Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mothers Day for the Spinster

Happy Mother's day! And to all you brave women who are moms, I bow. 

 Motherhood is something that I do not take for granted. We women are blessed with the ability to grow,  give birth,  nurture a baby and guide him or her to adulthood. Beyond this miraculous biological feat which almost any female can undertake, I have always regarded the responsibility with huge respect.

Although I made the choice to be childless, it was not an easy one as there were certainly times of natural hormonal pangs. In my 20's I was certain that I wanted to experience pregnancy and motherhood. However I just knew at that age there were so many things I wanted to do before dedicating myself to being a mother. Oh, I had the youth, a strong body and a husband I loved BUT I knew I did not want to ever regret looking at our child and thinking, I could have.......

When I was in my early 30's my husband decided he was through, so in addition to  building a new life alone, I took full use of the time to experience all sorts of new things, meet new people,  and develop who I was (not only who I was with him).  That life was finished and I needed to create experiences and raising a child alone was not my intention. Starting over was hard enough.  

Some people may consider this selfishness, but I saw it as having a life before I could produce another. I was fortunate that my parents never pressured me, but most of society looks at a childless women as strange. Even though this was the era of women choosing careers and waiting until their late 30's to have a family, there still is a bit of a stigma when one chooses not.  When I traveled to foreign countries and explained I was childless, it was routinely looked at as a problem and "poor me".   And it was not about infertility, which is a completely different circumstance, mine was by choice.

So when I met Yves and he had his 3 and we were to become 5, I was already 48.  The opportunity to be a mother came at a time where I was content to back down form the career, sports, travel etc. I embraced the new role as "Step Mom" with passion.  The children and I bonded easily and it did not take long to understand and give the unconditional love of a mother.  I truly understood the bond of the family and when my world came tumbling down, I grieved the loss as hard as the loss of their father.

Nonetheless in the wise words of my mother, who passed away 5 years ago "It is what it IS" thus I do not look back nor do I want sympathy. After all, I chose during my earlier (fertile) years not to propagate.  I always battled the thought that I did not need to pass on my DNA, that life has so many ups and downs, as well as unwanted children, then why add more beings to this overpopulated and sometimes chaotic world?

Therefore, I am at times an outsider. I cannot share stories of my children with the Moms, proudly boasting of  their antics,  accomplishments or sorrows. I will not be a grandmother or recieve Mothers day card . I belong to that childless group of aging women that when I was a child, always wondered why. Now I understand... Life differs for all and with that we must embrace what we do have and cherish the relationships we make..

So to all my women friends (mothers or not) Happy Mothers day!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hei Matau - friendships

Memories/past chapters -  this one is set in bone and is called a hei matau. It is a common traditional necklace worn by the Mauri people of New Zealand and represents strength, good luck, and safe travels across the water.

This hei matau was given to me before I boarded the plane back to the USA after living in Auckland for  nearly 2 years by a young Maori colleague who apprenticed with me. At the time,  I was surprised and honored that she came to the airport to say goodbye. As I frantically tore through my suitcases at the airport to make the allotted weight allowance, I began to throw out all unnecessary items. She stood by watching me discard anything I thought could go and as I motioned to throw out one of my bodybuilding trophies, she took it. "Just filler" I thought yet  kept the one I earned with the Maori carving. After the suitcases were closed and the weight limits met, she then gave me a big hug and a small package. As I unwrapped the paper, I smiled when I saw the hand carved fish hook necklace. At this time in my life, I needed to wear one, so the timing was brilliant.  My life had turned inside out and only a few people knew. She was one.

Jenny Hawraki was a sturdy, lively, and  kind Maori girl who grew up in rural Rotarua but came to Auckland to learn sport studies, teach classes and try to assimilate in a "non" Maori world. She was a solidly built woman with disheveled locks that framed her round face and with a genuine smile.

When I arrived to take my job as director of the fitness programs in a private Women's only gym in Auckand, New Zealand in 1992, I knew very little about the Maori culture. What I quickly learned and witnessed was that there was segregation and tension similar to the Native Americans in the USA. There was government housing areas and lands that non Maoris were not welcomed.  I lived near a Marae and walked past it regularly. I was told it was for Maoris only so never dared to explore on my own.

At that time (1982)  their were two Maori instructors at the gym. The first was Tessa: a soft spoken woman with a thick black braid who had a subdued demeanor, full of manors and treated everyone with respect.  She taught with a gentleness that many of the ladies embraced.

The second: Jenny H, was an intern bouncing with energy. She was new to teaching but had passion to soak in and deliver it back. She was rough around the edges but once she began her lesson the sweetness shone through. She would come to my classes with huge enthusiasm and afterward we would talk for hours about choreography, muscles, class designs etc. Her drive to learn sparked mine and we shared many hours.

Although there was no outright discrimination at the gym, it was evident to me that she and Tessa did not "fit in" the same way as the ladies who frequented the facility.  There was no hostility nor incident that I can recall but the looks and innuendos I will never forget. Tessa was quiet and only responded when prompted and tended to take a back seat. But Jenny was rural, a bit brash and from a poor family so her clothes and outfits were not the latest fashion. Her car was old and she arrived a bit disordered, but anyone with insight could see her genuine heart and full spirit. She may have not "fit in" like the others but she certainly did not care. I liked her from the moment we met.

When my mother and sister came for a visit from the USA , I unfortunately did not have a lot of extra time to take them sightseeing. Jenny stepped in and took them to Rotarua. She gave them the "homegirl" tour which included meeting and having lunch with her grandmother. When I heard how great of a time they had, I was a bit jealous! Somehow work, training and stuff got it the way.

It was a busy time in my career and I juggled the full time work with training for my first bodybuilding competitions.  My energy was full on, as I taught classes, co-managed the facility all while lifting, training  and dieting with 100% focus. Then my husband of 12 years dropped the news he was leaving me (he did not disclose for another woman, but apparently everyone else knew) I was shattered. I was 34 and now alone in a country that was not my home. I had no choice but to return and rebuild. The hei matau was welcomed.

So here I am 21 years and many chapters later, and I finally took the fishtail off my bedroom mirror. As I hang it around my neck, I feel another era is closing, and I embrace the new me. Jenny, wherever you may be,  I once again salute and thank you your gift !
Ka mate te kāinga tahi, ka ora te kāinga rua -  When one house dies, a second lives 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Embracing change....

As our cells are constantly renewing themselves on a daily weekly and yearly basis, why is it change can be so difficult to accept?

Time heals all wounds is what we are told yet that is not a complete truth. The wounds become scars and in many cases the scars and repercussions of the deformities create compensation. We have no choice but to do the best we can with what we are dealt but that is also not an easy task.

It appears the journey takes time, contemplation, movement,  confrontation and acceptance. For those of us who have been taught to strive for being the best you can and make full use of your time,  standing still is like a prison. I have been an inmate for four years. I kept myself busy, did outrageous bike events, traveled with abundance, trained my ears out and dreamed for a future. But what I did not realize was that idleness is important for the process of change.  Slowing down and simplifying expectations can also be a symbol for change.

I am learning to appreciate the power of nothing and  to enjoy the moments of change. I am a new me: the reinvention of the the next life, one with more compassion and openness to build upon the wisdom I have gained from the last five decades.  Live life!  

no words...found this unpublished post from Jan 2014

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Perspective and daily outlook has come 360 degrees since that fateful day of August 13, 2011. Once again on that day, impermanence slapped me hard in the face. However,  this time when I was able to stand up and the birds stopped flying around my dizzy head, I saw a new light. It was not that the light hadn't shone in me before, it was only brighter and clearer then ever. It pointed stronger than ever that nothing REALLY matters except the moment and what you choose to do with each one of them.

After all, each one consists of  huge gambles based on choices, passion and then luck of the draw. Being in the right  time at the right place coupled by decision.  Even in tragedy, it is apparent that the right time/moment for that particular story is that particular ordeal.

I'm convinced that some of us are destined to be battered emotionally more than others and our role is to endure and re surge with more strength, empathy and compassion. Hence to reinvent the next chapter and make it  simpler and purer than the previous. Others choose to wallow in the mire and live a life with internal hell but that is NO life for me!

After all, is is all impermanent. All things will and must pass but why as humans do we struggle with letting go? It seems to be a process that eases as time and experiences weather one's soul. Not that is is ever easy as that would show lack of emotion but instead the ability to pick up and move forward with less weight.

Perhaps when that point is reached and detachment is truly attained , then it is the end of the story on this plane..Until then, I shall keep moving with little regrets and much appreciation for every beat, joy and pain and with eyes wide open for more.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Today I vow to take a step backward

I am not a person who needs a lot of "stuff" and literally can wear the same clothes, eat off the same plate, etc etc.  I appreciate nice things and have had periods in my life where those things had greater importance. And of course, like most women enjoy buying a new outfit and unlike most, a new bicycle. However I tend to do both things in moderation.
Perhaps my experiences with loss have given me a different perspective. I am not really sure why but that does not matter.

The older I get the more I forget details of decades past.  Trying to live in the present as well as setting sights on the tomorrows take precedent. But every once in a while, a piece of times long ago surface, and as always I am humbled with the memories that they clearly evoke. It is only then, that I truly can mark my age.

Although I try not to be attached to material things, I do have a habit for saving certain things and as it turns out, these things are practically obsolete. Today while looking for some blank note cards that I had put in storage boxes , I stumbled on a few bundles of letters and cards that were bunched together with old rubber bands. Curiously I looked at a few. There were birthday cards from 20+ years ago, a wedding invitation and a number of photos. What really drew my eye were the aerogrammes and letters. Letters!!!! A wonderful thing of the past. Life before the web, internet, email, smart phones and instant messaging. It instantly brought me back. The blue papered aerograms especially bought warmth to my heart. How beautiful it was when we actually took the time and thought to pen a letter then send it via post, knowing it would takes days or even weeks to be received. The excitement of waiting for a reply brings back a wonderful time of innocence and patience.  As much as I use and appreciate the conveniences of having so many communication options, I sometimes think we were much better off when we had less "connectivity". We had to make more of an effort and we had to think before we wrote. Instant gratification did not apply.  When was the last time you received a note, card or letter via post?  Well look out!  you may find one from me.... but be patient, snail mail is slow..

Friday, September 6, 2013

All things must pass.....

August has come and gone and summer is officially on her way out....The days are shorter and here in Belgium it is inevitable that the temperatures shall drop and rain will return. Seasons and cycles are prevalent here and it fairly predictable.

However this August was pivotal for me and brought much relief in many ways. It was a month of reflection, a month of independence, and a month of moving forward. Seeing more clearly and letting go of some unrealistic people and ideas. I indulged myself the entire month to do what I love! France was exactly what I needed and enjoyed each day as if it were my last. I rode my bike up mountains, enjoyed the beauty of Provence,  the warm sunshine and wonderful foods of the region. I spent most of this time alone but being alone in a beautiful place is so much easier than alone in one that brings no joy. I was content.

Dealing with loss is something that never becomes easy however,  the more you lose, the less the expectations are and the realization that nothing is permanent.. Therefore, being in the moment is truly the only thing we really can do.. So why not take each moment for what it is and find a positive to focus on?
During this August recharging period,  I found out my only brother is dying and my only sister had to be hospitalized.. and here I was climbing big mountains on my bike. Yet, that gave me more reason to do what I love!!  Life is so unpredictable and I am thankful everyday for my health, for my strong will, and the ability to persevere with a smile.

But today brought a different pleasant surprise. 
The reason I write these blogs is to share my experiences as well as it allows me to sort my crazy brain out. However, I have  a secret desire that someone may find inspiration and can benefit from the thoughts I write and today this became real.

While checking my email I received a message from a long ago former colleague and friend that I hadn't heard from in years..
 For some reason he was thinking of me and decided to google me.. Well, I am absolutely the most un-private person in this universe and everything from old race results, training advice to my blog shows up. Thus he begins reading this array of scribblings.

He had recently experienced sudden loss and upon stumbling on my writings found comfort and perhaps even solidarity in knowing that he is not alone in his feelings, and that life can go on.. That IS exactly my point, life DOES go on!

Of course the grieving period is a necessary evil that we have to look in the face but the blackness and emptiness dissipates with time if you allow it. This doesn't mean you will stop having  moments of intense sorrow but that they get less and less. Life as you now know it now different however it goes on.

Now don't get me wrong,  there were many times I contemplated death as it seemed like an easy way out of this painful world. But somehow  I kept my head out of that water..Diverted my pain by writing these blog posts, listening to others, riding my bike and believing it can be good again.

And no matter what.... I believe it. Life can and IS good again. It's all how you view it and want it to be!!!  xxx