Over stormy seas

The words don’t come when the mind is bound
when feelings are tossed and thrown around
on unseen seas

The currents swirl
alive with jolts –
is this lightening
or dark, hidden creatures shot through with electric sparks?

Above, the moon shines full
serene, all knowing
she betrays nothing of the churn below
benevolent, ageless
she waits for this, too, to pass

She has watched the ebb and flow of the human heart
for long enough to see the patterns
for long enough to know
everything changes —
even this.


The secret of fireflies

The sky presses down on me
its clouds glowing white
shift restlessly against the blue
always encroaching
but in this hidden garden you’ve built for us
the sky passes overhead
like a movie thread
distant, it disappears out of sight
here I am free to pause
to consider the black and orange beetles
fluttering between leaves –
ungainly, until I discover they are fireflies
although less magical in daylight
their secret bewitches
and at this I sway, drunk on dark thoughts
and lost in an imaginary wind
that whips down out of some other world

What my Twitter account says about me

Or: A treatise on the complexities of people

I was listening to an interview with Steve Martin on our national radio station this morning. He was talking about Lawren Harris, a Canadian painter and national icon. I was particularly struck by his intelligence – he wasn’t his usual silly self, but knowledgeable, insightful, and interesting.

I’ve seen Steve Martin play his banjo with his bluegrass band before – he came to Ottawa a few years ago to play at our Jazz Festival – so I know he is intelligent and has an appreciation for art – and that he can be serious. But I still always expect him to lapse into hilarity. I’m impressed when he doesn’t.

It is this complexity that intrigues me about humanity. In this day and age when we all, inadvertently or purposefully, create a brand for ourselves through our social media accounts, there can be a tendency to weed out certain aspects of one’s personality. To think, that doesn’t really fit with who people think I am, and to post selectively.

I used to follow Steve Martin on Twitter. Somehow over time, my Twitter account has become more about my day job, though. It’s full of thoughts and pictures on migration, refugees and humanitarian issues. I follow the IOM, UNHCR, Refugee Watch. I use it to keep an eye on the icons and leaders of that world. It informs my daily work.

Steve Martin doesn’t really fit into this picture.

Then again, I also use Twitter to follow a few unrelated pages – a tourism site for Cape Town and an indie band from Toronto, the Lowest of the Low, for example.

These have nothing to do with migration, unless we’re referring to my own personal migration, from Toronto, to Ottawa, to places out there in the rest of the world. But that’s not why I followed them on Twitter. There really is no thematic link, no connection…

Other than me.

Which is kind of the point. Like Steve Martin, whose silly screen persona, love of fine art and bluegrass music aren’t really linked except by the person himself, it’s the interesting complexities that make a whole person, and an online presence.

My Twitter account may be mostly about my work, but it’s not all about my work.

My Facebook account is mostly for friends and family, but not solely.

This blog is about me – about my family, my work, my thoughts, nature – but there are holes in my self-representation here, too.

Who am I? A mother, a writer, a runner, an international migration policy advisor. I like music, nature. I promote liberal politics, human rights, and love, acceptance and tolerance for all people, regardless of religion, skin colour, hair colour, eye colour, sexual orientation or gender.

If you put it all together, it might not look like it all belongs, but it does.

This is me.

Thank you, @SteveMartinToGo, for reminding me about the messy combinations of things that make a person whole, and for reminding me to get over myself and follow whoever I want.

Back into the fire: an update on working and life

It’s been some time since I’ve written about my return to work, about how I’ve been managing. For a while – a long while – I was managing so well I didn’t need to think about it. There was nothing really to say.

So I can’t tell you when I stopped feeling comfortable in my skin again. Sometime between February and now, while I was looking the other way, thinking about other things and just trying to keep up, I lost part of myself. The part that puts down markers and holds fast to boundaries and says “no more” without fearing the consequences, without giving in.

Without resorting to desperation.

Without succumbing to panic.

Now, again, I imagine the judgement of others – which is my judgement of myself. I jump at unexpected sounds. I am immobilized by the need to make decisions. I feel fragile.

I know it’s work that has worn me down – or at least I know I’ve let it. I love my job but not to the detriment of my sanity. Others surrounding me are running around trying to keep everything afloat as well. Perhaps they are struggling like me, perhaps not quite – not yet. But the mistake I’ve made is allowing that to keep me in the fire. I’ve turned to them for approval when I say no. I’ve pushed myself to perform in return for recognition, acknowledgement. That amounts to putting my sanity in their hands.

Thankfully, I still have all the lessons I learned while on stress leave. Thankfully, I can now recognize the signs of impending doom, and can mark the distance from here back to my boundaries. There is hope, a way back.

I don’t know how to catch hold of that nugget that is my strength, to catch hold and expand it. But I know I have to.

Maybe the knowing is step 1. Maybe I’m already on the right path.

Maybe it is already time to search for step 2.