Slip Slidin’ Away

You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away
And I know a father who had a son
He longed to tell him all the reasons for the things he had done
He came a long way just to explain
He kissed his boy as he lay sleeping
Then he turned around and he headed home again
Slip slidin’ away
~Paul Simon

I was awake at 3:30 am when the sirens went by on Main Street down below our house.  I had no idea to what sort of tragedy the sirens were responding.

Then I received a call at 6:30 am.

Come over right now! My closest girlfriend said.

What’s going on? I asked.

Just come over.  Her voice urged.

On my way.  I said.

I envisioned helping with a flood or some other household problem, like a lost dog.

I was up, dressed in the car and driven the snowy few blocks in six minutes.  What’s going on?  I called out in the direction up the steps from the entry.   The air was thick with emotion and fear.  I could almost see it hanging there.

He died. She said simply.

Who died?  I screeched as I ran up the steps in my boots, snow falling off.  I was glancing around for a body.

Calvin.  She said.

A sound came out of me involuntarily.  I grabbed her and hugged her small body fiercely.  The sound was primordial.  Painful.  A deep keening.  Her Ex, the Dad, appeared and enclosed us in his arms and we all cried together for a few seconds.  In my mind’s eye I was still looking around for his body.

I asked… where is he?

He had been the first of three steps at age three, when we moved in next door. Our Leo was the second step at four and his older brother Kevin at five was the third step.  Fast friends who ran all over the neighbourhood together, Calvin usually bringing up the rear, on his toes – he was a toe-walker then and so cute as he nimbly rushed to be included.  Countless sleepovers, snacks, tumbling, trampolining.  He would sometimes gather up his courage and ask me for a drink of water, almost like I might say no.  I must have been scary to him??  In recent years, in their teens, Leo would visit and and he would later tell me how Calvin had offered him tea, or soup, or whatever was available.  Leo told me how kind Calvin was.

I had watched Calvin grow into a six foot two, curly blond-haired, blue-eyed quiet young man.  He loved the outdoors, experiments with pond-like aquariums, fishing.  He was a fierce competitor in jujitsu and, sadly, had some other darker pastimes which I would guess were self-medicating.  He struggled with anxiety, addiction and with social situations.  For the past several months, he could not sleep, due to anti-depressant medication.  This would be the straw that broke the camel’s back – the not sleeping.  I had heard about many many attempts to get him into counselling and to a psychiatrist or even to get him to emerg.  He just would not go.  How does a parent force this?  It’s next to impossible.

Daisy told me the whole story of the few days leading up to this disaster. We sat by the fire on her couch in the early morning hours.  When the door opened and her eldest, stepped in, he collapsed against the wall crying and keening loudly in despair.  I slipped unnoticed out the back door.  My Blunstones leaving their distinctive print in the freshly fallen snow.  Down the back deck steps and around the house to my car.  I drove home in a daze.  I walked in to find my husband Dean and my son Leo silent with despair.  All I could manage to do was to make a pot of soup for my friend in her grief.

In the wee hours, Jonah had followed his son’s bootprints (and many obvious signs of his slipping and falling on the trail, like bad snow-angel attempts).  He entered the park, slipping and cursing the hidden ice as he went.  A few hundred meters in, he saw Calvin’s backpack at the base of a tree and looked up, his headlight finding the silhouette of  his youngest son hanging in the tree.  Jonah struggled to get him down.  He was still warm.  He did CPR for almost an hour, crying, praying and shouting at him to wake up but systematically counting in keeping with his advanced military training.  The paramedics finally arrived having had a hard time locating them in the dark woods and slipping and falling many times due to the deceptively slick ice under the layer of snow.

Jonah called his ex-wife, The Mom, telling her not to come to the park.  She went up there anyway.  At the gates she was met by a cop who loved Calvin – knowing him through the dojo they shared. He avoided her eyes.  Her heart sank to its deepest despair.

Where do you go when your child takes his own life?  There is nothing worse than this.

Dean and I organized meals and visits to Daisy so that she wouldn’t be alone, especially at night.  The outpouring of support was incredible and humbling.  Thousands of dollars were raised through a single email asking for support on her behalf.  Daisy couldn’t work due to grief.  No income, bills and life carrying on.  A full day of yoga was organized by a group of women with lunch, live music and incredible local art in a silent auction.  Daisy was given therapies like massage, osteopathy and reflexology.  Two cords of wood were delivered, fully paid for.  The guys from the dojo arrived and stacked it in fifteen minutes, based on a simple request to them that morning. We cleaned her house, Dean shoveled the driveway.  Another friend swept the chimney.  We walked the dog, picked up the mail, painted a room, helped her sort through the bills, baked her a cake and brought flowers. A woman knitted a special scarf to encircle her in love and comfort.

The celebration of life was at a large hall downtown.  Every aspect of the day was taken care of by volunteers: planning, decorating, food, drink, crafts for little ones, boughs of evergreen, writing implements for sharing snippets of memories.  Hot drinks and marshmallows outside by the fire.  A beautifully hand-crafted wooden box to store parchment pages of written memories — the blond wood the colour of his beautiful hair, his name etched in the sliding cover.  The place was packed.  One friend introduced the speeches and thanked all those who helped.  The owner of the dojo gave a recounting of the fierce fighting competitor that Calvin was and also of the kind teacher with a huge heart for his young charges.  The gym guys shoulder-to-shoulder, sniffling, their hands folded tightly.  Eyes lowered.  Cheeks wet with tears.

Jonah and Daisy talked about Calvin’s life.  The kind of person he was, the kind of brother and son he was.  His personality and some funny memories of him.  Jonah finally said that he had decided to find solace in the joy of seventeen years that they had had with Calvin.  At least they had had the honour and pleasure of him for seventeen years.

Extreme grief and mourning ensued for the loss of one of our boys – the first step of three.

A year has passed and not many days have ended that I haven’t thought of this young man.  I feel that he slipped through the cracks in our mental health system.  He was so loved and so well taken care of, yet he still slipped through.  Can you imagine the youth who do not have attentive parents?  I feel sick that I personally couldn’t DO anything to help with this nor could I stop the loss of his life.  I replay my last face-to-face with him when I dropped off a huge bag of dog food because our Lady-Jane had passed.  Could I not have asked him if there was anything he wanted to talk about?  Could I not have swallowed my pride and told him that I too suffer with mental illness?  It’s so fucked up.  I find that I am still quite angry about my lack of ability to help with this.  To take action.  To DO SOMETHING.

I know one thing for sure.  The next time I detect a sadness in someone, I will ask them if they need help.  I will simply ask them.

Rest In Peace dear dear boy.

Feelin’ Fine (2018)

‘ So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key’ *

In mid 2016 I started on Lithium Bicarbonate (again!) for my mental illness: Bipolar 1.  If you have read my previous posts on body image and on mental illness, you will know by now that I was struggling against succumbing to meds due to the strong suspicion that taking them would cause a large weight gain.

Well, it has done just that. My body now is the stuff of my previous life’s nightmares.  So, why is this post entitled Feelin’ Fine? Confused yet?

Well, I have changed folks.

It started when I hit rock bottom in May 2016.  I had extreme anxiety for days and a panic attack that rocked my world and I was sure I was about to die.  I could barely let go of my husband Dean’s hand.  All I could do to feel better was walk, and poor Dean, suffering with a broken toe, walked with me, holding my hand. (Ya, I know. I have the best husband in the world.)  If you had seen me then you would not recognize me.  I was barely able to look up.  I was debilitated.  The cortisol buildup in my low back was like a knife jabbing me.  Every thought spun out a new list of worries that multiplied.  I clutched Dean’s hand and he guided me gently along through the days.  I did simple tasks like pealing potatoes and hanging laundry.  That’s about all I could do without making copious, confusing lists and notes.

This was the point that I finally succumbed to medication.

Since then, I decided that it is far better to have a clear mind and psyche than it is to be small and trim.

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By my amazing sister Eva*

 

This has not been an instantaneous transformation.  It has taken hours and hours of concerted effort and two years of time going by to change my thinking.  I am doing this by reading books, blogs, articles, scientific studies and by listening to podcasts on this very topic…non-diet, body-neutral, non-fat phobic, Health at Every Size, Intuitive Eating by podcasters like Christy Harrison on Food Psych; Meret Boxler on Life Unrestricted; Chris Sandel on Real Health Radio; Summer Innanen on Fearless Rebelle Radio.  These people have helped me immeasurably.  As has my husband of twenty-six years.  He is truly my best, most supportive friend.

It hasn’t been exactly easy to transform my thinking one hundred and eighty degrees.  From a very disordered existence of constant striving to maintain a small, lean body where in almost every waking moment over the last 35 years, I was aware, concerned, worried about eating less and moving more (it was a full-time job to maintain the energy deficit that then felt normal).  I mean, I was eating low-fat while trekking in the Himalayas while simultaneously battling a bowel parasite for jeezus sakes.

Scan10100

I have become more peaceful by NOT doing anything to try to stay small.  I eat when hungry, whatever I want.  I drink when thirsty.  I move when it strikes my fancy to do so.  No schedule.  No goals.  No competitive work-out sessions.  No marathon-type activity in the off-ing to compulsively train for.  No $60 ++ per week of yoga classes, plus thousands of dollars for months of yoga teacher training at an ashram in the Bahamas (which in retrospect I now realize that I had done not to achieve Zen but mostly to achieve small-ness.  It was like going to a Fat Farm for me.  Okay, a Zen Fat Farm, if you will).

dancer on the fallen tree

I look back on my previous life and shake my head.  But it is all part of my path.

And, who cares if I am not small in size.  I am still ME.

My being is still here.  My me-ness.

You know me?  That person who loves an adventure;

a good doubling-over belly laugh;

a deep talk solving the problems of the world, including what to do with your hair;

a great beach walk or rainy-day stroll;

a carefree dance around the living room or in a random cafe to some good eighties tunes,

a pint and a good cry????

That person is still here and that person is doing okay.  She’s just in a bigger, softer body and she is doing much, much better on the inside, and, thankfully, not doing those annoying hand-stands every five minutes.

prospect-handstand

One last one for the memory bank.  My son took this in Prospect, Nova Scotia, Canada.  The next time I asked him to take a picture of me doing a hand-stand was on the Keji Seaside beach, he goes, ‘Mom, that ship has sailed, don’t you think?’

Right on Buddy.  Gotta love kids.

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I would love your comments…

(The sunflower pic is from Google Images, all the rest are mine, Martha Valiquette, except the amazing Dragonfly which is by my eldest sister.)

*Excerpt from Already Gone (Eagles) Songwriters: Jack Tempchin / Robert Arnold Strandlund