Hugs

After my mother died we were like six orphans living in an empty house looking after each other. It wasn’t exactly like that but that’s how it felt.

Most of us have lost family members and we all know that people deal with it differently. Some wear their hearts on their sleeves and others keep it to themselves. I remember being a hard-case teenager, driven to move forward and forget about the past. I remember when whats-his-name’s behaviour was once explained by having lost his mother and my reply was “What!? That was over a year ago!” as if everyone else in the world just bit the bullet and moved on. People come, people go. Next!

When my mother died my sister Rachel was fifteen and she didn’t just wear her heart on her sleeve, she wore all her organs, feelings, needs and wants right out there for the rest of us to share in. Not only were we expected to embrace this but to adapt, conform and get in touch with our own emotions as well as hers.

“I haven’t had my three hugs today!” She would declare. What could you do? The girl had just lost her mother so fine, I’d give her a hug. I guess my mother must have hugged her a lot for her to need all of us to fill that void, but this angry teenager wasn’t really into it.

At first.

The thing is, Rachel wasn’t taking hugs, she was giving them. She was preventing us from each living in our own little worlds and having only living quarters in common. She was making sure we each connected with her daily, acknowledge her, her presence, her person and consequently ourselves. And of course, you can’t go around just hugging Rachel when there are four other people in the house, can you?

Eventually I wasn’t just acquiescing, trying to make Rachel feel better. Eventually I was participating. Initiating. Needing hugs of my own.

Then I moved to Montreal where people kiss each other all the time instead of hugging. Left cheek, right cheek. (My left not yours – it would take too long to keep figuring out which is your left cheek!) Suddenly hugs became a very intimate thing, just for family, and all this cheek kissing is what you do instead of shaking hands. In fact, shaking hands is kind of insulting in some circles. When in Rome…

Then I came back to the land of hugs and suffered in limbo for a time as I readjusted: people would lean in for a hug and I’d be leaning in for a kiss there’d be this awkward collision of noses and chins, unintentional gropes.

And now I find my world is pretty huggy; family, friends, neighbours, Santa Clause…

But sometimes, I just have to say, “I haven’t had my three hugs today!”

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Something’s missing. Could we please put it back?

The joy of learning is missing from our world. You hear new parents talk about it, for about five minutes. You hear teachers talk about it being the reason they went into teaching. But then the goals change. It’s not about learning, it’s about memorizing. It’s not about enjoying the outing, it’s about getting there on time.

Watching five-year old Ivan is like a Calvin and Hobbes come to life. “Ah!” He says, slapping himself on the head, “I’m going to send an email to myself!” and before our laughter subsides he screams “Hey!’ as he springs back from the lap top, face agog, “I just got an email from myself!”

That learning of cause-and-effect is so magical in the moment, so joyous and valuable. As we grow, try to fit in, we go around pretending that we already know everything, each cause-and-effect learning like a failure instead of a success. The joy of learning – about things, about life, about each other – is missing.

Could we please put it back?

Beware the Wildebeast

Nobody wants the Wildebeast. We all have one, you and I, different though they may be. His Wildebeast would run if it could, run long and hard in circles so big they would feel like straight lines. He would feel his claws – back and front – biting into the ground, propelling himself forward, maybe snatching at a passing branch – or rabbit – with his jaws. You know the beast I mean.

And hers would HOWL. Howl at the moon and howl at injustice and howl in hunger for a greater reach, greater scope, a challenge worthy of the effort. She would stand so tall, looking for more, peeling back the tops of trees for a glimpse of what lies ahead; limitless possibilities.

But now, we see glimpses of them only, fretting at the cages we’ve built for ourselves.

Your Eyes

When I see me through your eyes I don’t want to live here.

Don’t want to live.

I see what you imagine, what you believe, what you’re afraid of.

You don’t really look at me. Into me.

You are careful not to touch me.

I’m not that person you see, but if I reach out…

You step further away.

So I move on. Maybe for now, maybe for ever.

Maybe till somebody can see me. Hear me. Touch me.

Till I am real.

Till I can touch the world.

Till I am strong enough to see it through my own eyes.

Authenticity

I fell into a cliche and died, unheard, unnoticed by the world around me.

I spoke words that weren’t my own and my music was lost amid the noise.

My thoughts came and went from the lips of others, repeated; in one ear and out the other.

Until I saw the ripple in the pattern that was me, only me.

And when I saw it others did; and when I spoke, others heard.

And then we spoke together, listening, talking, sharing. Ideas that dance on our mingled thought-waves.

Authenticity.

Alone Together

What I like about going down to the lake is that I can be immersed in all of the elements at once. I can feel my energy going straight down into the earth, who knows how deep; I can feel it stretching on the wind as far as I can imagine, feel the pull of the water wrapping me up, and on special days, the lightning sears the sky and sings to my nerve endings about the beginning of time.

I feel like we are all connected through these energies, through these elements and through time. I have this idea that the energy is sort of physical, and finite and that when you travel by a means that is not under your own power, your energy can’t keep up, can’t stretch that far. I think of the drain of jet-lag versus the stimulation of canoeing, or cycling.

I feel as if you and I are connected, secretly, underground by that earthy energy, the way the quaking aspen trees in Utah are connected (are actually one living organism), and not so secretly, through the air, by our thoughts. And smiles. And what on earth do we call the energy that travels from your eyes to mine? Science and sci-fi suggest that I can give you positive energy and that you can give it back, and that this is the ultimate win-win.

And yet, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we take take take and maybe that’s why I like to go to the lake alone. Sometimes we need to go back to our roots and revel in the energy from the earth and wind and fire and water.

Or maybe it’s not about being alone, maybe it’s about reconnecting with the whole.

The End of the Tunnel

Our culture is so focused on that light at the end of the tunnel. I find I am so easily derailed when I can’t see it. Maybe it’s a bend in the tunnel, maybe the light goes out, but the panic, the flailing in the dark, the desire to give up, to press re-start and build a new character is terrific. I wonder if it really happens, if these deja-vus we all get are cause we already played this part of the game before. I wonder if that’s cheating.

On a trip to Vermont once, Mike aka the Best was driving and I was gawking at the scenery; up and around the winding roads, green valleys, steepled towns, low-hanging sky. We saw a rainbow, bright as can be with all its colours intact and as we wound around hips and curves of hills we got closer and closer. The excitement grew and then, quite suddenly we saw it – the foot of the rainbow planted firmly on the road in front of us. We drove through it in a shower of pixie dust and revelations of forgotten spiritual treasures and I felt for sure that life would be smooth sailing after that.

But maybe that wasn’t the lesson. Maybe the lesson was that the light at the end of the tunnel is a beautiful and compelling guide, but the point of the journey is all of the bright souls that light the tunnel along the way.