Tuesday, 24 May 2016

We all know Gord Downie

This morning I woke at 6:30 to the sound of my new baby stirring in his bassinet.  When I brought him downstairs, I looked at my phone.  There was a single notification.  It was an email from @TheHipDotCom announcing Gord Downie's diagnosis with terminal brain cancer.

It took only a single breath before my mind flooded with the weight of this news; the weight of Gord Downie's voice in my life.  I was overwhelmed with how much I love this music, these lyrics, this band.  I'm what you call a true admirer... I'm a fan.

One look at twitter today and it's obvious that the rest of Canada feels exactly the same way.  The Tragically Hip is an emblem of our nation, a worthy representation of our pride.  Even if you're not a "fan" you hear this music wherever you are.  Gord's Downie's lyrics and unmistakable voice float in your consciousness.

Everyone who was struck by this news today - kicked in the stomach by it - knows Gord Downie.  He's our comrade.  We have followed him and his band for 30 years.  We have been to his shows and have sung alongside him.  He has written elaborate, honest, enduring stories about our hometowns, and we have walked with him on our streets.  We have heard these songs on our radios every single day, some of us for our entire lives.  Gord and his bandmates have driven across the country with us, they've strummed with us by the cottage campfire, they've lulled our babies to sleep and hyped them up for living room dance parties.  These songs are quoted at our kitchen tables.  These lyrics have become a national narrative, a collection of lore.  They literally tell the stories of our lives.

I have seen six Hip shows, including four in my Hometown, which is also their Hometown; two benefit concerts for someone else's cause; two in an arena perched on a street named for them; three standing in the grass on warm summer days; one at the National Arts Centre in fancy theatre seats that nobody sat in and that Gord walked across the backs of into he crowd; and one standing all by myself when Hubby got lost looking for beer.

These musicians are my neighbours. I have seen them at my movie theatre and been too shy to say hello. They have sat in the halls of my high school.  They have been awarded honourary degrees from my university. I danced the last dance of my wedding, in our Hometown, to their song.

Gord Downie's voice plays in my mind as a backdrop to my life.  His music is coming home. I feel like I know him, as we all do, and I am so, so sorry this is happening to him.

But let's not act like he's already dead.  His voice is still singing on every radio station and in every house in this country, and soon on as many stages as he can manage.  I intend to hear it.  I intend to add to my collection of powerful memories set to the tune of his music, with renewed appreciation; with will and determination, and grace, too.

A photo on my fridge for almost a decade.  




Saturday, 23 April 2016

Easier doesn't mean easy

When I was pregnant with this Warner Brother, several of my friends told me how easy the second child was.  Less anxiety they said.  Less stress they said.  More knowledge, more tolerance, more confidence, they said.

All of that is true.

However: More or less of something does not equate to all or none of something.

Newborndom is certainly less anxious and less stressful this time around. I don't panic as easily regarding his well being.  I don't worry as much because I sorta have the hang of this.  I know when he's hungry, I can tell when his cries are gas, I have an idea how to teach him to nap, and I totally knew as soon as I saw his first real smile.   I don't have to learn as much, so I can enjoy more.

Although I feel tremendous empathy for the first-time parents in my life who have not yet caught up to my level of experience, I still want to be completely clear:

This is not easy.

I am not one of those parents who "forgot" how hard it was.  I remember the misery of newborndom. I remember walking her around the mall trying to get her to sleep.  I remember standing over her bassinet with my pinky finger in her mouth for endless minutes, maybe hours.  I remember the fear associated with her breastmilk intake - nipple shields, pricey consultants, painful boobs, and cold washcloths on her bare, sleepy back.  I remember late-night cluster feeds, kicky gas legs, and crying on the bathroom floor (me, not her).  I remember whisper-arguing with Hubby and assuming we'd be divorced by the end of the day.  (He would have called a lawyer if he didn't have a sleeping baby on his lap.  The survival of this marriage is attributed to a long nap and a rescue visit from @msfreshfish.)

After all of this, though, I also remember that IT GOT BETTER.  I remember drinking coffee while she peacefully napped, visiting with friends, playing in the sun, smiling above her on a yoga mat.

So, when we diligently weighed the benefits and risks of a second baby, I was not operating in a hormonal or sentimental illusion. I knew precisely what I was in for.  Disaster at first, and generally ongoing heartache and exhaustion in one form or another for the foreseeable future.

Until my friends confused me.  They somehow convinced me this would be effortless.  They claimed "It's so easy this time!" And sure, by comparison, it can be... easy - but only in relation to last time.  Not standing alone.

Standing alone, this experience is just a different kind of impossibly hard.  I still only get two hours of sleep at any given time, except I also have to entertain a toddler most of the day.  I still have a baby who won't allow me to set him down, but I also have a toddler asking for my help to reach the soap/put her socks on/play in her tent.  I still spray breastmilk all over the house, except I also spray it into my toddler's dinner.  I still have to whisper and tiptoe all day long while he attempts to sleep, but I also have to make a toddler whisper and tiptoe while she attempts to play live.

I still have the hard parts - albeit minus some of the anxiety - but with a whole other whack of shit to fill its place.

I still have to take off to the children's hospital when my infant seems to have a fever (with the same unnecessary panic attack). Except this time, I have to do it by myself while Hubby stays home with our other precious child who just wants me to tuck her in.

The constant competition between opposite emotions is staggering. Parenting is wonderful. It's bliss. It's joy. It's pride. It's a gift that we are ever-grateful for. It is an incredible satisfaction, a surprising sense of purpose, an indescribable love.  But it is never easy.