Saturday, 21 September 2013

Like Fruit Flies to Vinegar

I want to revisit and continue some of my thoughts from an older blog: Finding Edward.

I have reverted to those thoughts because of the recent epidemic of fruit flies (aka drosophila, if I remember correctly from the genetics class I so unceremoniously dropped and now wish I had not). My brother in-law suggested the best way to control them (or drown them) is with apple cider vinegar. So I got one of my less popular teacups out, filled it half way with apple cider vinegar (which I was surprised to find in my cupboard), put saran wrap on top, and poked some holes with a fork in the covering.

As I was watching this work slowly over the days, it was weird to see how the not-yet-dead drosophila were still lining up to get into the teacup, when there were already so many dead bodies in the vinegar - little black dots against a golden background. Why did the living flies decide it was a good idea to adventure inside? Well, not knowing much about fruit flies, I can still think of several explanations: a) they can't really see that well, hence the stagnant, floating bodies would not be a detraction; b) the scent of the vinegar neutralizes/prevents the scent of decay and is an overpowering aroma they cannot resist and c) they are attempting to go in and rescue their friends and family.

OK - C is not likely. I don't think so? A and B - maybe. I am resisting the urge to google.

So, there are lots of books and references out there: "catch your man", or "avoid the wrong one", or "keep your lover begging for more", etc. etc. I don't think those are the titles, but something along those lines. I have read my fair share: The Rules, How to think like a man and act like a woman, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and many, many excerpts from other books found on the internet. There are a lot of good lessons in those books! I am not discounting all of it - like how to recognize when to walk away from someone who is disrespectful.  And no, I am not going to pontificate on how being like vinegar will attract your mate so you can drown out all his or her old, bad habits.

Drosophilia are easily cross-bred/modified in one generation (I think-look at all those eye-colours in the picture). What occurred to me is that I, and potentially others, while trying to follow the advice bestowed upon us, will, no doubt, try to reincarnate ourselves with different characteristics each time, and in doing so, drown ourselves in the process. Are we determined that by constantly changing or adapting to what the latest craze in relationship strategy defines what we should be like, that we are more likely to keep the "we"? Find the "we"? I think the draw to change (aka the vinegar), is killing the "me" in all of this.

Some examples from these books include the recommendation to appear "mysterious", "not needy", even "bitchy" (that is for the female audience in particular, although you could apply to men just the same). I have tried this - and sometimes it works, at least in the short-term. And maybe it could have kept working in the long-term. Most likely with the wrong person. But it is way, way too hard to keep this up when most of it goes against my nature (thinking back to the "it should be easy" or at least easier at the beginning). I have drown myself over and over again with trying to promote the new "me".

So I decided - I need to remove the vinegar. I need to stop overloading myself with thoughts and advice from books on who I should be. I need to do what feels right and say what I am thinking. I have a friend who is doing this now, and I think it is working, so far anyway. There is no magic formula she can sell me, other than being honest and being open to vulnerability (see my blog on The Heart Chain).

I wonder how many more blogs on this topic I will have to write before I convince myself it's true.

I found this quote, which has been attributed to Dr. Suess, but I am not going to validate that. I am going to share though, just because I like it:

We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Elastic Band Sandwich

I spent some time last weekend with some old friends. "Old" as is in I had not connected with them in a while. I am sorry to say that the circumstances in which I saw them involved the passing away of my friend's brother at far too young an age. Not fair to her. Not fair to his wife and their children. Her family seem to have stellar coping skills - strong, thick elastic bands. 

It was wonderful to see them. I wonder why I had not made more of an effort in the last 10 years to do so...single mother or mother in the middle of separation with two young kids, working like a dog? Not really a good excuse. I could blame all sorts of circumstances but it was me - hiding out I think. Trying to separate myself from my past, even though my connection with them was not painful. Why did I think I could only forge ahead if I left everything behind? Why did I try and snap the bands?

I realize now that our strongest connections in life are like elastic bands. They can bend and mold around events in our lives. The ends can stretch far apart and then snap right down close to each other again. There are different lengths and different sizes. I am glad for that. Of course, there are the less strong connections that I stretched so far the elastic did snap - those are hard to recover. Elastic bands don't glue very well, and tape - well that just won't stick.  You could tie a knot, but you will always be reminded of  how it once broke. Maybe that's a good thing. Knots can be strong.

One topic of choice out of our many, many conversations on the trip to Ottawa, in Ottawa, and on the drive back (which included a retelling of the tales of past loves and snaps), seemed to be a recurring discussion of our place in the family sandwich.

My one friend, bravely at the age of 46, and without a partner, adopted a girl from Russia. Who, by the way, is the sweetest, smartest little cookie. My friend's parents are in their 80s. While she is fortunate to only be required at her clinic two days a week, the rest of her time is taken up with either looking after her daughter, or taking her parents to medical appointments and organizing them, or both. And she still has to run her business.

My other friends, although their fathers have sadly passed away, have their mother's to be concerned about. Especially because their mothers no longer have their spouses. Spouses to whom they were married for at least half a century. Spouses who they have previously relied upon to look after them in many ways, as was the older generation's way of doing things. That's some change to manage.

Of those two friends, one of them has a teenager and the other has had both her children graduate from University. You would assume this makes a difference, but one thing I have learned, and my parents continue to remind me on a daily basis, is that you never stop being a parent, no matter how old your children are. You are still in the middle of the sandwich. I remember the summer before my last year of high school - I had a party at my house when my parents went away over the Labour Day weekend. I had been forbidden before they left. Things went awry. There was much evidence. My father was so upset, the first thing he did was call my grandmother!

Although I definitely help out my parents, at the moment it is not much different than how I help out my sister or my friends. I am not currently a care provider, or guardian, or social convener for them. And I'm scared about that day when it comes. How will I balance being a successful giver to those I love the most, including myself, while being sandwiched?

This is how: I will stretch the elastic band to its limit around them and save a twist at the end for me. My malleable love and duty. I will grow my heart, and I will start working on that now. I will forge strong, thick bands. I will constantly remind myself what is my priority and my role here on Earth. Just as an aside - on Earth? As opposed to Mars or Heaven or what? Why do we use that expression? And did I need to use capitals?

Now - because my parents may not be here tomorrow. I might not be here tomorrow for my children.  In hindsight, I should have chosen elasticity as one of Power Cat's super powers (see Superhero 2 blog).

I reconnected with some amazing role models on the weekend. I write this blog for them, for my parents and for my children. My promise:

I know I can be there for you. All of you. I can stretch myself (and yoga will help). An elastic band in the middle of my family sandwich.