’t have the words to explain myself, and when the words came, they didn’t come quickly enough. Much later in life I came to feel a sense of peace when I tried on the label introvert, because it made me feel safe and protected. As an introvert, I could understand why my brain works as it does, and why being around other people exhausts me so much. The label of introvert allows me to breathe a sigh of relief. However, I recognize that if I allowed it to, this label could easily have me living as a hermit, well secluded from society. If I allowed it to, I could say no to every opportunity precisely because I am an introvert. In the interest of personal growth, I have to wear this sweater consciously.

More recently I decided to dive deeper. I came across a meme about INFJs and knew intuitively that this label defined me. Indeed, INFJs are notoriously intuitive. Taking the test was a mere practicality in confirming something I already knew. I spent days learning all that I could about INFJs — reading articles, listening to podcasts, watching videos on the web. The more I learned, the more I recognized myself in this particular personality box; the more I realized that by acknowledging the INFJ in me, I was giving myself the gift of living in the gray. By owning this label that describes me so wholly, I can actually allow myself the flexibility, the fluidity, of existing between boxes. In fact, it’s between the boxes where INFJs are most ourselves. 

We are, in fact, the opposite of black sheep. We are insiders, able to see and move between the lines — we are stealthy visionaries. 

And now that I have owned the label, worn the sweater until it was well and smelly, I know I don’t need to hold onto it anymore. It is me already, like my DNA or my lifelong love affair with pasta, not there to keep me contained, but, definitely to make life more comfortable.

I Am Woman: 2020

I remember walking into an HMV as a high school student, past all the disc covers of Goo Goo Dolls and Gin Blossoms, and asking an employee for help. He took me to a back wall, and after some minutes of flipping through CD covers, pulled up their sole copy of what I was looking for. Staring back at me, with her strong face before a red background, was Helen Reddy and I Am Woman. I planned to use this iconic song during a class presentation, allowing verse after verse to support the hypothesis of whatever point I was trying to make. I was probably reading The Handmaid’s Tale at the time.

But I also remember, around the same time, a friend declaring to me that she was not a feminisit, and me thinking, Sure, I’m probably not, either. Except that my friend, at the time, was an adolescent discovering the art of sexual prowess. And I was just naive. I didn’t know that you could be both sexually appealing and a feminist. I really didn’t know anything. If you’d asked me, I would have said that I had never, ever experienced misogyny in my life.

But, then there was that time, on the day of my grandfather’s funeral, that I got a call from a man telling me that he was holding my parents at gunpoint, and that the only way to save them was to undress over the telephone. There was that time, when walking to work, that a gust of wind blew up my skirt and a car screeched to a halt behind me. That time, when finishing my shift at work, that a client (who considered himself a suitor) sat parked in a car beside my own, waiting for me, and followed me home in the dark. 

No, I probably wasn’t a feminist, except that I knew, as I was researching universities, that I didn’t agree with my mom’s opinion that it was more important for me to learn how to cook; probably wasn’t a feminist when, at university, I distinctly understood that the speeches about not walking alone on campus after dark were directed especially at the girls. 

I was naive, you see. Because I was small, I was shy, I wasn’t a knockout looker or even all that confident. I didn’t have a large chest and, despite that, went out of my way to avoid attention. By hiding myself, it was easy to remain naive. 

But there was that time I went dancing with friends, and that guy who wanted to buy me a drink… and that house party, and that guy that kept trying to kiss me… and my friend saw what was happening, and came to get me… and that other guy, my roommate’s friend, who wouldn’t leave my bedroom…

Maya Angelou called me a Phenomenal Woman, it’s true, but the paradox came too. The more I displayed my feathers, the more attention I got. The more attention I got, the less naive I could be. 

So even as I found my voice as a woman, as I grew into my confidence; even as I came to learn the depth of my own feminine strength, I knew, also, that I had to pay attention. There was still that time a male friend, someone I considered a brother, tried to seduce me. Or that time that I was set up on a date, my friend knowing that he was setting me up with someone who expected to be let in at the end of the night. That this expectation even existed, that all a guy should have to do to get into my pants was buy me a bowl of poutine — yeah, I had to learn to not be naive anymore. 

And then came the boss story. Don’t we all have a boss story? The boss that told me that I couldn’t do certain things “because I’m a woman.” The boss that liked me well and good until he realized how capable I was. The boss that wanted me to stay in my lane and mind my place. The boss that got fired for being sexist. That boss, he made me a feminist. 

Motherhood made me a feminist. 

Having learned my own strength, I could handle stupid comments. Like from the truck driver who saw me pulling a pallet jack at work and felt it was his place to tell me that I should be at home making babies… Shut up, guy. And fuck off while you’re at it. 

But that I had a daughter that I’d have to teach to stand up for herself, that I’d have to teach to not be naive, that I’d have to warn about how she might be treated out there in the world — that pissed me right off. That pisses me right off, daily. 

That truck driver, he made me a feminist. 

Donald Trump, he’s made me a feminist. 

Anyone who feels like they have the right to comment on choices I make for my own body, they’ve made me a feminist.

Anyone who feels like they have the right to comment on how I should be raising my children have made me feminist. 

Anyone who has tried to keep me small, tried to keep me quiet, tried to make assumptions on my behalf has made me feminist. 

This is not a victim post. I am not a victim of womanhood. And I am not interested in rhetoric. This is about how enough is enough. This post is about education. Malala education. Greta education. RBG education. Power education. Strength education. Feminism education.

When the suffragettes were striking at the gates, with their children being torn from their arms as they asked for the merest of requests — to be treated as equals — did they envision that 100 years later, the very essence of their fight would still need to be fought?

The thing about gates, however, is that sometimes they keep people out, but sometimes they let people in. Whether they are opened, climbed over, or broken the fuck down, they are not impenetrable. It only takes one “angry woman” to invoke change. Imagine what could happen to the gates when we are many, 

I’m not a victim of womanhood. But I’m done being treated as one. And I’m here. I’m here at the gates.

-mtg

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