Acknowledging my colonial settler privilege in living and working
on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe People,
in progress of learning right relationship with the land and its First People.
As I type this the tears are drying on my cheeks from a big snotty cry because my grrl is leaving me again.
My stepdaughter, my soul mate, my shero, came into my life when I met and fell in love with her dad 14 years ago. I was 49 years old and had lived single up until then.
Not the life I’d imagined for myself as a young woman. I always thought there would be a family ‘of my own’ by about 33, without really examining the origins of that expectation too much. There was, at the same time, a deeper knowing that I was not willing to settle or compromise myself with any partner just to tick off the box of having a family.
I had a circle of chosen family but kept them at a safe distance most of the time.
I used isolation and titanium strength immutable boundaries to keep myself safe, but they also served to wall me off from my world, my community, my belonging. I became a master of doing it on my own, unable to recognize my own needs for community, belonging, connection, interdependence, let alone opening myself up to receiving them.
Oh, and beating myself up because I wasn’t doing it better.
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in” This line from Leonard Cohen is coming up for me repeatedly lately. It speaks to the both/and of shadows and light in our world, our lives, our relationships, and the persistence of the light to force its way into every single chink or crack in our armour.
When I created the conditions for David to come into my life, it felt as if the noise in my head stopped, that the ‘looking’ was over. (That was another illusion, a story for another time that I’m still integrating and digesting, but you will probably not be surprised to learn that I believe that the ideal of heterosexual couplehood is a trope created to keep us from overthrowing capitalism and all systems of fuckery, and that the queering of the family is the antidote to that.* I still love you David…)
*Do you know of Mia Birdsong? Read more here.
In any case, my soulmate did not come into my life alone. His two children have become mine. I love them both fiercely and am so grateful and amazed at the ease with which I was welcomed into this new family, warts and all.
I experienced moving from single, to coupled, to step-mom, to empty nester, in the span of 10 years. A large part of me is still healing and integrating and catching up developmentally, unlearning the hyperindividualism and binary perfectionism that tells me I am not worthy of receiving love or help from anyone, that I must go it alone.
I’m gradually integrating the knowledge that asking for help is not weakness, receiving help is medicine, and offering help from an empty cup serves no one.
David, Miriam, and Sean have been my greatest teachers.
I’m a regular big snotty crier to be honest – a beautiful piece of music, whether there’s a memory attached or not, can do it to me. Perhaps my body remembers something my head has stored away or composted.
But today, it’s because my Miriam has moved with her new husband and puppy to a job and their first home more than a thousand kilometers away. Never mind that in the four months since she’s moved away, we’ve seen her more than when she lived in the same city.
This weekend, she returned in a whirlwind to attend a friend’s celebration of life. And as she and her husband packed up the car to leave me (yes, it’s all about me) once again, I could not contain my sadness; it spilled out, messy and snotty, long before their car pulled out of the driveway, on display for all.
Miriam gave me a big hug, told me she loved me, and that we’d see each other soon (which is true; just give me my big snotty cry right now, okay?)
Part of me was horrified at myself, thinking that I would have cringed in her place, anxious to get out and on the road as quickly as possible, uncomfortable with the messiness, feeling resentful that something was being asked of me that I didn’t have to give.
And then I remember that Miriam is not me, and our relationship is not the same as the one I had with my mother, and that I played the teeniest part in creating this family, this love, this connection, healing, learning, growing.
Which gives me a new reason to cry…
Leonard Cohen’s Anthem does it for me. Every. Time.
Are you sensing a theme here?
Me too! And it’s not just that you should listen to Leonard Cohen or read his poetry either.
The subject of showing up messy, in all our vulnerability has been coming up for me like a persistent toddler asking “why, why, why?”
In the latest podcasts from Kat and Val; in listening to Natashia Mack; in watching this discussion panel on the dropping of covid where Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth tells it like it is; in the Institute for Radical Permission modules from Sonya Renee Taylor and adrienne marie brown…
And the message seems to be this:
Capitalism and systems of fuckery force perfectionism on us as a means of control, to keep us isolated and separated, to keep us from examining what bullshit that is, that it serves no one but them in power.
Is it possible that showing up messy destabilizes power?
Is it possible that showing up messy and vulnerable is a form of resistance that connects us, buoys us, and inspires us to challenge those systems, return to the wisdom our bodies and our nature, and maybe just maybe dismantle that shit once and for all?
I’m starting to think so.
And so here I am, dear humans, red-eyed and tear stained, nose dripping (and a little drippy egg on my shirt from breakfast if I have to be completely honest) reaching out to connect with you.
I usually plan to have my newsletter out for the full moon. My body had different plans for me this time around.
It’s probably no surprise, as I become more self-centred in navigating my relationships, my beliefs, and my healing, that my body is responding with a ‘fuck yes, me too – I have NEEDS’ kind of response that’s manifesting in flare ups of chronic pain and mobility issues, causing me to move out of the stuckness of isolation to ask for help
It’s not fun. But at the same time, there is a current of knowing that runs deeper than the pain, a knowing that says everything’s going to be okay. You’re on the right path. It’s not too late, and I love you. Trust your body. Ask for help. Keep going.
Maybe you need to hear that too right now?
You’re on the right path. It’s not too late. Trust your body. Ask for help. Keep going. I love you.
Pass the tissues please…
University move-in day, 1980. Me and my mom. Click the image to read the Instagram post:
|Hi, I’m Janine, Anti-Capitalist Crone, Post-Trauma Growth Coach & Consensual Copywriter|
I believe it’s possible to heal and transform, in our bodies and in our communities, in small, doable, but significant steps.
Interested in working with me?
Check out www.janinebertolo.ca, or send me message