Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Country Fair

Been gone four days to the country with Rob, my sister Gael, and her spouse Larry. I'm not used to doing a couple thing - travelling married - and hearing and indulging in couple dialogue. It was an interesting few days.

We picked up Gael and Larry at the airport and drove straight to the border, along Highway 5 to La Connor, and straight to the hotel that we had booked online - thanks to Zoe, Larry's GPS (Global Positioning System) that the guys agreed was better than a wife - a female voice that gives directions, never gets angry.

Our hotel was quaint and lovely, and best of all, empty. A young woman, Amanda was at the reception desk and couldn't have been more helpful. Only trouble is she couldn't find an open restaurant in town and it was only 9 in the evening. We ended up going to the grocery store and buying Italian sausage, bread, cheese, salmon and cream cheese and eating picnic-style in our room. After, gracious Amanda bent the rules and let us climb into the hot tub.

The next morning we explored the town, a lovely restored artsy-fartsy place with dozens of little shops and a great book store and then caught the ferry to Port Townsend. Our motel, on the water, had a glorious view - that's it - and though we whined a little, (and upset Rob who had made around a dozen calls trying to find us a character hotel) we had to stay put. It was an American long weekend and everything was booked. In the evening, we went to Pete's Place - a fine dining and jazz place where locals drop in and play their music. It was surprisingly good.

The next day, we headed to the Shrimp Festival in a little town perhaps an hour from Port Townsend - and Zoe again directed us with the men singing her praises - think I was getting a little jealous of her calm authoratative voice and the fact that the guys followed her instructions. The fair was pure country - the picture above taken on the grounds - and the highlight of the day was the belt-sander race. Before we arrived I didn't know what all the fuss was about. I had images of guys running with a hand sander. Or perhaps, I thought, there are planks of old wood and the guys had to sand them down. Whoever did the best job, won. (Rather sexist of me, I now realize. Perhaps women too could be aroused by these nifty little hand tools.)

At one end of the field, across from a stage where country music belted out, I found out what belt-sander races are all about. There was one long plank of wood with grooves and two sanders were lined up (the sanders had been altered with wheels and decorated with stuffed animal heads - i.e. one was a devil, another a bunny - and then placed at one end of the plank where a miniature traffic light was placed. When the light turned green, the two sanders took off and raced down the plank. The crowd was warned that this is a dangerous sport and mustn't stand at the far end as some sanders had taken to flight in past races. It took hours to set up and after one race, we realized that we could not stand so much excitement and left. But not before, we had tried the crispy spiced shrimp done on the barbeque and Rob, through cunning and perseverance, was able to get the recipe from one tight mouthed chef. Oops, I nearly forgot, the huge block of french fries we shared - mostly my sister and me. I find she is as passionate about potatoes as me.

The next day we drove to Port Angeles and caught another ferry to Victoria. When we arrived in Canada, the sun was shining, the flowers lining the harbour were in gorgeous colourful bloom, and our hotel - also booked online - was perfectly located and spacious and wonderful. Sigh of relief. We wished that we had spent two nights in Victoria and one in Port Townsend.

All in all, our mini vacation was revitalizing. I especially liked the three ferry rides. And enjoyed the company. I don't see Gael and Larry much and both Rob and I agreed that they are fun people. And it was good to get reacquainted with this sister who's around seven years younger than I am. At one point in a bookstore, I saw a poem that reminded me of my dad and I called my sister over. She agreed that the poem caught Dad's spirit. I hugged her. It was nice having someone who understands where I am coming from...

And another interesting happening was the married dialogue. At first I was annoyed. One of the couple would say one thing and then the other would correct him or her.

For example, one such conversation went like this:

Larry: What time do you get up?
Me: Around 4:30 or 5.
Larry: Wow.
Rob: No, you don't. You've been getting up later than me most mornings.
Me: That's not true.
Rob: Yes it is.
Me: I am not going to fight with you. (In a voice so angry, I scared myself - and the waitress.)

I went outside and paced. I was angry, I saw, because Rob was mostly right. I had been staying up later and later the last few months and so sleeping late. So why are you so angry, I asked myself. I don't like being corrected, I say in a whiny voice. I always liked the fact that I woke before everyone else. I saw that Rob was acting as my conscience, forcing me to tell the truth, or recognize the truth. And me, who wants so badly to know myself, should have thanked him for making me aware that my habits have changed.

Still, I hate it when couples bicker in front of others. And we were all guilty of this, at least two or three times, during the weekend (I say without pride.) But I'm happy that I thought this through and for one, intend to change or hopefully catch myself at it. Why is one so sensitive to the remarks of the one that she or he loves best? Should we not correct the other? Is it really important that I haven't been getting up as early as I'd like. Or Larry exaggerates the time sequence in a story? Or... or... Not really. But this weekend's dialogue was productive: It gave me a chance to think this through.

And we ate well, drank good wine, and laughed a lot together. And I bought half a dozen good books...

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Morning Hair

I had my hair chopped off yesterday because I wanted a change. It looked better after the hairdresser blew it dry but this picture, taken the morning after, shows that it can weather a pillow. I have been told that dreams of hair represent persona - the image I present to the world.

Lately, with the giving up of work, I have been at a loss. I do not regret leaving: I couldn't work in such an unhealthy environment but still I feel defeated. Nothing excites me. I have to change something and although I know it's not outward appearance, my hair is a beginning, a symbol of intention. In her article "The Eye That Cannot See" Woodman writes of the force that paralyzes a person. She calls this force "Death Mother" because it can throw a person into despair and immobilize her or him. I have been working with Woodman's ideas about Death mother (and Negative mother) all week and still do not feel clear enough to attempt a simple explanation - perhaps another time - but I have allowed myself the luxury of two months in France to think on the subject and hopefully decide on where next to put my creative energy.

I have been playing, in my little house in the garden, for hours and hours these past few weeks, playing with ideas through writing, telling myself that play is important. For the first time, in a long time, I have time.

What if everything in the world is backwards? What if play is more important than work? What if one should feel guilty about not playing? What if one played first, then worked?

What do I mean by play? Nonsense, dancing, drawing, singing, writing - everything that serves no purpose beyond itself. (I pause after writing this. There is purpose to all these activities but that is only realized after the doing.)

What do I mean by work? Drudgery, repetition, that which pays cold hard cash, that which pays for play. Necessary? Yes. Both.

Although the outpouring of words feels good, I wonder about copying even some of them here for others or - more difficult for me - reading them aloud. Why do I hate to read my writing, especially the raw stuff I write on Wednesday evenings? No trust? Fear of sounding like a fool or, in other words, fear of what others will think? Or is it stinginess... not willing to share my thoughts? Perhaps it is a combination of all these reasons.

I don't know how to finish this entry. Am I being too artsy-fartsy? - that's negative mother at work. So I'll dare a little more of her wrath and copy from my journal:

I am somebody - no more or less that anyone else - but I have lost my voice. Wrong Yvonne. You have a voice: you just have to find the courage to use it. Death mother be damned or put to service. You need your energy or you may as well be stone, dead. Again Medusa appears - the woman who dared to love a god. Humans need human love.

Funny Helen said that "people make too much of sex. It's a small part of life." Rob disagreed. To me, it is an important part of life - a sharing of oneself - a way to love oneself - find oneself in heaven. And to let go, really let go, when so much constrains us, is a route to freedom. And though one can drive oneself to orgasm, there is something stronger, richer, more liberating, more earth shattering, when one can hand oneself over, offer oneself, let go, and trust oneself to another. That would first take acceptance of oneself.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Mother's day

Before I had children, I said that I would like to experience pregnancy but not motherhood. Being the second child of six, I knew that babies were demanding, contrary, ungrateful little monsters who could manipulate and push their mother to tears. They would interrupt her work and leisure and, while young, she would never have a moment's peace.

And then at twenty-nine, for some reason, I changed my mind when Rob suggested we have a child. When I heard I was pregnant, we danced. When our first son was born, we were the cliche doting parents. I couldn't get over his hands and feet, his round belly, his tiny penis and scrotum - a miniature human being. How could my flawed body create something so perfect?

We decided to have another, then another - 1978, 1982, 1986.

Before I had children, I thought myself grown up. Calm, efficient, quiet spoken, in control. When I had children, all hell broke lose. I found myself little better than a fish-monger, screaming and shouting for any absurd reason. One night, I remember sitting on the front porch crying because I couldn't get the baby to sleep. And once, in a rage, I slapped my precious baby. When he looked up at me and told me to use my words not my hands, I despaired. How could I sink so low? Having children humbled me.

When I didn't have to change their diapers, spoon-feed them, brush their teeth, I thought my life would be easier. No such luck.

During their early to mid-teen years, all three tested my patience and questioned my rules. I could not get away with, "Do it because I say so." They pushed me to question myself. "Why should he or she do this or that?" If I didn't have a good answer, I changed the rules.

When Gill wanted to study abroad and it wasn't financially feasible, all she had to say was "I wanted to see if I could make a dream come true" and I found a way.( I am proud of myself.) And if it weren't for her dream, I would never have returned to my homeland for an extended period of time and gotten to know my relatives.

My children have taught me that I am capable of listening wholeheartedly and loving unconditionally. They have pushed me to be fair, flexible, and follow through on my promises. They have shown me my flaws but also my better qualities. As they've grown, I've grown. I like myself more because of them. I thank the heavens that I had them. All three are extraordinary individuals and each one has went out of her and his way today to make me feel loved.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Oh dear, I have been avoiding writing this public journal. A friend pointed out that my entries aren't as rich or deep as they were, say a year ago, and I know this is true. I think it is fear of revealing myself to certain people who I know judge me. This makes me angry. I hate that I am such a wimp.

In trying to sort myself out - letting go of my work - I have been reading "The Pregnant Virgin" and I came across this quote: "This is who I am. I am not asking for your approval. I do not have to justify my existence."

Sigh. I wish I were made of hardier stock. I crumble too easily. I betray myself too often. And every time I betray myself, I hate my weakness more. This is no good. As an excuse - or is it something more - I am confused. I have been warned to not tell anything that would hurt my soul but, for me, not telling or silence, is the worse offense.

This reminds me of a paper I wrote on Maxine Hong Kingston and Mary Meigs, in which I quote Meigs: "Silence, for me, is bloated with threats and fears; there is no way of fighting it, and the fact of it, both enclosing and assailing, makes me want to rage and accuse. I have spent most of my life sealed in a self-imposed silence, affronting the silence of others."

I can't remember how far back it was that I said that I want to write about the things that others don't write - the things that people are too ashamed to speak of, those embarrassing little secrets that eat away at our insides - in the hope that this would release others to speak of such things. I think that it was Jung who said that we lead small lives if we keep to ourselves. I am full to the brim with other people's thoughts and words. And years ago too, I wrote that I have this grandiose idea that it is my turn to give. And the only way I know how is through my writing. How long will it take to shake off the fear of self-exposure and get on with the task? Or am I even capable of living up to my own idea?

In an effort to be more open, let me tell of my days: On Saturday, I went into the flower shop to buy tulips for a friend.

(Tulips are my favourite flower. In Persian myth, the first tulips sprang up from the drops of blood shed by a lover, and was the symbol of avowed love.)

I couldn't decide whether to buy two bunches of elegant vanilla-coloured tulips, or one vanilla and one rich red. I ask a woman who works there, who is also a customer at LJ. She laughed at me and said, "This is priceless. The buyer from LJ is asking my opinion on colour. Just a minute. There's someone who will want to meet you. She loves the store." I stood there not knowing what to say or, rather, finding it impossible to say "I no longer work there."

I fear my friends are sick of my tears and depression.

One friend tells me that I am honourable staying on, doing the fashion show, teaching the mechanics of buying, after being treated so shabbily. Another tells me I am a fool. Another says enough. You are hurting your soul by lingering.

What do I think? I am honourable and selfish. If I had simply walked when the last offense happened, I would have left the store - the place where I put so much of my creative energy - in a bad state. And selfishly, I know I have to withdraw slowly, leaving every thing in as good a shape as possible. Cold turkey would have bothered me too much.

The gift Leslie gave me was her trust - and she trusted few. And with her trust, she taught me that I too have an eye for beauty. We worked well together for the most part. She was never condescending. She taught me well.

On the third anniversary of her death, I printed a picture of her, framed it, and put it in the store with a candle. Will anyone remember to do this on subsequent anniversaries?

I suddenly have free time so I am reading more. I just finished "The Mermaid's Chair" by Sue Monk Kidd who is best known for her novel "The Secret Life of Bees". "Mermaid's Chair" tells the story of a middle-aged woman/wife/mother who returns to her childhood home on an island because her mother, a religious fanatic, is ill. She is secretly happy to escape her own home, though she loves her husband. On the island, she slowly unravels the facts about her father's death by accident so many years before, the reasons behind her mother's silence and mental illness, and, in the process, discovers truths about herself and her marriage. She commits one sacrilegious act and later comments: "It wasn't that I rued what I'd done, that I wanted a reversal of some kind: I would not have taken back the way my.... had impregnated me with life, with myself, the hundred ways I'd been broken and made larger. It's that I saw the effect of it."
Though not a literary treasure, I enjoyed the book immensely.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

This morning I am down at the beach. My heart is pounding. A cup of Seven/Eleven coffee is perched in the sand. No, it isn't great but it will do. I still feel like shit about my job. I should be rejoicing, I tell myself. But there is little joy in me. It appears my inner self still wants to wallow. Oh, sad, corny self, get over it, I say.

I was talking to an old friend the other day and I quoted Mary Oliver:

"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on."

The world goes on. I had a job I loved. It's over. (Or will be in two days.)

I went to a short book review course last Saturday. I found myself lacking, couldn't put three sentences together. And a hellish voice inside me smirked and said, "You call yourself a writer?"

Last week, I returned to Whistler for two days with a good friend. I love the silence there best, the beauty of place next. When we arrived, I immediately sprawled out on a bed in one of the guest rooms of my sister's house and read a book by Anne Giardini called "The Sad Truth about Happiness." It held my attention - a mystery sort-of with literary references. The story is about a young woman, calm, intelligent, who fills out a questionaire that her roommate wrote. Each answer gives a number of points and somehow the total tells the date of one's death. The young woman learns hers is fast approaching. Her life changes with this knowledge. She has too many sleep-deprived nights. She attends lectures, dates three men, and then she - the most sensible of three sisters - commits a crime. I become frightened, put the book aside, and my friend and I head off for a walk to the village and, though exercise is not a true love of mine, I enjoy the company, the walk through the forest. Later, we share a simple dinner and then I finish the book. Would I recommend it? Yes, though I found the ending lacking. What is the sad truth about happiness, I ask myself.

On Sunday, I attended a Dialogue meeting, based on David Bohm's model. And it is silence again that I find myself loving. And the idea that when one in the circle of mostly-strangers feels compelled to speak, she or he speaks and the words go into the centre to be taken up by another, or not. Surprising to me, this works. There is no small talk. Everyone speaks from the body, with excitement over the proprioceptive process and I found myself relaxing, my breath slowing down.

Afterwards, I walked to Jericho beach to attend my niece's 7th birthday party.

I look out at the water. All I hear are the waves. And though I know I am lucky, I have so much to be thankful for, I still can't calm my heart... what is to become of me?