Elephants never forget… Tales from Brandiland

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“A hunch that you are the sum of those incidents only you can testify to, whose existence without you, would have no earthly acknowledgement” – Barbara Gowdy “The White Bone”

First of all, if you have never read this book, go read it right now. I should warn you that it is based entirely on the perspective of elephants…that’s right, the life and times of elephants. The beauty and syncronicity with people is astounding and breath taking. It was one of the novels I never got over. This is one of my favourite quotes and I came upon it cleaning out an old drawer as I have so many times over the years. It always makes me pause and really consider the weight of these words. Our time here on earth is measured and recorded by those we spend time with. Who we are, the impact we have had, the value of our lives is wrapped up snugly with the company we keep. I, myself, am a testament to the people I love and care about. I am also a testament to the ungodly events that have shaped me as much as the triumphs. It is a big responsibility when you examine it, being the story teller for so much and so many. I have blogged on here previously about my best friend and her relationship both to myself and others – this account becoming a part of who she is and how she she will be remembered. When we are gone, these stories will be the thing that says we ever existed. Our legacy. When you think about the enormity of that, it skips a heart beat in me. Our time here is so limited, our accomplishments become more and more limited as we make decisions and level setbacks and tragedies. There is often a saying that goes: You are only limited by your own mind. But I take some exception to that being that this theory I am evolving is that our minds and our lives are very much wrapped up in other minds and lives and that these concurrent connections can often be the limits we set on behalf of the well being or otherwise of people we hang out with.

The tributes of our lives can be both a gift and a burden. I have accepted since I was young the moniker of caregiver, soul saver, sacrificer, beast of burden. Bring me your dead and your dying…I’ll take all of them. I seem to have no ability to turn away the most bleak of souls; In fact, I often prefer their company. I think there is something beautiful about the metamorphosis of tragedy. Staying along side of someone who has been shot by horrific circumstances and their journey through open bleeding wounds to scarred impunity. Sweet freedom from ignorance. The ability to see all the colours of pain and emotional brevity – like childbirth, we forget and dare to live again with a subtle or sometimes not so subtle limp that presses us against all the other living injured. How not to impact people in negative ways? How not to fall prey to the selfish indignation that says we deserve more, better? What a delicate balance to be storied as brave or heroic or kind or helpful. As often as I have been claimed this, I have been equally described as cold or uncaring. My defensive wounds coming to light. But to ignore them, to ignore the creeping defences of others is almost ludacris – like inviting the evil in. You can only hope to meet your match in tragedies and scar tissue that you might have a chance of treading together in a way that does not constantly rip the wounds wide open again. And have what we all ultimately want…someone to tell the stories about you that you hope will be your memory, your earthly existence.

I wrote recently about my Grandmother, another story of existence. We had a strong bond her and I – we shared a great love of unique jewellery, beautiful clothes, books and flirting. She was fancy and I admired her. The way she never let a bad day stand in the way of a well put together outfit and some lipstick. When my Grandmother passed, she still had a tube of lipstick in her bra, in case a visitor stopped by, she could apply a pinch of colour. Even as she was dying, she was fancy, because she loved it and people loved that about her. And I tell that story about her because it wraps up for me the link we had while she was here. Her earthly existence was wrapped up in ball gowns she let me gingerly try on and feel against my cheek every Sunday. The stories she told me about every one and the feelings she experienced in and out of them. She told me once, I was just like her, and I remember thinking it was the nicest compliment I had ever received. I think that stands to this day and I have spent the better part of my adult life trying to be the bubbly and entertaining woman she was, to recreate the feeling she brought into a room with her smile and wit. Our stories build on stories and then some. I would never be what I am without her being who she was. A cousin once told me she didn’t know our Grandmother very well, couldn’t really tell you very much about her. I gasped as if she had slapped my face. How did she not know the kind and generous woman I had grown up with? How could someone be telling the story of my Grandmother so differently? These woven tapestries we create as we live are made exactly of that…stories as different as the colours of fabric sewn together with seemingly no connection. But it is presented simply as one long blanket of experience. Our legacies.

In the White Bone, Barbara Gowdy details the lives and deaths of elephants who have long been held to show intense bonds and protectiveness of each other parallel to humans. The above quote refers to the death of one of the elephants and the how the herd must process it, grieve it and move on. It is a heart wrenching passage. It reminds me that nothing on this planet is removed from the circle of life and that we are simply one passage in the story of everything. Humbling. But it keeps me mindful of what I want my passage to read when I’m gone and how I will have to live my life to achieve that. Mostly, that is all we will get as time passes and less and less people who knew us in the flesh are present – one line. I would like it to be one that isn’t easily forgotten.

Elephants never forget….

Forgiveness Cometh…Tales from BrandiLand

Some blogs come. Sometimes I wake up with them already written in my head. There is an easy satisfaction with giving these stories away having sheltered them for so long in my own mind. But sometimes they get torn out of me, like I’m painfully giving birth to them. I always eagerly await the other side of these blogs. The sweet sorrow flooding with relief for having somewhere else to put them. This is one of those blogs.

People often track their lives like in the bible – “before christ’ and “after christ”. I do that too. Before the divorce and after. I’m surely not the first person who recognizes this fragment in their timeline for this exact reason.  There are plenty of groups, meetings, books and TV shows devoted entirely to this subject. I don’t believe I am any less or more impacted by it than anyone else but from my own eyes, it matters. It changed me. Deeply.

When I first started to imagine writing this blog, I was overwhelmed with how badly I wanted to write about the bad stuff. I’ve erased it about three times because they keep sneaking in, disguised as harmless explanations but really they want recognition. Look what’s been done to me.  Broken hearts always seem to want retribution. I have been seeking refuge from this desire for the better part of three years. I am haunted by the idea of forgiveness. It feels impossible some days to just let by gones be by gones. But I keep rolling Buddha’s words around in my head: Not forgiving is like poisoning yourself and waiting for the other person to die. Dammit Buddha. That is some solid logic.

I want to list for you all the reasons I should not forgive him. I want you to read them and recognize how terribly I suffered. I want someone to write him a strongly worded letter of admonishment. What I do not want is for you to look behind the heavy curtain and investigate my side of it, my contribution to the end. Of course, there is that. And perhaps this sense of denying forgiveness has a lot to do with forgiving myself. For my sins during the relationship, and there was many, and the way I short circuited my grief of rejection to include every living being on the planet so as to save myself from getting hurt again. Of course, this required  me to in turn reject people who loved me in the process. Oh what a tangled web we weave…

But here’s my first best go at it. I have spent most of this day trying to remember the good things about him, the things that made me fall in love with him in the first place since you cannot grieve what you don’t love.  I will admit, I have tantrumed several times as the lovely memories got mixed up with the hard ones. I can hear myself thinking “what the …” in response to some of his incredible kindness to me in the beginning. I still feel tricked. I have to stuff the idea down that he did some of those things intentionally to hide a whole bunch of other things. I’ll never know. I can only tell you what I remember and how it made me feel then. And in handling them all day, I have found some genuine space for them separate from the rest of it. It’s not quite forgiveness all the way, it’s demi-forgiveness. And it’s all I have today.

I feel compelled to tell you about the time he carried me through a lake to a floating dock in the middle of the night and we lied on our backs talking to each other and the stars. It was one of our first dates. I remember thinking right then, “I could love this man”.

His friends were the originators of BrandiLand..saying he was lost in it. We talked on the phone for hours. I couldn’t even tell you about what, but it was endless. One time he even talked to me almost the entire time while he was at a party and he passed me off to everyone there and said, “Tell this girl how much I like her” and I was regaled with tales from virtual strangers about how impacted he had been by my presence.

I remember the first time he went away to go visit his mom for 2 weeks. It felt like an eternity even though we talked every day. He shared very intimate things about his early life with his family – some sweet things, some disappointments, things he was struggling with being home. Without any forethought, I blurted out, “I want you to come live with me when you come home”. I surprised myself having been a cautious woman for many years. He said he knew I was going to say that for some reason and he was quick to say, “Dear god, yes”. I picked him up from the airport, he looked so handsome in his dress pants and baby blue button down shirt, all wrinkled and buttons askew from the long flight. He smiled at me from way far off as he caught sight of me coming down the escalator. And I stupidly stood and smiled at him. It seemed like an hour before he got to the bottom and we couldn’t get to each other fast enough. It was happening. Our beginning. He asked me to marry him with a baby blue stone because he knows I hate diamonds. Baby blue memories. Baby, baby blues…

I can still see him walking, barefoot, down the middle of our street, while our house burned behind us. I was just standing there watching the fireman struggle with the fire in the roof. I knew the house was going to be lost. I didn’t know one other tangible thing at that moment. I couldn’t grasp onto anything and it felt like I was just floating there. When I turned and saw him, I was utterly entranced by the sight of him, so self-assured, smiling at me with his head cocked to the side and that “Come here baby” look he gave me. He wrapped me up in a blanket and hugged me and said everything was going to be ok. And I believed him.

I have been trying, trying, trying to burn those memories into my mind over the smouldering, putrid aroma of our break up. It is the most insane thing, to love someone and then not know them at all, never see them again, never have the chance to reminisce of these things. It has always felt like the right way to break up was to have a moment where we shared those things that we would remember, those things that made a difference and say “Thank You” for all the good that came. People think I’m crazy when I say that but I’ve done it. And I picture all the people I’ve ever met who had terrible, bitter separations and how different it would look if it was mandatory on the way out to say a few nice things you’ll remember.

But something funny happens to people when they get caught in the face of their bad decisions. There is no last few nice memories to share. It is just  a heart tearing open trying to stem the blood with paltry excuses and denial. And you are left sputtering and gasping for air, viciously clawing your way out, trying to save yourself.

There is someone back in my life who has been graciously sharing his love stories with me, assuring me that love does come despite my cynical and protective denial of this for the last 3 years. I am so grateful for this light at the end of the tunnel, the signalling of a certainty that it exists.  I am trying to find a way back to love by practising with the ones I already love. By being mindful of myself in close contact with others. By being mindful of the times we hurt each other and rally back any ways. There are examples of it all around me.  Relationships I have nurtured and nourished for years that prove my theory wrong…Fairy tales are NOT just for suckas. Given a look into my life, you would be astonished at the calibre of women who have stood by me and raised me from the dead when I had all but given up. It’s not the same thing, humbly I accept that having someone love you as their partner, as their muse is different than your lady friends but it doesn’t overshadow it. On paper, my love life is a disaster but in the bigger picture, it is extraordinary. And if I died tomorrow, no one could say I wasn’t completely wrapped in some serious love. And save for the empty space left by him, I would never have realized by comparison how full the rest of my life really is. That is the way life works, it is in the absence that we appreciate what is present. A gift if you will, when you’re ready to open it.

 

 

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http://www.brandiland.net

My girl…Tales from BrandiLand

My best friend rides in a helicopter to work.

She rides a motorcycle most of the rest of the time.

She wears expensive boots that she swears she could walk across a country in that silently announce for her that she could take you out at the knees if you ever tried to mess with her.

She has been awarded the title of  “the girl husbands would most likely cheat on their wives with”…there is something so intoxicating about her that even the wives have to admit they understand.

She writes.

She travels.

We joke she is the “serial killer” of relationships since she takes a momento, a someone, with her each time who she simply cannot imagine living without even if they are connected to someone who has hurt her deeply and profoundly. She knows that each of us is separate from our wounds. Indeed, I am one of those momentos, taken from broken. So is her son. And so it is for herself…salvaged from the kind of broken most people never recover from. She has kept herself and masterfully created the above…

I don’t need to tell her that she is successful. She knows.

I don’t need to tell her she is a beautiful mother. She knows.

I don’t need to tell her she is dizzying in her talent and her drive. She knows that too.

What I do need to tell her, each and every single day of our lives together is that she is worthwhile.

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No matter how barren, broken, empty or abandoned you may feel…this is what I see when I see you.

You can’t stop the swell of life from erupting around you. It wants to be with you so badly, your insane and fantastical energy. We all do. We are all creeping like vines into your greatness. And you are always there to receive us…the fragmented, the desperate, the untouchables. You make us beautiful by proxy. We can do no wrong with your almost unsettling kindness in the face of our despair and despicable circumstances. You see the life in our barren, broken, empty and abandoned.

You think this is what you see in us but it is quite the reverse. We are simply drawn to the life in you.

The spark that cannot be put out.

You are more than worthwhile my friend, you are essential.

B

The brilliant thing about above best friend is that she is a writer too. She wrote the following in response to my blog and I thought it was very much worth sharing:

 My best friend and I have an almost love affair like relationship; it’s one of those deals that persists over the years through breakups, parenting woes, differences of opinions, and long periods of separation and silence. More importantly, she knows my heart through and through and has given me the rarest of gifts: she can be happy for me when I’m happy. My frequent and sometimes long periods of introversion don’t offend her, but she’s always the first one to coax me back out. She’s family.
She’s got a heart big as her boobs, and a brain that trumps them both. She wrote this about me yesterday, and it is spot on, save for the parts about my boots being silent (they’re not, and sometimes the sound of me coming down a hallway is enough to set workers to scattering), and the part about me taking mementos from past relationships. I don’t take them. They come on their own, and in the breathholding beats where I fear I’ve lost them, it’s only gratitude for having even met them at all that allows me to let go of them and their person. I guess my point is, and something I should tattoo on my body, Cherish the ones who stay. They’re rare. And if one person sees me like the abandoned building in this beautiful picture, then I have to wonder: do the vines hold the structure together?
I believe they do.
Andrea Taylor

http://www.brandiland.net

40 is the new sunshine…tales from BrandiLand

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I was at work lamenting my impending birthday when a young man came up behind me and said,

 

“Is it your birthday today?”

 

“Not yet sweetheart, in a couple of weeks”

 

“Well how old are you going to be?”

 

I sighed…”Well hon, I’m going to be 40″…more sighing

 

And he said (drum roll please) “You don’t look 40! You look like sunshine!”

 

Oh, out of the mouths of babes. And just like that, 40 meant something entirely different than mid life and thoughts of botox. Never mind the smile on his face that could have easily melted the sun itself, it occurred to me that he wasn’t being a show boat, he was serious. He did not see 40 when he looked at me. He saw sunshine.

 

He didn’t try to convince me I looked younger or advise me he thought I looked older, he cast the numbers aside entirely and looked AT me. He measured and weighed out all the time we had spent together, searched deep within himself and found what he thought was a reasonable facsimile and then said it out loud. Imagine…if we all did this?

 

If you couldn’t use a number to describe your age, what would your age look like?

 

I asked my very good friend and she looked me dead in the eye and said, “weary…that’s what my age looks like”. I could see that asking this question wasn’t always going to elicit the same response as I got from my 8 year old friend. And so it almost begs the question instead, “What do you think other people see when they look at you? If you think about the people who love you, what would they say?” So I looked at my friend and I thought…I see trees. The kind that everyone sees and calls “majestic”. The kind with deep roots, the roots that don’t stay put in your own yard because she considers everyone family and her family tree extends to anyone who needs to understand the definition of unconditional love. Her tree – her family tree – holds a hundred different people, all ages, who seek her out in times of trouble, in moments of accomplishment and just about any time…because her door is never closed. She thinks this is nothing, but she’s so wrong. Not every one sees the greatness in people who are struggling. Not everyone has enough strength to hold every one of them without falling over. Strength and beauty. That’s what her age is. Does that sometimes look like weary? It would be ridiculous if it didn’t. That doesn’t change the fact that in her years she has developed the ability to create oxygen for people who are gasping for breath. Sorry sister…nice try. ; )

 

Now let’s get real – she would not come up with this answer on her own. There in lies the problem doesn’t it? Why do we need to rely on other people to tell us all the cool, amazing, wonderful, crazy things about us that honestly can only be garnered with years and our life experience? Because as my magnificent friend pointed out, it can be very difficult in trying times to find the gift of said trying times. Aging brings wisdom and perspective but it also brings gravity…and challenges…and sometimes regret. It would be very unethical of me to peddle it as rainbows and butterflies. Aging is tough. Your body slows down even if you are the kind to live at the speed of light and proudly display your developed pecs. It’s just harder. I used to be able to jog around the block and lose 5 pounds, now I gain 5 pounds after a work out and my trainer says it’s all muscle. (I love you lady but we both know it’s my love of cake ; ) I get injuries that I never used to and they take much longer to heal. My brain holds an infinite amount of experience and wisdom but I can’t always access it at the moment I want to and I find myself saying much more often…”You know that thing, with the thing that does that thing!” And if I’m lucky, I have my very good friends around me who nod and say “Yep, I know exactly what you’re talking about.” God bless you sweet women, even if you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.

 

The truth is, despite my very best efforts (and I am VAIN so my efforts are intense), I have not always been able to age gracefully. Cue the time a 26 year old told me I was the perfect woman…for his Dad. Cue the 10 shooters I drank right after to console myself. Nothing graceful about that.  So I am going to try instead, to age gratefully.

 

Here’s what grateful means. Grateful means that I recognize that above 26 year old spent the better part of the night at my side and told me he had not had so much fun in all of his life. He also noted that he would have stayed longer but he felt truly that he would hold me back. Grateful means that despite the hangover that lasted almost 3 days, I can dance like a beast, drink like a sailor and become best friends with the DJ in a way that would have my 20 year old self green with envy. Because I am sure of myself in a way that my 20 year self could not have dreamed of. I accept compliments with “I know right?!” instead of “Oh this old thing?”. Grateful means when my adult son comes and sits on my bed and regales me with tales of how his friend doesn’t know how to do his own laundry – I recognize that my son DOES. And I taught him that. Even though he spent years turning everything pink. Our struggles have turned into accomplishment and his acknowledgement means it was all worth it. I’m grateful suddenly for the years he said I was the “meanest mom ever”. Even though to be honest, I did his laundry more times that he ever did.

 

Aging gratefully does not have to mean I turn in my sexuality badge and and get myself a cardigan. It means that I can redefine what sexy means to me. Sometimes I am the sexiest when I am in my sweat pants, pounding out a blog on my laptop, wine in hand, sparkle in my eye. And now I know to have people around me that recognize the sexy in that.  It also means that I can clean myself up in clothes that compliment my body, tell a story about what it can do, about what it has yet to do. I have a shirt I call “The Baby Maker” – let’s get real, I’m closer to being someone’s grandma than making any more babies but DAMN…it makes me feel like giving it my best go and by proxy, it has brought the suggestion from others. You know when you have a really good hair day, it brings all the boys to the yard? It’s the power of suggestion my friends. When you are oozing the HOT vibe, people can’t help but notice. Age is exactly like that. If you are putting off the varicose veins and water pills vibe, you will find people respond in kind. Here’s the thing, I have varicose veins. I have stretch marks too. But I can still rock a reverse cowgirl like nobody’s business. And you can too. If you like that kind of thing ; ) Define your own sexy and wear that shit, even if it is a cardigan.

 

Being grateful means presenting the things you know about yourself to be true and that you are proud of. My friend may not have said as much when she used the word “weary” but she got that way for a reason – because she is tireless and caring and relentless in the pursuit of sending out love. She got weary because she is fabulous. And being weary does not change all those fabulous things about her. And being grateful means we learn how to tell THAT part of the story too.

 

So tell me, if you couldn’t use a number to describe your age, what would your age look like? Go on and use the first word that comes into your head even if it’s negative but then look deeper into that and tell me why. If you could only use one picture, one symbol, one word – what would your age look like?

 

I’m going to stick with sunshine. It was given to me by someone who simply doesn’t have the ability to complicate the issue. And it resonated with me. I am silly and ridiculous and have never failed to see the good in any person, (Even you ex husband. Harumph). I am the life of the party. I am the burning hot optimist.  I am sunshine.

 

B  : ))))))))

 

Dad ….tales from Brandiland

DadIsn’t he handsome? That’s my Dad. He was in his 20s, before he met my mom. My mom says she was always so proud to have him on her arm. She knew he was an attractive man, knew other woman talked about what a catch he was. It made her feel special.

A picture never tells the whole story, but I wish it did. I have started telling this story about my parents almost 18 years after he died now. I love the look on people’s faces when I show them and they recognize that my little brother looks exactly like him in this picture. I love how they always comment how the apple must not have fallen far from the tree – cue my love of a good time. And I love most of all that no matter what happened after this picture, there was this moment in time that someone clearly thought enough of to snap a shot and he is so perfect in this picture that I am happy just gazing upon it. So I guess that makes it a Happy Father’s Day for me everyday.

The story doesn’t end well. No good story does. There was a time I would have started this story by telling you the biggest thing I remember about my Dad’s life was his death – he died by suicide November 11, 1996. I would be lying if I told you that doesn’t make me suck in my breath a little even all this time later. But even better, is how seeing this picture makes me suck my breath in now too, the sheer beauty and innocence of it. The other part of the story. We choose the stories we tell. We choose how we live them too. Grief does not elude me, it simply reminds me that I am still alive. It’s softer now, more bitter sweet than bitter and devastating.  I don’t even know when that happened. It reminds me of one of my favourite passages about grief:

“Grief is a peculiar thing; we’re so helpless in the face of it. It’s like a window that will simply not shut of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; one day we wonder what has become of it” – Arthur Golden

I am learning to tell new stories about my Dad and about our experiences together that make me shiver much less. My Dad used to call me his Little Mustard Seed. To this day, I have no idea why but I know that in giving me that nick name, it made me feel special, just like my Mom. And so I have finally started and ended a story about my Dad that doesn’t leave me in the freezing cold of a window that just won’t shut.

I know not everyone has a Dad today, some people like my best friend, have never known their Dad so I find it hard sometimes to just toss out Happy Father’s Day. So I will say instead, blessings to all of you that have loved, lost, lamented a Dad. You are in good company. I hope I get to hear your story one day too.

XO,

B

http://www.brandiland.net

 

 

tales from Brandiland

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When I am having a really bad day (or a really good day), I pull out this dog’s favourite toy and watch him lose his mind over it. Like LOSE his mind. He spends about 10 minutes making out with this toy and just getting to re-know it and everything he loves about it, like he can’t believe his good fortunate every single time he encounters it. I consider this the barometer by which I should have enthusiasm in my life – unbridled and out of control. Imagine if someone encountered you like that every day? I think we would solve the world’s problems in 5 minutes flat.

B

follow our B-Doll on Brandiland

Bad Ass Buddies

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I have Badass buddies! One of them is Brandi. Brandi has a Blog. Each time I read one of her entries I’m struck with the complexity of Brandilin and her willingness to bare her soul. Her blog is “Brandiland” and what a world it is! Take a bit of time to read her latest post – WOW is all I can say… That woman is deep!

Click here: to check it out – http://brandiland.net/ or click on the Brandiland tab
Keep reading if you want to know a little more about who she is from my perspective…

She’s a Chilled Chick. One of the things you may not know about us Chilled Chicks is that we’ve been through all the crap that life brings and then some. But Brandi is out there fighting on the front lines everyday. Brandi is one of those phenomenal Spirits; she hails from the land of KickAss in the galaxy of the Goddess Chicks.

Long after the flood has gone, she is still out there dealing with the aftermath in High River. What the news no longer shows is the last remnants of people’s sanity. Imagine being displaced and losing all you have, living in what is a basically refugee camp in the wealthiest part of Canada. imagine your despair triple it, then think of the people who have been there – side by side, offering comfort non-stop every day. Just imagine the energy it requires to keep those people level and functioning, and the crap that must confront social workers …all the social ills magnified then contained in less than a square mile! That would be Brandi and select few others. I have personally seen her metamorphosis when dealing with someone in crisis and thanked all the Gods and the Universe HARD at the time!

Peeps, the color of that woman’s eyes changed!!! The utter calm that descended as a mantle around her was utterly otherworldly. I was instantly humbled in the face of her patience and grace, knowing that I’d be crapping my pants inside with the responsibility of talking someone into wanting to stay alive. Angels come in all shapes and sizes and bodacious like Brandi! They swear, cry, get angry, have sex lives, children, spouses and debt but what they have an abundance of is love and the desire to help others.

I have Badass Buddies.  Brandi is one of them. 
http://brandiland.net/