Chapter 1 of Questing Confidence:
Managing My Holy Grail
Chapter 1 of Questing Confidence:
Personal Growth Through Travel
Dare to Dream
Is it possible to have another quest?
Little doggie footsteps descend from the third floor as Pickles realizes I am home from work. With his tail enthusiastically wagging he wiggles about my feet whining his greeting, expecting to be picked up. I place my keys and briefcase between the rails of the banister. I turn to reach around the storm door into my wall mounted metal mailbox that hangs on the brick wall outside my front door. Pulling out an odd assortment of flyers, bills and miscellaneous papers as quickly as possible, I use my feet to block Pickle's attempted escape.
"Come on, Pickles, let's go out the back door."
I release the rear door deadbolt and step into my tiny fenced garden. I smile and deeply breathe in the fresh air. My workday is over.
As Pickles lifts his leg on the corner of the gate I shuffle through my mail. The familiar envelopes of my regular bills and the coloured papers of advertising flyers arouse little interest. One piece of brightly coloured cardboard, personally addressed, offers a free booklet on travelling through various regions of France. There is a tear off postage paid postcard to return to receive a copy.
I have a sudden intake of breath as my thoughts return to the happy travel in France with my husband seven years ago. We were celebrating our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. That was another lifetime. I was another woman.
I smile at my recollections then feel a swell of sadness start from deep inside. I never know when a memory will suddenly stroke my emotions bringing forth my tears. I am reminded of so much that I have lost.
"Stop looking back Marilyn!"
I survey the growth sprouting in the garden beds that line my tiny yard. Moss and dandelions are growing between the patio stones. This is my first spring living in my town home in Bronte. I moved here from my former family home in east Oakville late last summer.
Green shoots indicate bulbs beneath the surface of the soil. Will they become tulips or daffodils? I wonder what early perennials will appear. I stoop to pick the newly opened yellow flower from a robust dandelion. I don't want it to go to seed. Several Iris leaves are sprouting from the damp earth. I wonder what colour their blooms will be. There are bound to be things that I won't know if they are weeds or plants. The buds on the lilac are swelling with promise.
Canada Geese are strutting on the lawn outside my garden gate. They are noisy and messy. I am constantly trying to avoid tracking their droppings into my home. Thankfully, they do not invade my space inside the fence.
My mail falls from where I tucked it under my arm scattering across the ground. I stoop to retrieve it, and again notice the card for a promotional travel brochure on France. I must not look to the past. I am creating my life as a single woman now. I must dream new dreams.
Pickles is trying to get under the gate out into the lakeside park. He doesn’t show concern for the geese. They could seriously hurt him if he approached too close.
I turn to go back inside. I feel a guilty pressure to take Pickles for a walk but my thoughts of France have evoked tears that are threatening to run over onto my cheeks. I want to hide my emotion from curious neighbours or park visitors. Perhaps I'll walk along the waterfront trail before sunset.
I call my dog. He heeds my words and runs into our home. I lock the door behind us.
As the card requesting information on France slides from my fingers and drops out of sight into the red Canada Post box I wonder if I am crazy.
The postcard has sat on my kitchen counter for nearly a week. Several times I had picked it up to throw it away. Each time some instinct stopped me. Finally, I filled in the questionnaire.
As I continue my morning walk I tell myself that looking at the promised booklet can’t hurt.
The loss of the lifestyle I enjoyed the last years of my twenty-six year marriage and memories of the shared happy family times still strike a sorrow filled chord deep in my chest.
Grieving can be such a long process. Some say we grieve as long as what we are grieving lasted. I believe we grieve as deeply as we cared. I was deeply in love with the man who told me so many lies. I remind myself that I was in love with the image he projected not the reality of who he is.
May 12, 1996.
The calm water of Lake Ontario sparkles before me as I stand in the sunshine on my first floor balcony. I am reminded of the Mother’s Day ten years ago when I was standing alone on the coastal path that runs from Lamorna Cove to Mousehole in Cornwall, England. I had stopped to look out at the North Sea contemplating my Self as a mother so far from my family. Walking that coastal path was an exciting, and unique experience for me. I never suspected then the twists and turns my life would take.
Now I walk Pickles along a lakeside path every day and rejoice in my new solo life. I smile at my good fortune at finding such a desirable location to live. I close my eyes, hear the gentle lap of waves against the shore, turn my face to the warming spring sunshine, and sigh with pleasure. A gull cries. My smile broadens. The familiar sound reminds me that I could be on a shoreline anywhere in the world!
The media have been reporting on the long term effects on the global environment of the Chernoble Nuclear Power Plant disaster of 1986. I was frightened to travel with the group to England that year as reports said the radioactive fallout was spreading in that direction. My anticipation and excitement about the tour helped me overcome my hesitation.
The extended consequence of taking that tour with Sally in spite of my fears, have influenced my life in ways I never imagined. I knew when I went that I wanted to use that trip as the backbone of a self-help memoir but I hadn't imagined it would take me so long to complete. Now, ten years later, my writing is still unfinished. Life keeps getting in the way of the flow of my creative process.
The large envelope from the French Tourist Office surprised me in my mail last Friday. I smile remembering the card I had posted. A fantasy tour of France will be fun. Little do they know I am not a serious candidate for such a holiday. I am such a dreamer!
Magic! France a Dream Come True has a picture of a happy couple in formal evening dress strolling along a beach. The handsome man's bow tie is undone and is hanging casually across the white of his pleated shirt. His pant legs are rolled up and his tuxedo jacket is hooked over his finger, hanging down his back. He is casually carrying an unopened bottle of champagne. A smiling woman, in a slinky red dress, also barefoot, carrying her strappy sandals, is snuggled into his shoulder.
Sitting with a glass of wine, reading the pages of the tourist brochure, emotions of desire, and regret swirl through me. My memories are teased by the glossy pictures. I stare at the image of the Château de Chenonceaux in the Loir Valley for a very long time, recalling the lovely summer day that I was there. The river water sliding under the floorboards, birdsong, and a chance for my imagination to make up stories of dancing at a fancy ball stimulated by paintings and films.
Matthew, my youngest child, saw the large promotional book on the coffee table and asked if I am going to France. I felt slightly embarrassed about sending in the card.
"I am just dreaming."
“Would you like to go Mom?”
“I’d love to go!” The intensity of my words surprised me.
“Why not go? You have told me many times that dreams are the beginning of goals. Decide you are going to go then set about making it happen."
Listening to Matt's words of encouragement I had felt warmth spreading up my neck. I had fumbled with excuses. Then my own words challenged me. I had said many times that a goal is a dream taken seriously.
"It was a whim. I'll think about it."
I had kept my feelings of fear to myself. A trip to France would be very expensive. My divorce cost me a lot of money.
I was bullied out of child support even though I had three children living with me who were completing their education. The financial responsibility of helping them become independent as adults has fallen mostly on me. Their vacation time, clothing, and shelter expenses have finally dwindled to only what I choose to spend. Each of my children is independent now. I can anticipate these expenditures will become even less over the next few years.
I acquired considerable debt prior to selling the matrimonial home. There were repairs and property taxes as well as clothing and feeding four adults. I had some spousal support but that ends soon. I have a mortgage here on this townhouse, and the expenses of running my Muskoka cottage. I am not poor but my cash flow is often challenged. I have some serious decisions to make about my future.
As a marriage and family therapist in private practice, my income is much lower than it might have been if I hadn't taken years out of the workforce to have my children and get my degrees. My choice to work independently rather than with an agency has also meant I have no medical insurance or pension plan. I must pay for these out of my income.
I hope to move my office to my home once Matthew moves out. That will save me the expenses of my present office location in downtown Oakville.
Matthew, at twenty-two, lives with me. He isn't totally supporting himself yet but that is partly due to my ongoing assistance with his music interests, and his choice to have a hot car. He is rarely home as his work schedule and social life keeps him busy.
Kathy, my second child, is studying at Humber College on a student loan, and living with a friend. The only remaining support I give her is by paying for her cell phone. I want her to be able to stay connected.
Julia is teaching elementary school, and living with her husband in Simcoe County. They have school debts but don’t rely on me for financial support.
After Matthew left for work, I had again leafed through the French brochure. As I considered the idea of going to France alone anxiety mixed with longing. I had a strong desire to act on the silent whispers of my inner voice.
Finally, I had put the book inside my glass fronted bookshelf not wanting to throw it away.
"Enough dreaming Marilyn!"
My words, spoken aloud, had echoed in my silent home.
Our experiences in life create our beliefs, and shape our attitudes. I do love to travel. I hope that I can someday return to France and England and so many other places I've loved. I want to travel without the sadness following me like a shadow. One of the problems with having wonderful experiences is the fear of never having them again.
Discover more about Marilyn's professional experience here.
By: Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem M.Ed.