Love is a Lake – (5 Strokes of Survival)

For someone who loves blogging and who loves reading other people’s blogs, I’ve been doing a sucky job of maintaining my own. (Permission to agree granted, just don’t go agreeing with me aloud). It’s not an excuse (honest).  I know exactly why my blog became harder and harder to write. Actually, I didn’t stop writing, I just stopped posting my thoughts. But I digress.

This blog is about love, happy, silly, quirky, funny, sometimes a little cynical, and even a little sad at times, but at the root of the matter there is an undying faith that love will pull though, all will be well and in the end, smiles, grins, kisses and goofy laughter in place, we’d all live happily ever after. 
 
But then my undying faith in love, well, it up and died and died in a most glorious fashion. (Cue violins.) As a result, I had little to blog about. (We can only do for the love of cute shoes and donuts so many times). So while I apologize to the faithful few who kept asking and hoping and cheering me on, who emailed with heart-aching lines to let me know you missed the blog and lost a ‘friend’, the true loss I assure you, was all mine. Blogs about love don’t work in the absence of the main subject. And my love is lost. (Or is hiding out in the witness protection program.)
 
Love is a beautiful thing. It is. I highly recommend it. It is a huge lake of liquid happiness unlike anything else we could ever hope to be so fortunate to experience. Given the chance to fall into it, go ahead. Plunge! Head first. Totally and completely surrender and wallow in it. 
 
But while you’re in there, you’re going to need to do some work. And perhaps this is where many of us go wrong. The focus is often so much on getting into the Love Lake that once you’re in you have no clue what to do. There is no need for all of us to go down together, so let’s see if we can work this out. Because if you dive into the pretty lake, content to tell all you’re in love and then do nothing, you will surely drown. And love will toss your lifeless limbs on the loveless shore to rot. 
 
When embarking on that whole love thing, on entering the warm and shimmery lake immediately start swimming. And to escape drowning at any point in time along the way, keep swimming. Here’s how.

1. Freestyle

When the waters are calm and everything is as it should be, enjoy that time and make the most of it. Immerse yourself in the love lake and each other but be sure to turn your head for air. Alternate how you turn your head to, sometimes look towards the other person at your side and take time to sometimes look away. Time together to build the relationship is just as important as time for yourself to build you. Too often we lose ourselves along the way and much later, in seeking to find that person we lost, we swim apart.

Set your boundaries and stay in lane, don’t let other swimmers cross your path or it will impede your flow. Keep each other in sight and safe, swim happily on together. This is the sweet part, why you got together in the first place. Remember these precious happy times and keep a mental list tucked away safe in your heart for the rainy days. If the tides shift, you can pull them out, dust them off, smile and swim on.

2. Backstroke

Keep communication flowing. The backstroke is a beautiful technique. You can breathe easily, look at the blue sky and feel the warm sunshine on your cheeks while gliding with easy strokes through the water. Nice as it is to swim sunny side up though, you can’t see what you are swimming into, so a companion to guide you with some verbal instruction is beneficial. Talk to each other.

Be honest, open and sharing. But all the while keep in mind it goes both ways, so be a good listener too. Don’t be judgemental or overly critical when giving your opinion and give your opinion. We may act like we have it all together sometimes but we don’t and feedback helps work things through and removes that lonely isolated feeling. Confide and be a good confidante. If the person you are with is not comfortable confiding in you, rest assured they will eventually find someone else to confide in.

Oh and ‘confidante’ should immediately convey the impression that intimate conversations between partners should remain confidential, but in case that escaped you then I’d like to point out that what is shared between two should stay between only two or you’ll be swimming in choppy waters.(Or in the witness protection program.)

3. Breaststroke

All days aren’t sunny ones and no one likes to gaze upon grey cumulonimbus while a torrential downpour slams you in the face. You will have your individual challenges and though sorting out your own is one thing, dealing with someone else’s issues can be harder. Fortunately you can help each other through the rough stuff. That’s just what a partner is for. But it is easier to get to your destination if you have it in sight, so there are times to turn over and indulge awhile in a breaststroke. Look ahead. Keep swimming. Those happy memories you tucked away before will come in handy now to help you stay focused on the destination.

This swimming technique requires that you keep your chin up, so please do. Stay positive and try to have a happy outlook. Emotions are contagious so what you give out you should get back. Talking helps, start there. Backstroke a bit.

4. Lay Float

Sometimes though when it rains it really pours and you may need to take a time out and re-evaluate. Seek counselling if you can’t work it out between yourselves. Your counsellor should be a trained professional that isn’t a friend, relative or in-law of any kind. (Just saying.) How you take your time out is your choice, take some time out together or take some out apart. Bear in mind though that during that time you are not swimming in your love lake and just lay floating around, if you float for too long you are going to catch cramp, so it is advisable to get back to swimming quickly. If all you can muster is to tread water some days then go for it, but do something to get the relationship back on track.

5. Break for the Shoreline

Your relationship will take you through a variety of swimming styles and external conditions will mean you’ll swim in varying currents. When the waters are really rough, you will need to rescue each other. However, if the waters are more rough than calm, I am very much a believer in rescuing yourself. Know when you are too tired to swim any longer and just get out the water, head for shore.

I for one am standing on shore and I am quite content to be here, but I’ve got all my swim gear on, ready to run and hit off into the lake again should the opportunity arise. All I need now is the right swim partner to join me. (Sharks need not apply.) The shore is not such a bad place to be. There are plenty of us here and there’s a BBQ going.

But if your lake is calm and your strokes are steady, stay in and swim on. And whatever you do, keep swimming.

Dry Cereal

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For awhile we were the perfect pair. Anyone who says there’s no such thing as perfect is simply incorrect, it exists. And when it was good, it was really good. It was, well, perfect. Like spaghetti and meat-balls, peanut butter and jelly, hot-dogs and mustard, bacon and eggs, doughnuts with sprinkles, we were meant to be together. We were like crispy cereal and cold milk.

But things changed. The cereal started getting cold and the milk started turning sour. And when it was bad, it sucked.

Sounds familiar? All relationships go through this. Hasn’t happened in your happy little relationship yet? Don’t worry, you’re not missing out, it’s coming. For those who still believe in fairy tales, here’s the translation for “happily ever after”, Snow White runs off with Droopy and the Prince and Happy hook up. Welcome to reality.

Some relationships go through the changes earlier than others, some worse than others and most go through it repeatedly, but they all go through it. Why? Simple. People change. We like to think that’s not the case, but it is. Circumstances change and circumstances change people. What you (plural, as in you the couple) were like before one of you lost a job, picked up a stray pet or read the other one’s messages on Blackberry, (I don’t recommend any of these if you can avoid it) is not what you are like now. The lack of money added pressure, the pressure made you miserable and the misery made you fight. The pet was cute enough, but old, tired and pooped on everything. The stray went everywhere with one of you (when the other wasn’t invited) and the one who got left behind became insecure, suspicious and jealous, which lead to misery and of course, misery led to fighting. And those BB messages, well, they made the one who read them a little psychotic. Then you both got miserable, started fighting and ended up on an episode of ‘Snapped’. (Just kidding.) (Sorta.)

Crap happens. Promise you, it does. They don’t teach you this in school (or some other vital stuff you’d think is worthy of a mention) but in every relationship, crap happens. So there you are, your crispy cereal got left out on the counter, lost come of the crunch and then the milk sat next to the stove too long and started to go sour. (Sigh).

You can call it quits and move on. You can throw the milk down the drain and get a fresh batch. Shoot, you can even try a new flavour of milk or switch to soy. Go for it! But let’s be honest, while this is perfectly easy for some, (oh the envy), for others, this will hurt so much you feel like you’re trying to blow your kidneys out through your nose. That doesn’t mean you can’t walk away, just know that walking is not always the easy path.

Think what you have is worth saving? Then start churning! Make it work. Take that sour milk and make it into something else – butter, yoghurt, ice cream, cottage cheese (does anyone eat cottage cheese?). It may not be what it was before, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be good. I must caution however, that you are both going to need to agree on this. If not, one of you is going to feel pretty dumb a few months down the road and you may end up with other issues. So you’ve been churning and you got yourself a nice, smooth, velvety butter now, right? But who wants to eat butter and cereal? Yet you’re surprised when partner moved on to toast… (Feel kinda silly now huh?) Still, for some, (those who churn together), this will work. Some will suddenly discover yoghurt or ice cream covered in cereal with a little less crunch is exactly what they wanted. And some couples will repeat this process a few times during the course of their relationship and a lifetime later, still be happy.

But sometimes, though you didn’t quit at the first sign of trouble, and though you were both willing to try and churn at it, sometimes, it just doesn’t work. Sometimes cereal can be enjoyed alone, without adding milk to the equation. Sometimes that turning milk needs to work through a whole other process and perhaps become cheese. And in some cases, even though when it doesn’t work it may hurt, keeping the cereal and milk separate may be best for both the cereal (that won’t get soggy) and the milk (that’s better off with cookies).

When asked, I will always tell you, at one point, we were the perfect pair. But for now, I’m keeping the cereal in the fridge. And for awhile, in my world, cereal will be served dry.

A Walk in my Loveless Shoes

How long did I look at the beautiful colours of setting sun and fail to notice the impending fall of darkness…

You don’t love me anymore. You’ll be quick to deny it, but it’s true, you don’t.

I don’t know what I did, or didn’t do, to cause it. I didn’t ‘mash your corns’ as they say, nor did I cause them. (At least, not that I am aware of). I don’t know how it happened or when, but I’ll never forget moment I realised it. When I first realised the emptiness inside me would not be filled by you again.

It didn’t happen suddenly. I didn’t feel that you loved me one minute and just didn’t the next. It was a gradual awakening to the realisation. Like the gradual darkening of sky as the sun sets behind the horizon and the night settles over land. Actually, now I often ponder how long it took me to notice. How long did I look at the beautiful colours of setting sun and fail to notice the impending fall of darkness.

I first realised things had changed when you didn’t have time for anymore. Before I was the centre of your world, we were together all the time. But then you were always too busy, there was so much to do and there was so little time left over for us to be together. Later you promised. Always later. Only later never came.

I made excuses on your behalf, (at first) but that would soon pass. Sometime later, I’d come to see the truth. But the moment I knew for sure your love had faded, much like the setting sun, was the last time I saw you. There was something so final in your step as you walked away. Then I saw the colourful sky was merely illusion, a reflection of nothing but dimming light. We had walked together but somehow I knew you were now going to walk a different path, a path without me.

I cling to memories of a better time. And glorious times we had. I even believe that for awhile we were happy. The loss of your love pains me. There’s emptiness in my inner sole where you once were. But I wish you well, wherever you go, may all your steps be filled with love, a love which is unlike mine, is always returned.

Love always,
Your (Last) Non-designer Shoes

Working, or Not, Make It Work

Unemployment is beautiful. And unemployment is a vicious, evil, coward that devours your dignity and saunters away full-bellied leaving the scraps of who you were behind to rot. Both versions are right. It’s all a matter of perspective really. It all hangs on your point of view.

Not Working Sucks

Unemployment brings with it a luxury of time. The freedom to stay up watching TV until all hours, diligently doing your part to ensure the national anthem is played at the conclusion of programming hours (although this is tricky if you watch a 24-hour channel), only to rise to the heat of the noon-day sun, scratch, roll over and promptly resume slumber. You can swim, jog, hike, play, overindulge and underwhelm, do everything you want or nothing at all. It’s your choice. You have the time.

But here’s the catch, (you knew there would be one) you don’t necessarily have the money to do it. Doing everything you want has a price. And while we may not always think about it, so does doing nothing at all. (What, you didn’t think that TV was plugged into an almond tree, did you?) And that alone about sums up why unemployment sucks. Cause if you don’t work, you can’t afford to play. (Or eat. Let’s not forget eat.) And pretty soon you’ll whiter away, figuratively and literally.

Still, you can appreciate it for what it is and sometimes even for what it isn’t. Because for some of us, what it isn’t, is work.

Working Also Sucks

Working is beautiful. Working is that sharp-edged, steel pendulum that swings ever lower across your chest, day after exhausting day, scrapping away at skin and muscle and eventually bone, till it cuts you in half and leaves you to drain on the executioner’s table. Both versions are right. It’s all a matter of perspective really. It all hangs on your point of view.

When you’re gloriously employed and the bills are paid and the water is hot when you shower and the drinks are cold and the problem with cable is which channel to watch, it’s easy to take it all for granted. It gets easy to complain about getting up in the morning, too much traffic with the sun in your eyes, too little coffee and way too many meetings. And it’s so simple to nag about too many long hours, still too much traffic but now with the headlights in your eyes and way too little sleep. For some, the novelty of a uniform wears thin, or conversely, the enthusiasm of finding creative ways to make your 10 ‘must-have’ pieces into 260 Vogue-ready outfits, fades. Just listen. You’ll hear it all around you. Grumps. And if you entertain it, even though you’re working, you can whiter away too. Mostly figuratively. But you will whither.

You have got to get through the day. Getting through however you can, isn’t good enough. You have got to get through the day the best way you can. Eat well, rest well, play well and be well.

And if you can’t get through it alone, get help.

Making It Suck Less

Help can come in all forms. A pet, a friend, a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a boss. Stunned a few of you there huh? Didn’t see that one coming. I honestly didn’t either. But if you’re going to spend most of your waking hours at work, having a good boss sure helps. Mine is as good as they come. Extremely intelligent, quick wit, slow temper, knows her stuff and what she’s about and just the right mix of tough (B.A. Baracus would cringe) and fair. Known to encourage her team to go home and get a life. I’m working on mine.

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Find someone that works for you. Someone real. Someone to laugh, talk, motivate, walk, revitalize, scold, cuddle, cajole, listen, feel, care, heal, all of that good stuff and even some of the bad and that can do the same for you.

You just might find that with someone hanging in there with you, whether it’s in the land of wanting work or in the land of wanting out of it, hanging in, is easy.

And if it’s all a matter of perspective really, if it all just hangs on your point of view, wouldn’t you rather see it all, as beautiful?

Love Lost (Or Valentine’s Sucks)

If you ask me, falling in love is a highly over-rated concept. I’d much rather fall into something useful. Like Oreos. Or M&M’s. Definitely M&M’s. (With almonds). But of course, no-one is asking me.

So here we are, in the month of love. (Blah, blah, blah). Gone is the celebration of one sainted day, now we celebrate every day in February, (or so we are supposed to believe), a whole month of love. I prefer December, the month of ham and rum. But there again, no-one was asking my opinion.

By now you may have determined I’m a bit grumpy about the whole thing and it’s only day two. It’s all the hand-cut paper hearts in the retail stores and the website pop-ups of the Miracle-Grow-fed, English, red roses. All that mushy stuff gets me down. Why? Because it’s not real. The whole thing is about as true as Pamela Anderson’s boobs, Jessica Simpson’s intelligence or Paris Hilton’s hair. That’s right, it’s all fake. This, the-sponsored-by-Hallmark month, is not about love.

We have forgotten how to love each other.

We have forgotten the little things. Please, thank-you, have a nice day. A polite nod, a soft smile. Waiting for the other person to reply before walking away, when someone took the time to ask “how are you?”.

We don’t know our neighbours. Shucks, we hardly know our friends. And the new concept of a family gathering is a group chat via mobile device.

We have forgotten the kind things. Giving to charity. Feeding the hungry. Clothing the homeless. Reading to the children at your local library and taking the time to make Billy Goat Gruff sound, well, gruffy.

We only volunteer for points, give for discounts and buy pets from fancy pet stores while the adoption centre at the RSPCA would gladly give you Bucket (the dog that looks suspiciously like a rat) for free.

We have forgotten the classic things. Central locking has somehow replaced opening the car door for the other person. Pulling out a chair. Flowers just because. Home burnt dinner by candle-light. Breakfast in bed. (Cereal does not count). An honest compliment. A kiss on the wrist. Even a postcard brought to you by grinning mail-man (because you know read he read it on the walk over), has disappeared with the birth of the text message.

We simply forgot.

Yet, (thankfully), a few of us still remember it all. I don’t know my neighbors, but otherwise, I think I’m on the right track. And if I can drag a few of you along, I think we can really make a difference. We’re going to do it all. (And we’re not even going to wear red. Or a cape.) The little things that make for a good day. The kind things that make a good day for others. And the classic things that make for wild romances and sometimes even make someone fall in love.

Ok, so maybe falling in love isn’t so bad. But the truth is, if we can get the rest of it right too, then we’d really have something worth falling for. If we can remember to love each other, honestly, in little ways, kind acts and classic gestures, not just this month, but all the time, then that would be just, well, lovely.

Pin-stripes, Peep-toes, Pearls & Panic

I’m all set. I have steamed my suits, shined my shoes and polished my pearls, all in preparation to return to the glorious land of the employed. I have packed my bag, trimmed my hair, buffed my nails to manicured and pedicured perfection so they are glossy. Yes, I’m all set. Outwardly anyway. But inwardly, as the first day draws closer, there’s something I am still yet to prepare for and a familiar, haunting chill has commenced a slow, deliberate ascent up my spine.

…a familiar, haunting chill has commenced a slow, deliberate ascent up my spine…

We have been unemployed for awhile now. So long, in fact, it’s become the unintended norm. Do you recall the journey that brought us here?  Of course you do, we recall it well, how can we ever forget.

At first it wasn’t so bad. We thought of our new found unemployment as an unscheduled holiday. We went to the beach, read a few books, hiked through a gully or two (there aren’t any mountains mountains in Barbados) and caught up on all the day time programming. Then, in the early days, we were so hopeful, believing the work intermission would be brief, we would return (to the regularly scheduled program) in just a moment.

Then that hope was tested. We became bored. There’s only so much day-time television programming one can absorb. (Have I mentioned before that Maury and Jerry Springer need to call it quits? Seriously guys, retire.) I recall we started sleeping a lot as a means of escape and some of us fell into the steely grip of snacks, getting pudgy around the middle (but let’s not dwell on this). Then we got discouraged. It was the accumulated bills that tipped us over the edge. And here is when it all went wrong. All of a sudden we discovered the beach was unwelcoming, its waves too rough, the books were disenchanting, somehow the hero was always rich, the gullies you discovered, seemed now to be home to crawly critters you hadn’t noticed before and the TV, well, that had long ago been switched off.

We kept each other going, you and I. I tried to encourage you and more than you know, so often, you encouraged me. (Thank you). But the feelings that come with unemployment can’t be ironed out, dusted away or rubbed off easily, feelings are not like our suits and shoes and pretty 3-tiered necklaces.

With unemployment there are a few things that plague us. Feelings of guilt, doubt, despair, loneliness, confusion, frustration, anger, failure and (while we don’t want to admit it) shame. These don’t just go away. Getting your emotional state back to ‘normal’ is a job all in itself. And this is the source of that wondering chill. This battle of feelings, attempting to return to their original state of virtue, certainty, joy, security, clarity, calm, success and assurance. This fight to return to normalcy, this is the source of my panic.

Will I be myself? Can I do this? Will I be good enough? Will I do well? Am I ready? Are they?

But as I get dressed (my personal dry-rehearsal before the curtain is raised), as I slip into my suit, step into my shoes and fasten my pearls securely around my neck, something else comes over me, like a warm blanket still hot from the dryer and draped over cold shoulders on a cool night. I am at peace.

…something else comes over me, like a warm blanket still hot from the dryer and draped over cold shoulders on a cool night…

I will be fine. And I assure you, you will be fine too. What’s done is done, we leave it behind and as we embrace all that the future has to offer, I am excited. Excited for all of us who’ve endured and come through. And I am excited for those of us still enduring, an end is in sight. I am sure.

I’m all set. I really am. I am ready. So, ready or not world, here I come.

Birth

I watched with the sleep still heavy on my lids as the sun started to creep over the horizon. It seemed he too was still heavy with sleep, so slow was his ascent. As the first rays of light kissed the leaves on the tree outside my bedroom window, I noted the sounds of the morning as the neighbourhood failed in its collective effort to cling to slumber.

The birds were up and announced their waking with a chorus of chirps and the clipped peeps of song. The intermittent chug of a garbage truck, still down the block, could weakly be detected clambering its way towards our house. I heard the faint echoes of the bins striking pavement as they were carelessly disregarded once emptied. (This was not the habit of my king, but another.) The postman was on his way. His progress preceded by the sounds of dogs barking in turn. The sound of their sizes and distance marking his path so distinctly, I knew the moment he stepped off his motorbike to make a deposit in our mailbox. And I knew when he had rounded the corner and slipped into the other avenue.

By now the sun too had woken in full. His light touched my toes and warmed them with such enthusiasm I knew a hot day was surely in store. They were all at work. The birds were constructing, the garbage-collectors collecting, the postman delivering, the dogs were busy barking, the sun shining, and I, unemployed, lay in bed.

The heat on my toes propelled me from my safety between the sheets to face the misery of daylight. I too would find some gainful employment today. But first, a bowl of cereal is in order. Flakes of the frosted variety, the sugar negated by the 2% milk. (Or so I try to convince myself). While I peered into my bowl and pondered the mystery of the raisin, (don’t ask, how my mind works, it baffles me too) although notably, there weren’t any raisins in my bowl, the phone rang. It took me a moment to register it was my phone and I answered it with an eager cheeriness I didn’t feel. I listened. I can’t recall precisely what I said, so absorbed was I with the caller on the other end. But I recall distinctly the moment my spoon fell from my hand, the sound it made as it fell to the tiled floor with a repetitive clang and the grin that stretched across my face and threatened to shift my ears forever. An offer.

I had refused to let myself be pleased with the three gruelling interviews. They had gone well I thought, still, I had thought things had gone well before. But this time they were calling with an offer. When can I get back to them with answer? Get back to you? (Seriously?). If it’s alright with you, I should like to accept now please. (With immediate effect.) Yes thanks. And just like that, I have a job.

I’m elated. And so grateful. Lord knows my faith was dangerously low. The red light had just begun flashing on the dashboard. (Thank you Lord.)
It has been nine months. I don’t think it’s coincidental that a pregnancy is the same length of time. I believe these nine months have been a preparation for me to birth something new and exciting. I have gone through all the expected emotions, the hope, sickness, excitement, heartache, growth, nervousness, exhaustion, confusion, even the cravings (giggle) and surely the labours. But in the end I am confident in what has been birthed. I am stronger, braver and I think I have even learned a few things. Things that will serve me well in the days that lay ahead. Things that I hope have served you well too.

It is a busy day today. So much is happening. They are many at work and many more still waiting to join the effort. The birds continue constructing, garbage-collectors are still collecting, the postman keeps delivering, the dogs continue barking, the sun is gloriously shining and I, now employed, am getting ready for work. (Amen.)