Oh! What a tangle web we weave…

It all started with a very large flat screen TV, one in which my father had for a little over a  year, was replaced by the newest technology of flat screens – something about a 4K. The size was way too large for our small townhouse. But he did have another flat screen that would be the maximum width for our basement wall waiting for us for a couple of years now. Since Doug found a suitor for the too-big-screen-for-us, his co-worker, a fellow firefighter, the deal was this:

“Sean, take my father-in-law’s TV and while you are there, help me load the other one into the van. Then come and help me carry it in to our basement.” Doug arranged for a date when they were going off shift.

Sean asked, “Doesn’t your FIL want anything for his TV?”

“Well, you can offer him something but he really just wants to get rid of it. And it’s a 2 person job – he doesn’t want to do any of the heavy lifting.”

And both of the flat screens were very heavy. When Sean’s wife came home her reaction was, “Whoa! That’s big. Bigger than I thought!”

To which happy and ecstatic Sean replied, “I KNOW! ISN’T IT AWESOME!!!”

The thing is Doug and I will have to make some adjustments to our basement before we can mount our new-used flat screen up on our wall. And my family is always so concerned about him getting injured. Believe me, I am too. We may need to bride a friend or two to come over to help for exchange of a really nice dinner and very good alcohol. (Now that we are at this stage of life, pizza and beer doesn’t seem to be that great of an exchange anymore.)

My family, however, are relentless. And if they think for one minute Doug has no one to help him they will harp and harp and harp on us to the boundaries of one’s sanity. So to eliminate the process of harping which was, on Friday night, on the edge of happening, Doug said, “Sean’s coming over Sunday on the way home from our shift to help out.”

The problem with this white lie – I had no idea this was a white lie. There wasn’t any game plan between Doug and I to plan this lie. It was just a lie – an on the spot lie.

I said, in front of my family, “Really? Sean’s coming over. Huh. And when were you going to tell me this? I would have been romping around in my PJ’s when you guys come home!”

So this morning, I woke up early. I normally wake up 7:30 AM and wait for Doug to come home from his shift. But today, I woke up around 6:30 AM. So I could make sure our powder room was clean enough for guests. So I could do my hair, take a shower, put on some decent clothes. So I could touch my face up with light make-up, take Hobbes outside and put away the dishes from the dishwasher which was turned on before going to bed. After all, we needed clean dishes in case Sean stays for breakfast. I was about to grind and press some fresh coffee, too, so the boys could have a nice mug of hot java when they come in. I did a lot of things I normally would not do on a Sunday morning between 6:30 am and 7:30 am.

Then Doug came home.

Alone.

I asked, “Where’s Sean?”

His response, “Oh, he’s not coming.”

“What – tough shift? Too tired?”

“No.”

“Is he coming over another day?”

“No. I just told your family he was coming so they didn’t worry about me doing the heavy work on my own.”

“Oh. Wait… what? He never was going to come and help?”

“No. Oh – Sorry. I forgot to text you yesterday.”

“Doug. I woke up early and did a lot of unnecessary things on my Sunday morning thinking we were going to have a guest over.”

“Well, at least now you’re up and awake and got some stuff done!”

I don’t think that was really an apology. But I do admit it was nice to be up early and have the whole day ahead of me!

Post-Christmas quiet

Past Christmas to New Year’s week use to be a swarm of activities. I used to have a packed schedule, usually with family plus in between visits with friends.

I also used to email with my girlfriend almost every single year, both of us with one vent – the same vent year after year – “Why can’t we just be left alone to relax?”

Obligations – we were continuously planning our schedule to make everyone else happy.

Christmas Stockings

Christmas morning – our stockings are stuffed.

This year, the same thing happens. I’m working myself hard at work while preparing for our holiday festivities to the point where I’m burnt out, exhausted beyond hope and eventually, finding myself with a very uncomfortable cold. The bug bit down on me overnight from December 23rd to Christmas Eve morning. As if to say, Well, now that you’re done working 60 hours a week, cramming the last bit of crap in the office, it’s time for you the pay for what you’ve done to your body!

I’ve gotten better, of course. My family always thinks, year after year, that just because I take the whole week off, I’m available to meet up with them 5 times for lunch, get-togethers, dinners, etc. The truth is, I’m not the social butterfly I use to be in my 20’s. Even that was short-lived. The honest to God truth is that I need a lot of downtime now to recharge myself for the next social gathering.

So, this year, I limited the celebrations to Christmas dinner at my aunt’s place (on Christmas Eve), my birthday, and my mom’s birthday at the very end of the week. It’s down to 3 times with family, no visits with friends and staying home as much as I can with just my family in between. Including New Year’s Eve – a holiday my husband and I don’t really care for anyway. And I wonder why we pushed ourselves to do it every year when truth be told, we’re so tired by NYE that I’m literally looking at the time every 10 minutes or so starting 9pm until midnight, praying time will go faster so I can just go home and go to bed!

And the family is getting better at understanding how tired I am and the amount of rest I need. I use to get awful backlash for not being as available as they want me to be. Finally, in the past few years I have been brutally honest – that I just want to be left alone, left to have NO SCHEDULE and just time to unwind. That’s basically it. Call me anti-social but that’s the only way I’ll be happy.

Still, it’s a hard habit to kick. When it came to my birthday, without realizing it, I was even planning the day to make everyone else happy. My husband and daughter really wanted to see Star Wars – Rogue One, and I knew my parents wanted to see it as well. To minimize having to go a different day and therefore, having to see them again (because you see, it’s not just going to a movie but there will be an expected dinner afterwards with the whole family) I planned on the day we were to have my birthday dinner at our house (take-out sushi). See how that works? I had to squeeze in the movie the same day just so I could free up the following days.

sheep onesie

She’s been living in her new onesie

After getting sick, we called off the movie and possibly the sushi dinner as well, but as soon as I started to feel better, the dinner was back on (which I didn’t mind since it’s sushi and at our place), my husband started to get all excited that the movie was back on too.

I told him, “Hold it. I didn’t say the movie was back on.”

He said, “But don’t you want to see it?”

“I do. But I’m not in as much of a rush to see it as you.”

“So we see it later in the week?”

“No – because that means I’ll have to see my family. Again!”

“So why don’t the 3 of us see it and then see it again with your parents?”

“I don’t have the time or energy to do that! The movie will still be around the following weekend.”

“But…”

“Look – it’s too much for me. Go see it with C. If it’s that good you can see it again with me. Or not and I’ll go on my own.” (Truth be told I use to love seeing movies on my own!)

He was disappointed but also realized that the plans I had to see Star Wars was more for everyone else and not really for myself. As much as I hate to disappoint him, and there’s this small voice in my head that is nagging me to just do it – get it over with and make everyone happy about seeing the movie on my birthday – I just know I’ll feel worn out and this cold may never truly go away in time for me to enjoy the rest of my holiday.

People get use to the “reliable” you when you are always the one that makes everyone else happy. And it’s really about striking that balance to keep them happy and keep myself happy. I love my family, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy getting together with them for Christmas, birthdays and just family time every now and then.

But I can’t see them so often that it feels that they are getting their way, and not giving me what I need – solitude. It’s nothing personal.It’s not that I love them any less. But I love solitude. I love having free time to do as I please because I rarely get that anymore.

pooped dog

What can make this dog so pooped!

Like my dog in the above photo, I’m just so… exhausted.

On Being a Firefighter’s Wife, Part IV

This entry will not be as heavy or serious as the previous 3 On Being a Firefighter’s Wife. It is just something that’s been on my mind lately – In all honesty, it has to do with me more than my husband.

The realization I’ve had is that he has been a firefighter for a few years now. His shift has not changed. During their shift cycle, there are still two weekends where he has to work one or two days. On one of those weekends, he is gone all Friday and all Sunday. On the other one of those weekends, he is gone all Saturday.

The Saturday one I can take. Sometimes, we get invited out to social events with friends and he can not be there. Over all, though, I’ve adjusted to that. Plus, when he comes home to us Sunday morning, for a full brunch and some type of outdoor outing, it’s a great feeling! I can not describe it. It’s just… wonderful! To have him home with us safe and sound.

It’s like a cheesy feel-good family movie. I’m up early to greet him, then when he comes through the door, our dog nearly pounced towards the door, barking and whining as he wonders why it’s taking so long for daddy to come in, our daughter wakes up to give her dad a sleepy hug…

And the small things that makes life happy starts to work its magic… the smell of freshly made coffee from freshly ground up beans, eggs & bacon sizzling in the frying pan (or whatever we’re creating for brunch that day) – Both the smell and sound infuses into this Sunday morning bliss.

Then, that weekend where he works on a Friday and Sunday comes along. It’s not that it’s just 2 days of the weekend. There’s just this bit of empty feeling I get when he is not home with us after a long week of work – I can not celebrate that crazy end of the week with my best friend. Nor do I have him around Sunday… the last bit of peace before the daily grind hits us again.

This empty feeling I get is worse now that my work load and responsibility is so heavy. It’s always been there, though. From the start of his career. I know it sounds so trivial but I thought I would be use to it by now.

And it surprises me that I’m still getting that bluesy feeling when I don’t have him at the start and end of a weekend because I’m such an independent person. I’ve never had any issues doing things on my own – In fact, to this day, I love being on my own from time to time. I continue to leave early weekend mornings when he is home, to get a manicure or pedicure, every now and then – Just to be on my own for small doses at a time. Or reading at a coffee shop – for an hour or so. I never am the type of person that needs to have some one with me when I go out and do or see things. When I’m on a business trip, sometimes, I am on my own for dinner and in the evenings. There’s nothing I love more than to dine somewhere and explore afterwards, completely on my own.

Yes – these Sundays when he is not around. I still am not really getting use to it – And I’m not sure if this feeling will ever go away, either.

Apres Ski Conversations

Things come to my mind at odd times. Old memories can be stirred from an activity that I’m doing. Or places that I am visiting (both new and old places).

L'Hotel Horizon Bar

Apres ski bar of L’Hotel Horizon (Sutton, QC)

Over a shared bottle of wine with my husband, between appetizers and our main course, he started to talk about his ski patrol days… of how sometimes he misses it but does not miss the commitment level he had to put in every weekend just to be able to afford skiing.

L'Hotel Horizon Terrace

View from our room in the Auberge.

I told him I don’t fully understand this concept – not that I disagree with it, it’s just not something I have been through. The closest I’ve ever been to that level of intense team work was during my dragon boating days. And while I have no regrets of those days, I don’t miss it. I see it as a different part of my life – one that I’m over with. And that’s always been my case. I do something until I’m ready to move on to another phase of my life. I never realized this about myself until I had this conversation.

L'Hotel Horizon Lounge

Auberge louge for reading and board games

And so these times of regrets for me are far and few. I will work hard to get to a level I am satsified of achieving and then it’s on to something else. I wonder if this will happen with snowboarding? It is getting harder and harder on my body with age. And as frustrating as I get at it, I am not yet ready to give-up for downhill skiing.

Le Cafetier

Le Cafetier – wonderful French cafe in Sutton, QC

But I do have regrets. And for some reason, I suppose it is because Doug brought up his days of ski patrolling, where I started to remember Tamara.

Chaeli then asked who Tamara was. So I told her, “She was daddy’s ex-girlfriend. From before mommy.” I added the last statement in quickly to avoid any confusion on my daughter’s part.

Le Cafetier

The fantastic, fresh, organic ingredients – so delish!

I was then finding myself filled with regret. And so, perhaps from 1/3rd bottle of red wine I had in me by then, I said to my daughter, “I regret not getting to know Tamara more.”

She looked at me perplexed, “Why? Wouldn’t that have been awkward anyway?”

“Yes, it was awkward between Tamara and I when we first met. But she tried. I didn’t. I let my insecurities get the best of me. And saw her as a threat.”

“But why does it matter now?”

Le Cafetier

Local artists are supported by Le Cafeteir – such as this gorgeous, mosaic, stained glass window

Chaeli was still very young at the time. Not even in pre-school when we got the call. Doug got the call, actually – from a former ski-patroller. When Doug hung up, I knew something was not right. I asked him what was wrong and he whispered, “Tamara… she took her own life.”

Now, I’m not saying that had I had not allowed my walls to block her out, that her and I would have become good friends. Or that had we had become friends, I would have been able to do something to ensure her life did not end so early and so tragically.

She suffered from mental health disorder. And she tried to overcome it. But even with her life filled with love, a huge community and all the great volunteer work she did, nothing could end her suffering.

I regret for selfish reasons. I know now, as I look back and remember her through clearer eyes and more confidence of who I am, that she was a good person. Who would have touched my life much more had I given her a chance (given myself a chance, that is).

So when it comes to people I can have regrets. Through my actions or no actions at all. I do and can have regrets.