Acknowledge, Feel, Surrender, Repeat.

Daily-Tea-Drinking

“You have to remember you’re still grieving,” she said as she filled my teacup with the blessed amber liquid. “You’re not in your right mind and it could be months still before you are again for any good period of time.”

I brought the porcelain cup to my lips and blew out a breath I’d been holding to cool and to calm. I’d been tense for weeks with no concrete reason, nothing to point to. So I had gone searching. There had to be a direct cause for the unease I felt within. Something must need to change. The discomfort was heavy and relentless. It sent me scrambling: Look for a job, re-evaluate your relationship, change your food plan (once again).

She was reading my thoughts. “There’s no solid ground out here. You won’t find it in him. You won’t find it in your career. Stop looking. In fact, honey, just stop,” she said gently, sweeping a lock of hair from her eyes.

I clenched my jaw in mild challenge. “I have to live though. I have to get up each day and do the things I need to do.”

She smiled. “Yes,” she said. “You do.”

“And sometimes,” I continued. “Sometimes things need to change. I get restless.”

Again she smiled. “Yes, sweetheart,” she said. “You do.”

I placed my cup in the saucer and rubbed at my brow. “How many times can I think about this? You’re really asking me to look at this again?”

She reached out and touched my arm as if to remind me she wasn’t the enemy…that there was no enemy. “You don’t need to think about anything. But you do have to acknowledge that ball of anxiety in the pit of your stomach. You know, the one you thought was gone for good?”

I squeezed my eyes shut and nodded.

“Look at that. Look at how you feel. Share it with your Inner Guide. Be willing to see it differently. That’s it. That’s all”

I knew of all this. And I secretly hated having to be reminded again and again, but here we were. “So don’t do anything?” I asked, already knowing what her answer would be.

“Being honest with yourself and your Higher Power is everything. What else is there to do once you’ve done that?” she said throwing her hands up in the air. “Do it consistently, and your direction is clearer. Less stress…less struggle.”

I laughed. I’d done this before. I knew that it worked and yet… “You make it sound so easy.”

She sipped her tea and winked at me. “It’s simple. It’s not easy.”

I took a deep breath. “I just thought maybe I was done with the grief. I thought it must be something else.”

“I don’t need to tell you this because at some level you know, but it’s all the same. You don’t have to go looking for problems outside of you. It’s all there at the seat of your gut.”

I felt it. And while all I wanted to do was run and hide in a sea of problems that maybe I could “fix” on my own, or force it out with food, or bury myself in romance, or busy myself in a quest to find the perfect job…I couldn’t anymore.

I was here, again, at the crossroads. And instead of picking right or left, backward or forth, I had to sit my ass down and feel. And surrender.

Again.

Something tells me this doesn’t end.

Until it does.

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3 Things I Want My Children to Know Absolutely

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You are loved.

Infinitely. And not just by your father and I. You are loved because you come from Love…a Love so powerful it knows no bounds, nor any opposite. When you forget, put your hand on your heart and breathe. Close your eyes and breathe into that space. Know that the simple act of doing so can remind of you all you had forgotten. You are safe, secure and cared for. You are loved.

You are perfect.

It’s true. And not just because I have a misty-eyed mother’s view of you. You are perfect because you are here, wearing those clothes, sporting that haircut, loving whatever it is that you love. You don’t need to change a thing. You need only embrace what is true for you whilst ensuring that your words and actions are kind. Sometimes the kindest thing will be to ask someone to stop speaking or to oust them from your life entirely. Often it will mean being quiet and doing nothing at all. Be willing to trust that still, small voice within. It’s your truth and it, like you, is perfect.

You are responsible for your perception.

Yeah, this one blows (at first, anyway). It took me a long time to realize I was no one’s victim. For a time, it’ll just feel better to blame others for your unhappiness. And then one day it won’t. One day it will feel empty and untrue. When that day comes, be willing to admit that how you think about your life influences how you experience it. Your dad and I are planting these seeds now. When you’re willing to be wrong…when you’re willing to laugh at yourself, life becomes a classroom and the fear of failure ceases to have the sway it once did. Freedom, babies, freedom is the natural result of taking responsibility for your life. And it’s how you’re meant to feel.

These 3 things I want you to know absolutely. But the only thing I can really do is be willing to know and live them myself.

Working on it.

Love, Mommy

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~Howard Thurman

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Excerpt from Novel # 2, Robena Finch

**Tentatively titled Robena Finch, my second novel is about grief, love and the power of telling the truth. Robena has recently lost her mother to cancer, but she holds a secret so dark it threatens to break her down completely. Hiding behind anxiety attacks and caring for a grief-stricken father in Niagara Falls, Robena tries to forget about her mother, her ex-boyfriend and her whole life back in Toronto. She manages to do it (sort of ) until she meets a quiet, handsome man who is grieving for a dead sister. And then the dead sister comes to visit as well…

The following is an exchange between Robena and her father. More excerpts to come :)

Gregory Finch looks older than his forty-eight years. His hair has been a dark grey since I was eight and he could give two shits about his clothes. His complexion is pale and his energy low. He seems only to want to be forgotten, but I won’t do it. I won’t. Dad is funny and warm and hopeful, deep down. Beneath his grief and string of bad luck, he is the man I remember from early childhood. This is the man I fight for. This is the man I see.

“Bean? Is that you?”

“Yeah, Dad. It’s me. Can you turn the volume down a touch? I could hear your show halfway down the street.”

Sitting in his favourite brown velour wingback, he grumbles under his breath as he reaches between his leg and the arm of the chair to grasp the remote. Surprisingly, he turns the TV off.

“What’s wrong, Bean? You look tired.” His concern is genuine. We all watch out for one another’s shifts in moods and appearances since Mom’s death. “Come sit by me. Tell me about your day.”

I flop down on the chesterfield belly-first and shut my eyes tight. I wish there was a drug to take the pain of grief away. I’ve tried. I’ve used painkillers, wine and weed. But still it persists. It beats on in spite of me, threatening to swallow me up. And then the guilt sets in… As if my attempts to numb are nothing more than attempts to forget her. My eyes fill with tears. I bury my head in cushions.

I feel a hand tentatively rub my back. “Did you have one of your episodes today?”

Remaining where I am, I nod slightly.

“Aw, Bean…”

And that’s it. Sympathy like that from my father is enough to break a thousand dams within me. I weep for what seems like hours. I just sink into the softness of the sofa while my father helplessly rubs my back.

Later he says: “Maybe we should see someone.”

My head whips up. I know that he means a therapist…a grief counselor. “Are you serious?”

He nods. “I can’t stand to see you like this. Mike has Tanya up there in Ottawa to see him through. But you and me…we just have each other. And I don’t know what to do anymore. Do you?”

I shake my head. “I’ll ask Fil tomorrow to recommend someone. Or maybe Vicky.”

Dad grunts in approval and moves shakily to the kitchen. More coffee. He’s been wearing the same blue sweat pants for four days straight. And for three straight days I’ve pretended not to notice. I make a mental note to pick them up off his floor after he’s gone to sleep and throw them in the wash.

It’s been ten months since Mom died. Her birthday looms over us like a shadow, pervasive and thick. It makes me sick. Do the dead get birthdays?

I text Mike: Do the dead get birthdays?

Thirty seconds later a reply: She does.

Agreed.

 

Normally I avoid my reflection in the mirror, but for some reason tonight counts. I’ve never hung out with Vicky. She intimidates the hell out of me and not just because she is psychic. She’s confident too…and sultry. I’ve never used that word to describe anyone, but Vicky just is. I feel five feet tall and three hundred pounds standing next to her.

Observing myself, I lift up my sweater to glimpse my stomach. It’s smaller. I’ve never been thin, but the past year has taken a toll. I’ve lost weight without intention, without thought. It’s not a good look. I’m soft and drawn. I need sunlight and bright food. Maybe tomorrow.

I pull off my black sweater and replace it with button-up pale pink shirt. The blue jeans can stay. I’ll clean off the salt stains. My hair hangs in accidental brown waves. I pull on an Alice band and tuck it behind my ears. My eyes are blue and large, my lips full. The only makeup I can handle is mascara. And red lipstick. Crimson red lipstick.

There’s a light knock on the door and I hear my dad clear his throat. I tell him to come in.

“Wow, Bean. You look great. What’s the occasion?” He says without a second thought.

“Nothing, I’m going out. Vicky asked me.”

He knits his brow in what appears to be confusion, trying to remember who Vicky is. And then the light goes on. “Miss Vicky?”

“Yes”

“Right. I only saw her the one time, but holy jumpin’ is she tall! You and your mom were always so petite. I’m not used to the tall ones, Bean.”

“I know, Dad.”

“…Pretty sure that in a fight she’d have me.”

“Yes, Dad. I get it,” I say, half-laughing.

He winks at me and walks away. Off to the kitchen for more coffee before he reads himself to sleep. While mom was sick it was cancer books. After she passed it was the Margaret Atwood novels she used to read. Maybe he felt guilty about never showing an interest? But now he was reading poker how-tos and Vegas memoirs. The Falls is a far-cry from Las Vegas, but Dad needs distraction. He’s immersing himself in something new while he heals.

Perhaps I should take a cue.

© 2014 Danielle Boonstra

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The Meeting: A (Very) Short Story

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“I’ll just be honest. I don’t know if I can wait that long,” he said with a resigned exhale into the phone.

She bit the back of her thumbnail and nodded wordlessly knowing full well all he would hear was silence.

“You still there?”

Another silent nod.

“Baby, are you ok?”

A deep breath in. “I am. I get it. I really do.”

And once again the wall she built around herself, the contracts she tried to fill were all conspiring against her.

They had never met, and at the beginning, part of her doubted they ever would. She was balancing herself on the end of a ten year marriage. And while that relationship had morphed from a youthful romance to the strongest bond of friendship she had ever known, she had grown comfortable there. Her former husband had demanded little from her that cost her. She was safe beneath her big, black clothes, behind her hand-me-down laptop.

But all that was changing. This man, this stranger was changing everything. She liked it and feared it all at once. He saw her, saw straight into her even if he doubted himself from time to time. There were moments of absolute clarity where he spoke a language only she could understand. She loved the sound of it, the timbre of each word in her ears calling her to him, beckoning her to break free of a life that no longer served her.

“Why do I feel like I lost you then? Why do you feel further away?” He asked.

She tilted her head up looking for a better answer on the ceiling. The truth was just….silly.

“You didn’t lose me. I’m right here.”

But he was right. She backed away from him just then. She wore her disappointment thick and heavy about her neck and he could feel it, even across telephone lines; he could feel it.

Three months. That’s how long she told herself it would take. That is how long she figured it would take to shake free the last remaining bits of marriage, of doubt, of insecurity so big it choked her at times. It was an arbitrary number she could hide behind.

But he wasn’t going to wait.

And why should he? Why should a kind, handsome single man wait for a girl too scared to start living a life of her own?

“I’m not ready,” she said. “And I don’t want to keep you from anything or from anyone.”

“I like you. It’s just…” His voice trailed off with just the slightest regret at his own annoying habit of telling the truth.

“It’s ok, really.” Her voice raised an octave and sped up to disguise the tears beginning to form in her eyes. “I’m fine. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

And with that she hung up. And it took her only five minutes to realize it wasn’t ok.

It wasn’t ok to hide out and pretend she didn’t want to kiss this man until her eyes rolled into the back of her head. It wasn’t ok to keep playing the role of a victim…a woman left pining for times gone by. And it wasn’t ok that some other woman could be in his arms, swaying her body against his and softly saying his name…a name she had yet to utter.

“Enough,” she said under her breath.

She walked to the mirror and took the bobby pins from her hair allowing it to fall in a swoop about her neck. She examined the state of her face. No wrinkles, bright blue eyes and a mouth quivering with anxiety.

She forced herself to smile and then realized she really wanted to. She wanted to because it finally became clear: the only one standing in her way was her.

New people, new experiences, new, new, new…

But new didn’t have to mean ‘not as good’. New didn’t have to be scary. New could be exactly what she needed.

She squeezed some pretty pink lip gloss onto her finger and ran it over her lips and pressed them together in decision. “Tomorrow,” she said. “Tomorrow.”

The End

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Ending a Marriage, Saving the Love

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So yesterday I did an interview with one of my dearest friends in the world, Macha Einbender for herfuture.com. It’s raw and honest and, hopefully, helpful.

The truth of my marriage ending is that my former husband is a gay man. A conclusion we both came to in July of last year after over two years of agonizing, beautiful and committed soul-searching.

Chances are you know someone who has gone through, or is going through what myself and my former husband did. And while I don’t dwell on the sexuality (although for 2 years it was hard not to), I do emphasize the intense spiritual work it took to leave that marriage with our love completely intact. 

You can listen here: http://machaeinbender.byoaudio.com/files/media/09d90b36-69f0-151d-c37a-398fb790cbda.mp3

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My Detour into Crazy Town

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Two nights ago I took a detour into Crazy Town. You know, one of those nights where one fearful thought is allowed to fester and grow until you’re ranting and raving about things and people you cannot control, seeking out reasons to get upset, looking at things on the internet that are anything but helpful etc etc etc

I hadn’t done that in a good, long while. Fueled by fear and too much wine, I spun out. I did things I wouldn’t normally do, said things I would not normally say.

The triggers, I believe, were two-fold. Firstly, earlier that day I ran into an old neighbour who had no idea that I had separated from my husband. Reliving that is never fun and it affected me more than I thought it would.

And secondly, I was by myself.

I have had two little human beings literally hanging off of me for eight years. And yes, I did have periods of time where I would be away from them, but since the separation the way I view time away from them is different. When they are with their father, especially overnight, I feel afraid, anxious and guilty. He is more than capable of caring for them. This is all me. And I have to laugh.

I have to laugh because if I take this too seriously I’ll get stuck on the things that don’t really matter. I’m transitioning out of one life and into another. It’s scary sometimes, but I’m okay. And I have to remember that when I do get stuck in the fear I may do some stupid shit. I may say some really ridiculous things. But I can reel all that nothingness back in and let it go with laughter…a gentle laughter.

A laughter that says: this is not where my safety is, this is not the Truth of who I am, this is just filling time with silly things until you’re ready to remember.

There is a better way.

So with a gentle laughter and a willingness to see the better way, I bring my Crazy Town night to the Light. I will pray those evenings where my babies are with their Daddy to be truly helpful. I will surrender where I think I should be in order to embrace where I belong.

Crazy Town will be there if I want to visit again, but I know the Light feels better.

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The Hardest Thing I Have Ever Done

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The hardest thing that I have ever done and continue to do is to be honest: Honest about what drives me, about what frustrates me, about how I go about getting what I want. And being honest with myself is often way more difficult than being honest with others.

I do not always do right. I have covered my selfish wants with intelligently-communicated good intentions. My voice is calm and soft, my demeanour gentle. It’s the perfect disguise for a woman determined.

“You owe me this.” “This is what I deserve.” I have spoken and thought these words without questioning them. I have played the victim. It’s a dangerous role indeed.

I know I have a good heart, but I have also faced this world with a good amount of fear. And fear makes us do foolish things. It makes us lash out, lie, cheat others and then justify.

You can stick to your story, but after a while your story sticks to you. The weight of it overwhelms. And when I can no longer handle the burden, surrender becomes the only option.

So, let me be honest: I am afraid of feeling unsafe. I fear being unloved. I can’t stand the thought that I may not be accepted. It drives me nuts to think that someone somewhere is speaking ill of me.

These fears, if left unchecked, are what drive me to do what I do. And I have done some crazy things.

I have starved myself and I have stolen. I have binged and I have berated. I have acted out and I have accused. I have begged for love and I have withheld it.

But I cannot dwell here. I know I must choose differently.

I know I can bring these honest thoughts to the One Who Knows Better. I can spill my guts in prayer and in return receive a whole new view: A view without victims, without a story of any kind. I can see myself and everyone else with love and I can relax into a tranquil mind.

Here I am safe. Here I am loved. Here I am accepted and here the only language is peace.

“Seek not outside yourself. For all your pain comes simply from the futile search for what you want, insisting where it must be found. What if it is not there? Do you prefer that you be right or happy?” A Course in Miracles [T573/617]

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What If I Treated My Home as I Treat My Body?

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If I treated my home as I treat my body, how would that go?

Would I constantly be thinking of what I wished was different? Would I beat myself up over the size of the windows, the condition of the wooden floors, the square footage? And if I did this, when would I actually live there? When could I really be present enough to relax, breathe and be joyful in my own home?

If I treated my home as I treat my body, those moments of peace would be rare indeed.

As a student of A Course in Miracles, I am being taught that I am not a body, but I still feel like I am. And as such I think of my body with a great amount of guilt, shame and a healthy dollop of criticism.

Yet, while I do this work, this forgiveness, it is my home and perhaps it would be helpful to be willing to let go of that which I cannot change.

I cannot change my freckles or my pale, Nordic skin. I cannot change my clear, blue eyes or my delicate feet complete with two long second toes. I cannot change my small hands, my long nose, nor my wide, curvy hips.

What I can change, though, is how I think about my body. What I can change is my perspective on what my body is for. And I can be present here, not wanting to change the outside and instead giving thanks for what I have so that I may be a vehicle… A vehicle for peace, for guiltlessness, for forgiveness.

We live in a small city in Southern Ontario. We have a nice, little house and I am so grateful to be here. It has large windows letting in plenty of light, lovely wooden floors and it’s just big enough for the three of us. I am happy here. I don’t know how long we’ll live here, but in the meantime I’ll just enjoy. So what if…

What if I treated my body as I treat my home…A place to be until its purpose has been served and I am ready to move on?

Hm. I’ll have to pray on that.

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When I Get Lost

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For a minute there, I got lost…

I trust so easily sometimes. I slip and slide into that which I do not want and it’s days gone by before I realize I am somewhere else, somewhere I never desired to be.

I open up without a care. I invite those from hither and yon into my yard before I finally see the crowd has grown too large and I have no more to give.

For a minute there, I lost my way…

There used to be a gatekeeper between my brow and my crown. Where has she flown off to? I used to keep a compassionate distance between my heart and theirs. It narrowed until it disappeared.

And now I’m here in the midst of a life I do not care to live.

But I will let it go.

Because the distance is imagined just as all boundaries are. And the only thing I require is kindness. Kindness to direct me, connect and protect me.

So when I get lost I ask, “What is the kindest thing to do here?”

And then I can trust. I can open up. Kindness is my gatekeeper and my reminder that I am enough, exactly as I am.

Here and now. Just as I am: The whole, the we, the everafter.

No separation, no suffering, no shit.

<deep breath>

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Sorry, Christmas, I’m Just Not That Into You

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But usually I am. Usually come December 1st I’m blaring carols, stringing up lights and half-done my shopping.

This year is different though.

And I’m not trying to be all dramatic and depressed and make a big deal where a big deal need not be made. But this year feels different and I’m not going to pretend that it doesn’t.

I have not started shopping, I played carols for the sake of the kids, and I ended up crying while stringing up the lights. I have spent the last seventeen Christmases with Michael as my partner and this year he’s with someone else and so am I.

And it’s better this way.

We are happier this way, but Christmas brings up all kinds of memories that I’d rather not think about right now and that’s where I am. I will deal with it. I will grieve it and let it go, but I’m taking my time. I’m walking hand in hand with my Higher Power and taking my time.

It’s sad and uncomfortable and it’s strange to know that while my life is actually better these days, there is a part of me that yearns for the feelings of holidays past. It’s complicated and reminds me how we’re not easily pleased until we let go of all expectation.

So Christmas, I’ll tolerate you. I’ll acknowledge your beauty and your magic and peace. I’ll pray to see this differently. But this year, I’m just not that into you.

Hey, there’s always next year.

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author of the novel, "Without Fear of Falling"