Archive for May 2010

Extra Time and what one can do with it….

May 20, 2010

I started reading a new book this week that I’ve been meaning to get to for years: A History of God, by Karen Armstrong. I was actually down on myself yesterday, in a weird, paradoxical way, for having the time and headspace at this point in my life to embark on this heavy reading. You see, since we moved here last summer, I have lamented that I had to give up my last job (which I was quite enjoying). I had decided not to look for work here in our new home, and might have changed my mind on that point except that I am now four months pregnant….not an ideal time to start a job search!

So back to my reading…. I’m only three chapters in, so I won’t go ahead and start recommending it, but I am especially fascinated by all the research that has gone into this work. And last night, as I began the chapter outlining the beginnings of Christianity, I had a strange experience that reflects where I come from and a lot about my background.

I felt shocked – even hurt! – to read that Jesus was just a man. Just a man! What, not immaculately conceived, part of the patriarchal trinity I learned about in Sunday school and during my once or twice a year visits to church? Okay, I wasn’t really that naive, or devout to begin with. And I know, this is one book, one more of the thousands of interpretations of the story of Jesus that has come down to us throughout the generations. But still, I realize I’ve been “brainwashed” enough to have believed, in some part of my being, the Christmas story that is so central to my life (it is the occasion by which all family visits – and feuds and reconciliations – and school vacations and gift exchanges take place). I also realize, that story is another example of how the story of the religion so central to the society into which I was born, has evolved throughout history…Christmas isn’t, any longer, about Jesus being born to save us from ourselves. It’s about capitalism, and a jolly man, a newer myth in our society, known as St. Nick.

Okay, it’s a whole lot more complicated than that.

Still, I don’t know why I worried about my shock for even a moment. I’ve said for years now, that, although I was baptized in the Anglican church, that if I do have a religion, it’s the religion of nature (whatever that means…I guess just that I believe in nature, the changing of the seasons, the nature that brings us into the world, the nature of…nature!). I wouldn’t even say I follow paganism, because I’ve never been inclined to chant or practice incantations or experiment with odd herbs (unless I’m making soup!). But I’ve also never called myself an atheist, and I do, on occasion, whisper a quick prayer if I’m feeling hopeless or lost.

So Extra Time, and my solo musings on this particular book. This sort of book should be discussed in a group setting, there’s too much in it for me to babble on about here in my blog. But it’s on my mind, it’s keeping me from my fiction writing, it’s something I’m doing with my cursed gift of Extra Time here in the chilly north where it’s coming up on the May long weekend, and just barely above zero degrees (I might add, though, that it was warm enough last weekend that I got excited and bought up a couple of trays of plants during the first day of our local Canadian Tire’s plant sale).

One more thought for the day, to try to bring myself back to why I started this blog in the first place…. I’ve lived here, in my newest home now, for almost 10 months. And I’m feeling SETTLED. Six months was a shocker and a bummer, and I’m happy to say, I got over the hump and have survived to start enjoying my Time here. Extra Time. It all comes, as Winnie the Pooh would say, of having a schedule and sticking to it (like only watching TV once or twice a week, not every night, which frees up a lot of time!). Extra Time is a  rare gift in this day and age, when most articles you read are about how to Save Time. Not for me, not now. Stretch it out. My life is only going to get more chaotic in, oh, about five more months, when baby number three makes its debut. For now, bring on these moments I can fill with reading, writing…babbling…..


May 5, 2010

Okay, one more post on death and dying, and then I WILL get on with other subjects (I promise this more to myself than to anyone who might be reading this because, well, just ’cause, it’s time to move on from this topic!).

I presented the eulogy at my Grandmother’s funeral last month. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. That may sound sad and insignificant, but just let me tell you why it was such a big important deal…

First of all, being chosen by my Grandmother, prior to her death of course, to do the eulogy for her funeral was a huge honour.

Second of all, I was more nervous than I’d ever been for any school presentation, dance or piano recital, or any other big event in my life, and I had to overcome my fears and JUST DO IT.

My mom had told me a long time ago that my Grandma had requested me to do the eulogy. So it was something I had been thinking about for a long time, making notes about in my journals, crying into my pillow over it because although I never knew when the day might come, I knew it would come and I had to be ready. Honouring 90 years of a life is not something to take lightly. Especially when that life belonged to one of the most important people in MY life.

You see, my Grandma and I were kindred spirits. She was most certainly one of the best friends I have ever had, and she of course knew me better than anyone else on the planet, aside from my own parents. But my Grandma’s knowing was different from that of my parents. She could overlook my rebellions, my inadequacies, my self-doubts, and talk to me as an equal, despite the two-generation gap between us. She always told me to stop worrying, despite the fact that she herself was a first-class worrier, she always told me it was okay to make mistakes, but to apologize for them, and she sympathized when I wanted to sneak out of the house to meet my boyfriend, or any other act that was illicit in my parents’ eyes.

The day of the funeral arrived, followed by a hellish week of travel, and a middle-of-the-night trip to the hospital with my daughter who chose that week to contract her yearly ear infection (actually it was my wonderful husband to took her to the hospital, but I never did go back to sleep, and so dragged my pregnant, tired body through the motions of getting ready for the funeral the next morning with more than a little frustration).

I was shaking by the time I arrived at the church. I was practicing yoga breathing, slow, deep, even, but couldn’t stop the shudders from running through my body. I held my Grandma’s dear friend and we cried together, then had to get to the bathroom to compose myself before the service began.

I kept telling myself, over and over again, that I had to do this for my Grandma, it was the last good thing I could or would ever do for her. I asked my body to relax enough to just speak clearly – please, for goodness sake, just let my voice ring out clear and steady!

I sat between my mom and dad during the service. On my left, my mom, too, was nervous about breaking down for she, too, had a speech prepared which she would read out after I read mine. My dad, on my right, was a pillar of strength. I thought about how he had been that pillar for me on my wedding day. I had been all shiny and happy that day, and didn’t feel overwhelmed until the moment when my girls had all walked out the doors and down the aisle in front of me, leaving my dad and I waiting our turn to appear before all my friends and family. My dad had taken my hand in his arm, and very calmly talked me through the motions we would go through to get me to the aisle. Sitting at the front of the church I thought about that day, and drew strength from the memory.

The minister said my name, and I stood up. My Grandma’s ashes were in an urn next to a lovely picture of her from her 60th wedding anniversary. I kissed my hand and touched the urn as I walked by, wanting to connect with her in some way before I got up to the podium to speak about her.

My voice was very shaky in the beginning. I paced myself and breathed deeply until I got into the second paragraph of my notes, and then it got easier. I made eye contact with my Grandma’s devoted friends and family members sitting before me in the pews. I felt proud to be standing there, talking about what a wonderful, nice, often unadventurous, nurturing woman my Grandma had been. I had written about a few of her friends, and her three smart, ambitious, creative children, about how I had shocked her at one time claiming to have discovered Paganism as my new religion, but how the values of love and forgiveness that she taught me came from Christianity.

Many people spoke to me later, tears in their eyes, and told me my Grandma would have been proud of my eulogy. I imagine she was proud because, just as I had thought about the eulogy long before I wrote and presented it, I know she would have imagined me up there, speaking kind words about her. It’s an interesting sensation to miss her now, but at the same time to know that, more than before, she is with me always.