The Nine R’s of November: Real

November 1st is the Celtic New Year or Samhain. The time when the darkness overtakes the light. This actually makes more sense to me than January 1st which is, at least where I live, implant right in the midst of winter. I always thought that it was odd that the winter equinox was also called midwinter because we traditionally know it as the first day of winter. But midwinter actually makes sense if you consider today the first day of winter. Winter does not wait until the 21st of December in Alberta.

This is also known as the thinnest time of the year. It is the season at which the veil between the living and the dead can easily become transparent. What does that mean? Who knows. Time to hang out in grave yards and think about your mortality I guess. Pray to saints (November 1st is also All Saint’s Day, November 2nd: All Soul’s Day). But it does seem like a quieter time of year doesn’t it? A time to be more reflective. Traditionally it was a quieter time of year because the harvest was finished, the animals slaughtered, the outdoor tasks kept to a minimum. It was time to spend with family. These days we talk about needing to be more reflective, about trying to find our real selves, but there is too much noise out there and we can’t hear ourselves think.

One of the things I have to come to terms with, and work on, is that I haven’t felt real for a long time. I mean, of course I am real – if you pinched me it would hurt and then I would probably hit you (reflex, sorry). But I mean that deep down feeling of being real to yourself – and this does have to do with myself and not anyone else. Outwardly I’m not pretending to be someone I’m not, my interactions are genuine. I’m not going around lying to people or putting on a false front. However, in my own mind I haven’t been getting very deep. Everything is surface these days because feeling too deeply hurts.

You would be forgiven for thinking that being handed a terminal illness would make me go deeper – but until now it hasn’t. In fact, it was much easier to keep all of those emotions on the surface. I can’t even read books that are too emotional because I cannot handle the emotions. But when you aren’t dealing with emotions (your own or those of other people who need you to support them) then everything is surface. I guess that’s how I feel. Surface. I’m the surface girl these days.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in a panic because I start thinking about all the what-ifs of my disease. What do I leave behind for the girls? Should I start planning my funeral – not in a morbid way, but just so that it is take care of when the time comes. (Also it’s a control thing but I’ve heard you should do this while you are still healthy so you don’t have to deal with it when you are not.) This whole knowing you are dying is stressful. However, in the light of day I keep most things on the surface. I keep busy to not think too deeply.

I don’t think I am alone in this.

Oh so many years ago I used to be concerned with being cool. Not overly concerned because I didn’t do much about it, but it was always there in the back of my mind: you need to be cooler. I would look around and see people who were always so much cooler than me. (I grew out of that by learning that most of the world isn’t paying attention to you anyway.)

Now I feel like I’m not being real to myself. Except I don’t look around and see people being so much realer than me because a) how would I know? And b) their realness has nothing to do with my realness.

I think that is what we all want these days, isn’t it? To make real connections. That is why social media is so popular; because it is an easy way to try and make connections without really making connections. These connections are on the surface, very few are skin deep although they have the ability to become that way. We can’t get away from the inspiring quotes, the lifestyle blogs with advice, everyone is searching for their own way to be real and sharing it with beautifully set-up flat lays and yoga poses.

I guess I’m sharing it too right now but I don’t have any answers – and anyway, my answers wouldn’t be your answers.

One of the ways I find to not be real in myself is to create tasks that take away from what I really should be doing. I should be writing but it is so much easier to spend time on Instagram managing my feed. Or, planning the perfect capsule wardrobe (which is all in my mind and may never leave the planning stages because that would involve shopping and spending money – I’m keen on neither). Or, creating a to-do list of important but inconsequential things. There is always busy work to be done and busy work takes me away from myself while maintaining the aura of productivity. When I do spend time writing the stories aren’t very deep.

I think, for me, the internet – and my relationship with it – is to blame. When I get on it I can’t focus. I’m distracted by my phone constantly. I worry that I’m going to die and what my girls will remember is a mom who spent half her time (or more) on her phone. My husband calls it the signal to noise ratio. There is too much noise out there right now and my brain is not equipped to handle it. Especially not my post-chemo brain which is a bit of a mess these days.

So what is my solution this month? Well, I plan on focusing on writing these blog posts and spending time with my girls. One way I am going to do this is to turn off my phone. Except just turning off my phone doesn’t work for me. I have a bit of an addictive personality so I’m going to turn it off and give it to my husband to take to work with him. Not every day, some days I need to be reachable, but a couple times a week. (I’m already nervous thinking about it.)

I think these feelings I have about what is going on in my life are real and important and deserve to be treated in a serious way. It is supposed to be a quieter time of year so I’m going to turn down the noise of distraction. Maybe then I will be able to be more real with myself.

(I realize the post is long and rambly. I find I have trouble organizing my thoughts these days and I re-wrote it eleventy billion times. Thanks for sticking it out to the end.)

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