Tuesday, 9 December 2014

In Search of My Identical Twin ;-)

Awww... so sweet.  (Images from Google Images)

When I was a kid, I planned when I grew up and married to have three sets of identical twin girls. Ridiculous? (I was going to be a Mountie at one point, too.) Who's to say where these fantasies come from, but I suspect many of us are fascinated with identical twins. There were twin girls living across the street from my cousins when we were growing up. One had a birthmark on her cheek, but I could never remember which was which anyhow. Twins were usually dressed alike. Understood each other perfectly. A romantic, unrealistic notion, of course, but fascinating. Imagine having someone just like you to grow up with and to grow old with? This IS going somewhere beyond fantasy.

One of these identical twins was failing until they put her sister (right) in the same incubator. When she put her arm around her twin, the frailer one's heartbeat regulated, and she gradually began to improve.

No longer my dream...

The Jackson Twins ran as a comic strip through my childhood, and I loved it. They could trick people. They were beautiful. Cute actually. Got up to mischief.  Their family was perfect except for a pesky younger brother, and Jan and Jill understood each other perfectly. They had good friends - boys and girls. Never seemed te be awkward teen-agers unsure of where they belonged, and growing up seemed to hold no fears. Of course, they never did grow up; they were teenagers (about 15) from 1950 until the strip ended in 1979. That should tell me something. ;-)

Jan and Jill Jackson obsessed over make-up, clothes, music and the opposite gender, tho not necessarily in that order. Their younger brother, Junior, whom they usually referred to as "Termite", functioned largely as a thorn in their sides. Mom and Dad were nice enough in their own quaint way, but scarcely a part of the "real" world.
Comment and image from Don Markstein's Toonopedia: The Jackson Twins

When I returned to Montreal in 1983 and completed my BA at Concordia, I wrote a paper on multiple births with a comparison to single child births. There were quads in the preschool where I volunteered, four years old, two girls and two boys. They may or may not have been identical pairs, but they certainly looked a great deal alike. In readings, I discovered that in multiple births, family may take simple characteristics in each child and, to distinguish each from the other, label the children. For instance, the first to smile is labelled the happy child. The one who cries more is troublesome. Or the quiet one is labelled shy or the thinker. No problem I guess until the labels stick past initial months and become life long lens for seeing the child. And for the child to see him or her self. Of the quads, the children were growing into their labels - and the most disturbing - one of the girls was sickly as an infant for many months, and was perceived as the trouble-making child, rejected, already in a box not of her making.

Of course, all children in a family tend to get labelled to some extent based on sometimes minute early characteristics. In a family with at least one alcoholic parent, there tends (I read, believe, and saw in a family I'm close to) to be an extremely responsible child, a clown, a peace-keeper ... etc. I don't remember the other one or two ...

Anyhow, back to twins. I recently saw a CBC documentary on identical twins by a woman in Toronto. To a large extent, it seemed to focus on the great things about being an identical twin. Closeness. Understanding. Intuition. Support. Sharing. ahh... to have such a person in my life.... at least that's what I realized I was looking for as a child - aren't we all looking for this fantasy in the deepest recesses of our hearts and minds? Someone to perfectly understand and love us? Ahh... fantasy indeed...

The only time I listen to the radio is in the car. CBC. Lo and behold, there was a program on recently (after the TV documentary had aired) on identical twins with a very different perspective. Oh - some twins supported and loved each other. However, there is another entire side - in which there is conflict, resentment, competition, even hatred... lifelong distancing that some are unable to bridge.

Dr. Barbara Klein wrote Alone in the Mirror: Twins in Therapy. She is an identical twin, is a therapist with twins helping them with struggles in individuation, competitiveness, attachment, living in a world of non-twins...  Another woman spoke of her similar experience growing up and as an adult identical twin. Both Barbara Klein and this other woman presented a very different experience than the idealized version.

from Google Images
Newsflash! Driving peacefully along in the car I suddenly understood what I was looking for ... what we all may be searching for... 

There's no identical twin - fully understanding and accepting outside of ourselves. She's been inside me all along. And at 68, it's taken (and the journey isn't over, thank God) all these years to gradually allow my other side to awaken and live. Being nice and a good girl/woman at any cost is not living. Even as a tiny child, there was what some might have labelled the 'bad' twin. I'd go so far as to say I thought of her unconsciously as the evil twin. The angry (enraged?) twin. The twin that walked a tightrope of terror, afraid someone else (parent) was going to die, that God would zap me, that I would be abandoned and die, that no one would love me if they knew the horrible thoughts I had (or didn't even allow myself to have). Breakdown. Pit. Breakthrough. Long, long journey ... And now - intimations of freedom. An embrace (much of the time) of both aspects of myself. Evil twin isn't really evil - she is simply human. Good twin was, as long as the evil twin was denied, a lie. 

So - In search of my identical twin, I've discovered her. Not where I expected to.

I wonder if Jung would call her my shadow?

Integration. Frail humanity. A normal (probably) longing for the impossible; embracing and rejoicing in my frail humanity (mostly). Loving myself and welcoming the love that is offered here, there, and everywhere. Allowing myself to be less than perfect; reaching out in love imperfectly. Setting limits/boundaries and accepting that the world has already been saved and it's not my job. Growing up and growing old(ish) with as much grace as possible. 

My 'evil' twin isn't gone, btw. Not subsumed somehow. It's not magic. The parts are held in tension. Some of the terrors continue, but they don't run my life. And - some of the passion for justice grows out of those aspects of me. :-)

Thank you to all the people in my life who have helped me along this journey - you know who you are. Sisters (SSM and SSJD), family (Jim, Sandi, et al), friends, Janice Goldstein, JTM and BWP... Mile End Mission, St. CHL, and La Nativité ... and more ...

Friday, 5 December 2014

Jean Béliveau - Grace, Guts, Glory

I'm wondering why Jean Béliveau's death is touching me so deeply. I'm not alone in grieving. There's sadness in the air. 

Monsieur Béliveau and I go back a long way. :-) He was my hero - favourite player from the beginning. A child, sitting on our living floor by Gram, watching Les Canadiens on our first TV in the early to mid- 50's. Saturday nights. One of the happiest memories as a family - all together, all rooting for the Habs. No tension except that created by the hockey game in front of us. Well, I'm not sure Mum was as keen as the rest of us, but Gram was intense,  followed every move, and spoke her mind telling the players what to do and scolding when they messed up. :-)

I can see him still - long legs - long stride - grace and passion on ice. Different from the Rocket - whose bursts of energy and fiery nature contrasted with, or perhaps complemented, the elegant grace of Monsieur Béliveau. He was captain for a record ten years and on ten Stanley Cup winning teams. Awe!

When I was about 13, one evening my friend Gail and I were visiting one of Longueuil's matriarchs, Mrs. Battersby. I'm not even sure what her first name was (maybe Leonora?). She was Mrs. Battersby to one and all, widowed in WW1, mother of Lawrence who became a doctor and worked as a GP in Pointe-St-Charles. I had a crush on Monsieur Béliveau as any self-respecting teenaged girl who loved hockey did in 1960. Mrs. Battersby knew everyone, including Habs #4 who lived on Victoria, a block from her home on Gardenville. "Go on over," she said. "Ring his doorbell. He'll be happy to give you his autograph." Trembling, I did just that. My handsome hero came to the door in a white terry-cloth robe, smiled quietly, graciously gave me his autograph, and stole my heart once and for all. Poor man. No peace. 

Not too long ago someone created a course at, I think, Université de Montréal on Canadiens hockey as Quebec's religion. There's a book by Olivier Bauer: Hockey as a Religion: The Montreal Canadiens. A Protestant from France, he's agin it.  Ah well - look what he's missing... what a dull life. ;-)


Michael McKinley:  The Université de Montréal announced in January 2009 it would offer a 16-week graduate course to future clerics called "The Religion of the Montreal Canadiens," and instead of poking fun at the ivory tower of academia, the media took the question quite seriously. Two months later, when word came out that the cash-strapped American owner of the Canadiens had put the team up for sale, the news was met with even more serious soul searching, if not a widespread spiritual crisis. The speculation was that Quebec-based saviours such as Cirque du Soleil's Guy Laliberté and René Angelil would come to the rescue of the faith. In a short time, these two events suggested that the Canadiens were much more than a hockey team, but rather, an essential component of Quebec identity in the way the Catholic Church used to be. The Canadiens' very existence provides a meaning of life for millions - for the game, its heroes and their fans do indeed make up a sort of "secular religion".

""For a century now, the Montreal Canadiens have developed and sustained an identity, which has elevated them from simple hockey team to powerful cultural icon that invites comparison to, if not recognition as, a sort of popular religion. Their 24 Stanley Cup championship banners, commemorating the team's 24 acquisitions of hockey's Holy Grail, hang from the rafters of their temple, the Montreal Forum, along with the jerseys of their messiahs, a jersey known as La Sainte-Flanelle.

The beginnings of a wonderful article on the meaning of the Canadiens in Quebec society...

But I digress. Jean Béliveau. He brought us together. A proud French-Quebecer. A proud, I believe, Canadian. At least there was an image on TV last night of him singing O Canada at the Forum (oops Bell Centre) in these latter years. Hockey unites us. or rather our love of hockey unites us. Last spring when the world seemed to be falling part in all sorts of ways, the Habs' run well into the playoffs gave us great joy. We all loved each other! Well, almost ... We smiled to ourselves and at each other. We can go through 4 mayors in a matter of months, the corruption on provincial and municipal levels is atrocious, the federal Conservatives leave (being polite) much to be desired - but the Habs were playing great hockey!

In his death, Jean Béliveau brings us together still. I don't mean politically. He was beyond politics in one sense. No one cares what language we speak or what religion we follow, if any. We care that a man with a huge heart whose grace awed us has died. We loved him. 

He was, by all accounts, a good, generous, and kind man. One who respected everyone and was, in turn, respected. He kept his feet on the ground. He gave back (especially to children's charities) because he felt he had received so much. He thanked God every night that he had been given the talent to play professional hockey. He turned down the job of Governor General of Canada to be near his family after the death of his son-in-law. 

Ahh - somehow, I thought he'd keep on keeping on. Even though he's been failing in health for years. A friend quoted him as saying he had a Volkwagen heart in a Cadillac body. 

Sad days. Au revoir, Monsieur Béliveau. Or should I say, A Dieu? We will miss you - and we'll remember your grace on and off the ice.

 cartoon by André-Philippe Côté in Le Soleil, le quotidien de la capitale


I Am a Feminist - December 6th, 2014

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

Important link:


My heart hurts. 25 years since the massacre of 14 women at the Université de Montréal. There has been some change - and there has been little change. A young woman student at the Ecole Polytechnique said on the radio this week that the number of women in engineering is 25%. Improvement. That sexism continues both in the school and in the workplace for many of the women who graduate. That the days before beginning a new school year are not only geared towards male students, but the songs and some activities are reprehensible.

On CTV this week, Mutsumi Takahasi interviewed three women including one who survived four bullet wounds that night. Consensus: there is a long way to go for equality. One woman said that while the deaths of two soldiers recently - one in Quebec and one in Ottawa were immediately politicized (terrorism), the massacre at the Université de Montréal is still de-politicized by many. I just heard the brother of Hélène Colgan say on the radio, "There is only one reason Hélène died. That reason was M... L..." Shock. Disbelief. I refuse to name the gunman, btw. Others say, well, he was crazy. A one-man act in other words. It was not a one-man act in a vacuum. It was one man singling out feminists and executing them in a society where violence against women continues on and on. Oh - we can see it out there in other countries and cultures, but when will we fully own it in Canada? 

I'm angry. Yes. I'm also terribly saddened. Still. 

I remember that evening. Which of us who was old enough to remember doesn't know precisely where he or she was when the news hit. I had been at l'UdeM for classes in Etudes pastorales. It was dark and wet when I reached home unaware of the tragedy. The telephone was ringing. My brother, Jim, who had already heard wanted to know if I was safe. I was safe - but never as safe again in my core being. The world shook. We woke up that this kind of violence can happen right here - in our supposedly civilized society. That evil rage is just below the surface in our world and can erupt at any moment. The massacre was a horrific tragedy in and of itself. Add to the tragedy: it was aimed at strong, creative, competent, intelligent young women who had dared to cross one of the barriers in education and enter the men's world of engineering. With the killer's suicide note was a list of 15 women whom he wanted to kill because they were/are feminists.

I remember the funeral - the seemingly endless line of coffins at Notre Dame Basilica in Vieux Montréal. Young women whose lives were just beginning.

It's been troubling to see some young women these last few decades distancing themselves from the word feminist. It's sad that when a science building at John Abbott CEGEP (college for you outside-Quebecers) was dedicated this week to Anne Marie Edward, many students had no idea who she was. 

May we remember. May our young women and men learn. May we gain equality in all ways. It's not about hating men. It's about changing the paradigm. We are of equal value, every single one of us.

There was a beautiful, powerful event yesterday at our Quebec national Assembly. All 33 women MNAs participated in reading a poem and the names of each of the 14 women. There were 14 white roses, and many wore a white ribbon.

I am a feminist. I stand for equality. I am sometimes afraid. I am committed to speaking up and speaking out. I am lifted up by women who went before me, who gained us the vote, who have fought for equality in the classrooms, in the streets, in the office buildings, in politics, in the church and other religious institutions, who have created cracks in glass ceilings... I'm proud to stand with many strong women today. 

Meantime, I cry and remember.

Photos and information from the CBC website:
Fourteen women were murdered and 13 people were injured when a gunman stormed Montreal's École Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989.
The victims included the following:
Geneviève Bergeron was a second-year scholarship student in mechanical engineering. She played the clarinet and sang in a professional choir. In her spare time she played basketball and swam.
Helene Colgan  was in her final year of mechanical engineering and planned to do her master's degree. She had three job offers and was leaning toward accepting one from a company based near Toronto.
Nathalie Croteau was another graduating mechanical engineer. She planned to take a two-week vacation in Cancun, Mexico, with Colgan at the end of the month.
Barbara Daigneault was expecting to graduate at the end of the year. She was a teaching assistant for her father Pierre Daigneault, a mechanical engineering professor with the city's other French-language engineering school at the Université du Québec à Montréal.
Anne-Marie Edward, a chemical engineering student, loved outdoor sports like skiing and diving, and was always surrounded by friends.
Maud Haviernick was a second-year student in metallurgical engineering, and a graduate in environmental design from the Université du Québec à Montréal.
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz was a first-year nursing student. She arrived in Montreal from Poland with her husband in 1987.
Maryse Laganière was the only non-student killed. She worked in the engineering school's budget department. She had recently married.
Maryse Leclair was in fourth-year metallurgy, had a year to go before graduation and was one of the top students in the school. She acted in plays in junior college. She was the first victim whose name was known, and she was found by her father, Montreal police Lt. Pierre Leclair.
Anne-Marie Lemay was in fourth-year mechanical engineering.
Sonia Pelletier was the head of her class and the pride of St-Ulric, Que., her remote birthplace in the Gaspé Peninsula. She had five sisters and two brothers. She was killed the day before she was to graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering. She had a job interview lined up for the following week.
Michèle Richard was in second-year metallurgical engineering. She was presenting a paper with Haviernick when she was killed.
Annie St-Arneault was a mechanical engineering student from La Tuque, Que., a Laurentian pulp and paper town in the upper St-Maurice river valley. She lived in a small apartment in Montreal. She was killed as she sat listening to a presentation in her last class before graduation. She had a job interview with Alcan Aluminium scheduled for the following day. She had talked about eventually getting married to the man who had been her boyfriend since she was a teenager.
Annie Turcotte was in her first year and lived with her brother in a small apartment near the university. She was described as gentle and athletic, enjoying diving and swimming. She went into metallurgical engineering so she could one day help improve the environment.