Finding A Little Grace

My parents used to play a Christmas joke every year. We would open all of our gifts, letting the excitement build for the grande gift finale, and then it would come time and I would watch in horrified confusion as my sister opened the one thing I had been wanting more than anything. Then as I got older and my siblings moved out, my big gift always seemed to be inadvertently left somewhere else, and I would be left wondering why I only got shirts before they brought out my CD player, that keyboard I never used, or the ever-so-awesome Playstation hours later. I don’t think that my parents were striving to teach us some big lesson, but it does strike me as a lesson that we all learn at some point in life– you need to work with the gifts you’re given, and have a little grace in accepting that what you get is not always negotiable. Grace. Gratitude. Acceptance.

In spite of my parents’ yearly joke, I never really learned this lesson. I have always prided myself on being stubborn, doing whatever it takes to reach my goals. In some cases, this is a wonderful trait. In others, it is an excruciating exercise in futility. When you’re broke and infertile, it’s a really infuriating trait to have.

About a year ago, our life was completely unmanageable. That’s sort of the hallmark of an addict’s life, but we were taking it to a ridiculous level. I was finally getting some sober time under my belt, but I was back working an unmanageable job 60 hours a week or more to try to save money for IVF (the only way I would ever get pregnant, I was told), my husband was putting in 14+ hour days with his commute, we had 6 dogs, a litter of pups, 4 cats, and 2 rescued birds; and we were living in a horrendous rental house with no heat and battling the landlord from hell. It had been three years since we’d started to try to conceive, and the crying every month and seeing the money never add up was really taxing me. I was getting fed up, ragged, run down.

Slowly, I started to look at my life in a new way, striving for acceptance to free me from the constant anguish of fighting a battle I would never win. It was a struggle to let go of the one thing I wanted more than anything else in life. I am accustomed to fighting like a bulldog for the things I want, and I normally win. It was during this battle with myself that we decided to give up on the rat race of Toronto, stop trying to force a dream we could never have, and build a new plan around new dreams. I started working on my business, Mercy!, which was a grand plan to sell vegan soaps and bath products to fund animal rescues, and to employ people in recovery and women leaving the sex trade. Kind of a huge goal for soap, eh? Yeah, it’s a home-based business now with the hope of just breaking even. We’ll see about saving the world after we pay our bills.

But I started it, and we started this new plan– to move out east, where we could afford a small piece of land to build our house. I realized I already was a mumma– the dog mother of all dog mothers. We decided that less time stressed, less time trying to convince ourselves that someday we would be able to afford a house in Ontario and as many rounds of IVF as it would take, all the while trying to maintain a growing farm of animals in the suburbs, sounded pretty good. We realized that if animals and nature were our love, we ought to go after that.

Slowly, I released my death grip of non-acceptance and control. The new plan felt good. I hadn’t forgotten about always wanting children, but I was finally busy and excited with something else, so I was able to free myself from the obsession of trying to conceive, which deserves a blog all of its own. I forgot to obsess over ever twinge in my body and wonder what it meant, and I just let myself feel good. There was a buzz around the house as we worked toward a new goal. Things felt new and manageable for the first time in our marriage.

We pulled ourselves together and finally demanded heat from our landlord, who responded by serving us a (wrongful) eviction notice. We fought him in court but decided to take some free rent and leave a bit early instead. We had 5 months to save, find a property, and buy it. We were excited. We could DO this.

And then my husband was laid off. An ice storm stole our power for a week in the coldest days of winter. But do you know what? We laughed through most of it. We snuggled up on the floor of the nearest subway station and charged our phone during the blackout. We lived on ramen noodles and clearance food. We were okay; we had a new plan, and things were finally going to be okay. There was finally a light at the end of the tunnel; we finally had a purpose, and a goal we could achieve. We had hope.

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We had 5 months, and we had nothing in our savings. You would think that we lost all hope at that point, but we learned to work with what we had. We lived on next to nothing, we started doing focus groups and clinical trials to earn extra money, and I began working around the clock to save the money we needed to move. What can I say; we’ve always been dreamers.

March rolled around and we were exhausted, but focused and making progress. We had 30 days before we needed to leave our house, and we hadn’t found a property yet, nor saved everything we needed, but we knew we would make it, and we were happy. We were a solid team with a great playbook.

But we didn’t have the master playbook, and finally something came along that was out of our league. It was my birthday, in March, with less than a month before we were to leave, and I had found the property we were going to buy and had been in email negotiations with the owner. I had been feeling like a freight train hit me for months, exhausted from work and run ragged from our life, but all of a sudden I was a level of exhausted that I hadn’t been before. I was complaining to the Hub about how I could sleep all day and night and then sleep some more when he made the brilliant, but timid, realization that maybe, just maybe, I should take a pregnancy test. I dismissed him, quickly and sharply, but he didn’t listen and stealthily slipped out to the store to pick one up.

I was hesitant and slightly perturbed, just looking at the stupid thing. I am sick of these damn pee sticks ruining my life! It took a few minutes for a result to come up, and my reaction took even me by surprise. I stormed out of the bathroom, wordless, but angry. I couldn’t quite bring anything into focus. I threw myself down on the bed and ignored my husband’s confused questioning. After a moment, I looked up, yelled “This is a nasty, nasty trick!!” and started to bawl, throwing the test at him. It wouldn’t sink in. I could NOT let myself believe it. The end to all my pain was there, two little lines on a urine-coated stick, and I could not let it in, could not see it as anything but a taunting cliche that wasn’t true for me.

I paced. I fretted. I convinced myself it had to be ectopic, if it was even a real positive. I went slightly, more than slightly, insane. We went to the hospital; me, hell-bent on proving it was wrong, my husband ever so certain that it was both correct, but also a girl. We waited. I shook a little. He held me.

It was there. It was in the right place, and eventually, after a few weeks, it even had a heartbeat. It took me until at least the second trimester to begin to believe it was really happening, and even then there were times I was certain something would change, and the whole world would come falling down again. But it didn’t. It was there… She was there, though we didn’t know a thing about her at that point. Hell, we didn’t know a thing about what to do next.

But we persevered. We bought the land, and a few days later a truck, and then a trailer. We gathered up everything we owned and put not even a tenth of it in our trailer, loaded the truck full of dogs, and kept on with our crazy dream. Because we didn’t know what else to do. The few people who knew about her called us crazy, irresponsible even, but we had nothing in Toronto. No work, no home, no light, just tunnel. It wasn’t easy, but that’s my next blog post. Maybe the next two.

Either way, we were on our way to learning a hell of a lot more about grace. We’re still not where we set out to be, but we’re still working on it– hopeful and grateful as ever. How could I not be, with my little Grace Ann sleeping right next to me now, almost two months old, and entirely perfect. I won’t ever stop being grateful for this gift. It was hidden away from me for far too long. My life-sustaining Grace is now my life, sustaining Grace.

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Assholes in Remission, or snippets of a marriage

If you are a linear thinker, you’ll like me for this. In order to tell our story, I ought to begin where it did. Yes, I’m going to talk about our story beginning when we, as a couple, began. No, I do not want my feminist friends to shake their heads and think I believe my life began when I met my husband. You know better. It’s just that all things before that point are mostly irrelevant to this blog.

Call me crazy, but I married my husband almost a year to the day after meeting him. It’s okay, we have 7 dogs and 6 cats; we get called crazy all the time. There have been times I’ve questioned my own sanity for this, I won’t lie, but most days I wake up with my rose-coloured glasses on and am grateful to have married my best friend.

We had a strange start. No really, unless you’re an addict that married another one, we had a rougher, stranger start than you could probably understand. I was hustling at a job I won’t mention on this blog, and it was killing my soul. I had just left a teaching job and moved to Toronto, and my husband had just lost his parents and was living a slightly insane life with his inheritance. We were both in a state of chaos and excess, and the blur that was our partying beginning would easily qualify as a “war story” in recovery circles. I don’t have anything to prove these days, so we’ll leave it at that.

The Hub took me in, got me out of the hell that I was calling life, and we happily went about domesticating each other. Sort of. We walked our three dogs, we bought a parrot, we laughed our way around the city and took the ferry to the island and biked around. To our visiting friends and family, it probably appeared either idyllic or Gatsby-esque, as we slipped into the hot tub and gazed out at the lake, giggling, every night.

We talked fast, we walked fast, and we laughed even more quickly. We were two peas in a little padded pod. But in the background, a tempest was tearing down every wonderful memory, trying to chew them to pieces before they could even solidify in my soggy brain.

Not long after we were married, the biggest challenge to our marriage and sanity reared it’s head and refused to be ignored: I had an actual drinking problem, and it wasn’t cute anymore. I drank, I raged, and I woke up with no memory of any of it. I was a tornado, tearing everything around me to shreds, while sitting peacefully oblivious in the eye of my own destruction. Like myself, my addiction moved quickly, and I hit a bottom that left only death as the unexplored consequence.

Not many new spouses would put up with the gruesome darkness I drove our marriage into, but I’ve been graced with family that doesn’t quit, and my husband is no exception. My parents got me into rehab, my husband stood by my side, and I got my first six months under my belt. I stood up proudly, and then fell down. I stood, I wavered, I fell. I stood, I wavered, I fell. Even I was getting sick of myself after two years of this pattern, and that became my turning point: I got sick and tired of being sick and tired of myself. I was exhausted from the guilt.

Of course nothing was this simple, and if I’m brutally honest, the Hub isn’t innocent either, but this is MY blog, and it’s not my place to confess the sins of others. I’ve been sober for about a year now, and it dawns on me that my marriage began in the midst of the most chaotic and ugly part of my life, but as my father said in his toast at our wedding, sometimes things DO move from chaos to order. Our marriage was my Big Bang.

We’re not perfect, but we’re still here. We’re the family we chose for ourselves, and we’ve been through beautiful turmoil since marriage, and continue to go through it hand in hand. We’re assholes in remission, I like to say. At first glance, it may seem that I’ve put on my rose-coloured glasses and refuse to take them off, but the truth of it is that I choose to look at the world through my gratitude these days, and that is how I keep grace in my life. In my vows I promised to see him through my love every day, and in turn I’ve come to realize that he’s done just that for me– even when the sight of me would have made most turn away. I’m grateful to have my best friend by my side every day.1601331_10152240103818638_1178347774_n