Ancestral Influence

Got a phone call this morning at 5 am. My first thought was something is wrong. Turns out one of my cousins back east called my cell phone by accident. So we had a brief conversation and I sent him a text to make him laugh. Started my day with unfounded worry and a smile. I was worried because I have a nephew who is ill and going for surgery in a few days. This got me thinking about the wonder of our DNA and genetics. I know, how does an accidental phone call lead to a post on genetics.

Our family has a genetic condition called hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) or Lynch syndrome, which may or may not predispose you to a number of different cancers the main one being colon cancer. Four members of my immediate family have had colon cancer so it looks like the odds are not in our favour. So that is the downside to genetics. I have regular screening for two types of cancer and after testing have found that I do not carry the gene that causes this. Other members of my family have not been so lucky. The gene has been passed down through our maternal line of ancestors. I on the other hand take after my father’s side of the family. I am the spitting image of my father and my grandmother. So this stuff makes me think about what else we inherit from our long line of ancestors.

What is it that makes us who we are? Do we inherit personality traits as well? I would say yes to this. I have a cousin who is about 16 years older than me and when he was here for a visit a few years ago we discovered that we have some of the same quirks. I am constantly losing my coffee or tea mug and never close a drawer fully. His wife started laughing because he does the exact same thing. Family trait or coincidence, we may never know. I thought it was hilarious and we still talk about it nine years later. As far as learned traits go I would say I am a mixture of both parents. I grew up being influenced by them and was taught to see the world through two very different sets of eyes and life experiences. They helped shape the person I am today. I on the other hand am wholly responsible for who I am today and like to think that I have refined and expanded the world view they had. So are we simply the sum of our experiences? You can have two people experience the same upbringing in the same household and they move through the world in completely different ways. I look at my own brother and sisters and marvel at how we are so alike in some ways and so different in others. I also marvel at how each of has a unique memory of the same event from our past.

I have never felt like I fit into my family. I used to wonder if I was adopted but looked too much like my Dad for that to be the case. When I danced down the wonderful path of discovering my ancestors during my genealogical research I discovered some interesting things. My love for fiddle music, my writing, my ability to sketch, and having a head for numbers, are all things that one of my ancestors excelled at. I am a great mishmash of everyone who has contributed to my DNA. Magical isn’t it?

I also believe that my cells and DNA have their own memories of all the things that my ancestors both close and distant experienced. Even my intuitive abilities are inherited and handed down through my family line. Sometimes these things seem to have skipped a generation or two but if I look closely enough they are there in all of us. So I have chosen to hone my writing skills and my intuitive abilities, others in the family have chosen a different path. My Grandmother whom I have never met, she passed away when my mother was a baby, comes to visit in spirit and she usually shows up when I am writing or doing some piece of creative work.   Does she have this connection to me because I am pursuing things that she loved? I like to think so. She spends a lot of time looking over my left shoulder when I type. She is nodding her head right now and says that I am doing things that she wanted to do but never got the chance to. So I guess in some way the grandmother I have never met in person has influenced me and continues to do so with her presence in spirit. She also tells me that my intuitive abilities come from her line as well as my father’s side of the family. A double whammy! So the predisposition for colon cancer, as well as artistic and intuitive abilities are handed down from generation to generation.  Nothing is ever all good or all bad. The truth of it all is somewhere in the middle. So I choose to walk in the middle of the path, the view is much better from here.

Peace and love to all
Donna

 

Grief and Compost

Woke up this morning with tears streaming down my face. I had a dream about Howard which I do not think has happened since he passed away. It was a wonderful dream and he was so happy and full of life. Then I woke up and remembered that he is gone and the grief started pouring from my heart and eyes. This has not happened for months and took me by surprise. I remembered the last few days of his life and some of the conversations and experiences we had together. I asked him not to leave me here all by myself and he said he wouldn’t. I knew he could not stay and I could not stand to see him in so much pain. So, I had to let him go and let him know I would be okay. He just grinned and said I know you will, like he knew something I didn’t.

There must have been some part of him that knew he would be leaving long before he got diagnosed with cancer. He tidied up a lot of loose ends with the vintage cars and made connections with people who would become important to me. Sometimes it feels like he is still looking after me and that I am never alone. Other times, I can barely remember what it was like to have him here, my life has changed so much. I have no regrets, I feel no guilt, and know we both loved and appreciated each other. Howard actually thanked me for staying with him through all of it which surprised me. He said some people would have walked away. I don’t want to know those people. How could you walk away from someone you love just when they need you the most. According to the hospice staff it happens more frequently than we know. What a sad and lonely world we live in.

I thank the universe that I had the strength of spirit to stand by my man when things went to shit. I never realized how much strength I truly had hidden inside this small body. I will be there for the people I love regardless of how much it hurts me to see and feel their pain. My heart just keeps getting bigger because of it. I also had a lot of people who stood by me and supported me through this whole process and my God I love them for it. They are my tribe, my community. It takes special people to allow someone to fall apart and just be there for them without trying to change it or fix it for them. Some want to stop your tears and your grief. They cannot handle your pain, it makes them feel things they do not want to feel inside themselves. It is all about them and their fears.

Today I have a few people coming to the house to take more things away. The fishing boat, some sculptures and tools. Soon there will be nothing left but an empty house sitting on this land. Land that has nurtured me for twelve years. I am going to walk away from here soon and it is proving to be much harder than I expected. However, I am not walking away from my life with Howard, I am walking towards something, I am walking towards my future.

Be there, really be there, for the people you love. Don’t shy away from the tough times, you don’t grow when everything is all rosy. In our disposable society, in which even people are disposable to some, be the compost. Be the compost that provides nourishment and promotes growth in others. Take all the pain you have experienced in your life and use it to find that connection with others and encourage them to be the best them they can be. Be compost for their soul and yours.

Love to all

The Dance of Grief

Grief is a funny word. I think it should contain more letters and have a harsher sound to it. It sounds soft and uncomplicated doesn’t it?   It is not soft, that is for sure. Experts say it has five to seven stages to it depending upon where you get your information. Seven stages sounds complicated especially since you can go through them in order only to revisit one of those stages at any time. Grief is different for everyone! Just like life and the way humans respond and react to that, it is different for everyone. Remember that.

Dealing with loss is complicated and you can grieve for many different reasons. My grief is due to the loss of my husband and sometimes it sneaks up on me in the strangest situations. I think it’s odd when someone says I lost my husband. I did not lose him, I know exactly where he went and there were times I wished that I could have gone with him. It would have been so much easier if he had lived and I had died, well easier for me. I would have traded my life for his and offered that solution to the universe a few times. The universe had other plans for me.  I have had a few long chats with the universe and all the powers that be, I was not impressed.

Okay grief let’s dance. It was mind blowing how powerful the grieving was. It brought me to my knees, some days I didn’t get out of bed and a few times I just sat in this chair staring out the window not seeing or feeling anything. I had trouble concentrating, I couldn’t sleep, some days I couldn’t even get dressed. Please, oh please, oh please don’t ask me to make another decision. It doesn’t matter how many people you have around you, grief is there waiting for you. I just got this image in my mind of grief as a dust bunny ninja, lurking in corners and hiding under the bed, jumping out at you when you least expect it. Not only are you grieving the loss of the person, you are also having to let go of your dreams and the future you had planned. Your person ( mother, father, child, friend, husband) dies and your entire life is changed forever, dreams gone in the blink of an eye.

I am a practical person and can usually find solutions in any problematic situation. There is no solution for grief. It doesn’t stop and is constantly changing. One minute it is in your face and messing with your ability to breathe and the next it retreats back to its dark corner and waits. I can remember a day when I was out with friends and on the drive home I had realized I had not thought of my husband for a few hours, grief jumped into the seat beside me and I was assaulted by it. My heart screamed how could I have forgotten Howard for those few hours? My mind was on other things and I had some fun with the girls, then the minute I was alone the reality of the situation hit home. This was no ordinary lunch date because Howard was not going to be home when I got there.  Sometimes when I go to sleep I forget what has taken place and when I wake up in the morning it hits me all over again.  Some mornings I wake up and don’t think about it all.

Perhaps I am one of the lucky ones. Because I have always had the ability to go with the flow when grief struck I embraced it. I explored this aspect of the process and went where it led me. Grief also has the ability to transform you and like any transformation the process is not pretty or pain free. The amount of growth for me has been proportionate to how willing I was to experience all that grief had to offer. I have grieved without apology. Despite the fact that I am moving on with my life, I still have moments of overwhelming grief. I had one last night. Driving home, tears pouring down my face and singing at the top of my lungs in great gasps and sobs.  Thank the universe it was dark and no one could see me. I grieve in private and I grieve a lot in my car.

There is no end to this story, no tidy summation to leave you with. The loss is always there, you just learn how to go on with your life and live with the loss. You learn to live with it and if you let it grief can teach you much about living. So please have some patience with the people you know who are suffering a loss of any kind in their life. Just love them through the process and set aside your own expectations of how they should be handling it. Until you have danced with grief you don’t know if you will be dancing a fast and hard flamenco or a slow intimate waltz.  In my case it has been an awkwardly beautiful interpretive dance that changes speed and rhythm on a whim.

Hug people, all the people

Love you all

Donna

 

 

Heart wide open!

It is so dark here in the wilds of Sooke this morning and waking up hours before the sunrise is a new habit of mine. I’m sitting in my chair with the fireplace going and a steaming cup of my favourite coffee. The coffee tastes better when I use my handmade, sunny yellow mug for some reason. This doesn’t make any logical sense, but trust me, the coffee does not taste the same in another mug. I’ve tried to use a different mug but I always come back to the yellow one. I guess me and the yellow mug have a comfortable relationship with one another. I know it’s curves and my slender fingers fit perfectly in the handle.

Comfort is good and bad. I wish my name was Comfort, what a beautiful way to introduce yourself. Hi, my name is Comfort!  I like it and I am sure people would automatically feel at ease around someone with that name. We do some crazy things in order to be comfortable with ourselves and the rest of the world. We will put up with things that make us uncomfortable, in some cases, in order to continue on a familiar path. Better the devil ya know, right? Well, as some of you already know my life had some drastic changes last year. My spouse of 11 years, his name was Howard, passed away within a few months of being diagnosed with cancer. The type of cancer doesn’t really matter, the fact that it ended our dance together on this earth is the real matter. Funny that I used that phrase because we never, ever danced with each other. So, Howard was ill and I had a business and a full-time job. Needless to say, I closed the business and cut back my hours at work, so we had time to be together and I had time to look after things for him. I don’t think many people know that Howard and I worked together with his parents in their family business of 38 years. Yes, I worked with my man and my in-laws! There are a few stories there!  Back to the important parts. Howard and I both thought he would survive this. We never for a moment thought that a man who never got sick and was so fit and healthy would succumb so quickly. He did everything he could to stay here and I was amazed at the strength and grace he possessed when faced with his own mortality. I unfortunately did not exhibit the same grace.

Howard was my anchor, my comfort in a world of uncertainty. My business and my job could be replaced but this man was so special and my god he showed me every day how much he loved me. He didn’t speak about love much, he lived it! His actions, which I think spoke much louder than words, told me everyday how important I was to him. He never once criticized me or made me feel silly or small or less than beautiful. I do some crazy shit so I think that took great strength! He loved me when I was at my worst and my best. He held me as my heart was breaking when I lost the baby we created together and never once tried to stop my tears, he loved me through it. He loved me unconditionally and with every cell. I was comfortable, happy and empowered. Then it all ended.

Okay here comes the messy and graceless part. I could not find the gracefulness in me without seeing it reflected back to me through his eyes. Did I mention that his eyes were blue? A beautiful denim blue that spoke to my soul. Okay, I’m just avoiding the uncomfortable parts. Here we go down the rabbit hole! I was ANGRY!!!! Can you imagine a small 5 foot 3 east coaster angry at the world and spewing it out upon the people she loved and complete strangers in grand and dramatic fashion. No? Okay think of a wild animal (any big ferocious feline should work) ripped from their environment and placed in a small cage and put on display for people to gawk at. Yes, that is a much better visual. Now imagine for another second that this feline was so in touch with the world around her that she could communicate with the universe and caged that was taken from her too. I could not feel anything. The beautiful and wonderful world of spirit (I will post about this aspect later) that I had experienced since I was born was gone. It felt like someone had shut the door and turned off the lights in a room with no windows or fresh air. I was blind with rage and grief. Everything that I thought made me who I was had been taken away.

I love being wrong! My friends and family loved me through the most difficult and graceless period of my life. Now here is the funny part. Despite the fact that my entire life had been destroyed, because that is how I saw it, a whole new life was being born. Even through my rage and grief I could see the possibilities that we’re now available to me. Talk about conflicting emotions! Grief and hope we’re fighting a war inside me. Then I thought about the man I had loved and knew he would want me to celebrate the fact that I was alive even though he was not. He was selfless that way. Howard was instrumental in me learning how to be me without apology. He taught me to stand strong with my feet firmly planted on my path and my heart wide open. He would be upset if he thought I closed myself off from the beauty and miracles of life because he was no longer walking with me in this physical plane. He inspired me when he was alive and continues to inspire me now that he is gone. Thanks Howard, I will always love you and will live my life to the fullest to honour all the love you gave and the things you taught me.  You were an amazing man Howard and amazing men do amazing things.  This last sentence was a little joke between us!

 

Wow, I have gone through a lot of tissues writing this! I just want to say a few more things before I start my day. Don’t be afraid to love with 110 percent of your soul. Love is not painful! Loneliness, anger, loss, isolation, a hunger for connections with others, now those are painful things. Don’t be afraid! I wish I could show you the world through my eyes and heart. Oh yeah, I can do that and have made it my mission. When you see me it shines from my eyes and if you are open you can see the love that radiates out of me and get a glimpse of the world through my heart and eyes. It is a beautiful world but you have to approach it with your heart wide open in order to see it! So for the people that avoided me in the grocery store, there is a softer and gentler Donna walking down the aisles so you don’t have to run away anymore.  I’ll show you the wonders of the universe, yes I smile with my eyes and heart

 

 

Oh yes, and hug people, as many people as you can!

Peace and love to all

Donna