“For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough.”
– Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
I hope you will forgive me, dear reader, for not posting this yesterday…Easter spent without family was rougher than I expected (especially as it was my daughter’s first Easter) but I’m hoping writing this today will help ease the pain. If only just a little.
“Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened. Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
We’ll appreciate them so much more when this is all over. What will we appreciate, you ask? I didn’t really have one single thing in mind when I chose the word them. Fill in the blank: When COVID-19 has been vanquished, I will finally and truly appreciate _____________. Regardless of what your answer was (family, friends, restaurants, crowded shopping malls, travel, work, your annoying neighbour who comes by to borrow sugar every day), it’s true, isn’t it? When this is all over, everything – even the things we profess to dislike or even hate, will be somehow less odious. Because right now, they are simply not within our reach.
Right now, we are all on lockdown, unsure of when the rules and regulations will be lifted, unsure of what life will look like when it goes back to “normal”.
It’s as fascinating as it is frustrating that this has been hard on us all. During a normal workweek, the prospect of being told to stay home with our families for a few days would be a godsend to many of us – a chance to rest and recuperate.
But the undefined, seemingly unending nature of this quarantine is different from a mental health break or a vacation. So very different.
Families convene by skype, blowing kisses through the screen. Grocery stores are an oasis, their shelves sanitized on a nightly basis in anticipation of the touch of an unknowingly-infected hand the following morning. Food packaging is left on the front porch, cleaned and cleaned again before being allowed through the hallowed front doors. Swing-sets and slides are cordoned off to discourage those too arrogant or foolhardy to respect the simple request to stay home.
If you really think about it, unless home is not a safe place for you, we are being asked to do the one thing we should desire naturally: spend time at home with our loved ones. But the lack of control, of choice, makes this simple act a painful one.
What will the day be like when restrictions are lifted and we can once again be free to shake hands, to high-five, to hug our loved ones? Will we be filled with joy or fear that this isn’t really over…not forever? How long will it take for this to fade from memory? For the COVID-19 scare to feel like a dream?
I don’t know the answer but I hope this day is soon, and that the suffering to get there remains minimal. One can hope.
But as for this time, this time that has been given to us (whether you think it is a gift or not), we, for the most part, have the freedom to decide what to do with it. Not, it’s not the freedom we are used to but those of us who are lucky enough to have a roof over our heads and ready access to food (and toilet paper) still have a freedom of sorts.
So, will you bemoan the times you are living through? Or will you make of them what you will, what you can, assuming you and your loved ones remain healthy (andI hope they do)?
For my part, I am working on finding the light in the dark, the hope in the sorrow, the sunshine in the rain and the rainbows between the clouds. Soon, oh so soon, these oppositions won’t seem so stark, so dire.
But, for now, let’s take the positive where we can find it.
This too shall pass and what you will remember, dear reader, is what you did with the time that was given to you.
And, remember, life is beautiful…especially when you STAY HOME
PS. This is hard. This is not normal. This is a pandemic. It is OK to not be OK. All I ask is that, for your sake and the sake of your loved ones, you do what you can to take care of your mental health. For me, writing and focusing on the positive are my coping methods. Yours may be different. Don’t listen to anyone telling you you’re doing it wrong. This is unprecedented for our generation, as long as you’re taking care of you and yours in the best way that you can, it is not possible for you to do it wrong…what do they know? Have they lived through a pandemic before? You do you.
Aside from the Travel Tuesday blogs I usually post weekly (OK, OK, sometimes I post them on Wednesdays…) I’m thinking of writing these Solidarity Sunday posts every week while this self-isolation period is going on. Let me know what you think!
There were moments, of course. Those small spaces of time, too soon gone, when everything seems to stand still, and existence is balanced on a perfect point, like the moment of change between the dark and the light, when both and neither surround you.” – Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
I feel as if nearly every post on here this past year has begun with some kind of apology for being away for so long. And this one, unfortunately, is no different. Though writing is one of the great loves of my life and I am trying to figure out a system by which time is regularly spent tuning into this aspect of my person, I do feel the need to cut myself some slack for what has honestly been a few lackluster years as far as writing is concerned.
You see…though I mean it when I say that writing is one of the loves of my life, the last few years have been spent discovering the others – my other great loves: my husband and my daughter.
In 2019 alone, Louis and I got married, I left a job that was no longer fulfilling me, we found out I was pregnant with our first child, and we bought our family home where we are now living (happily ever after).
I would say this would constitute a pretty big year for anyone. Even still, I managed to return to my writing here and there as things periodically and briefly slowed down – as evidenced by my sporadic posts on this blog. But it wasn’t enough. The writer in me never felt satisfied.
Protest as she might, however, my inner writer needed to be patient just a little longer as the biggest change – the biggest of all I’d say – led me to ignore her completely for the last few months of 2019 all the way until today.
I’d like to think that despite her constant niggling at my self-conscious brain, my radio silence was warranted by the best possible reason. On January 27th at 11:44AM in the morning, Louis and I welcomed our first child into the world: Aria Adele.
Before I continue this post, however, I should probably write something of a disclaimer regarding my photo policy for any posts written about motherhood or our parenting journey – and this does not constitute any judgment of how other parents choose to do things. As far as public platforms go, I will not be posting any photos of Aria’s face, even though she is incredibly cute and I am dying to show her off. Louis and I made this decision as neither of us are huge into social media and we want Aria to be able to make her own choices about her social media presence, or lack thereof when she’s older. Apologies ahead of time for depriving you of baby photos!
But back to why Aria’s birth at the end of January led to me ostracizing this poor writer for the first part of this year. Not that I need to explain myself, of course, but the writer is demanding compensation for being ignored for so long.
Leading up to Aria’ birth, I was exhausted and impatient. Daily. Though I had continued to exercise every day all the way into my 8th month of pregnancy, the last bit kicked my ass for lack of a better way to describe the experience. Despite sleeping more than I think I have since my teenage years, I was tired. All. The. Time. Everything became a chore – even the activities I had always found to be both rejuvenating and relaxing. Writing, reading, yoga, even socializing were abandoned one-by-one until I was left lounging on the couch day in, day out half-heartedly bingeing various shows that continued to feel like fillers regardless of how good they were objectively. I felt like time was somehow crawling and racing forward at the speed of light simultaneously and the sensation made my head spin.
Everyone always tells you to enjoy your time as a couple during your first pregnancy before two permanently becomes three but no one added the caveat that enjoying the last few weeks of my pregnancy journey would be so hard. Each morning seemed to bleed into evening and I didn’t have the energy to do much other than get myself up from the couch once in a while to go to the bathroom. Louis was wonderful and kind and understanding to a fault, and he will tell you he relished the chance to take care of me without me bounding around doing 40 things at once, but my lethargic state didn’t allow for us to do much together other than watch episodes and read from the baby book once he got home from work every day. Before I knew it, and without having “made the most” of our last few weeks together per say, Aria’s due date had come and gone and then…well then the impatience set in.
I know, I know, everyone knows first babies are late. And I had told myself time and again that she would be two weeks late since that’s the longest most OBs will let you go before they will induce you – but this didn’t make the waiting any easier. As a first time Mom, I had no idea what to look for in terms of labour symptoms and so every single cramp, ache, heck even bowel movement, was taken as a sign that it was “go time”. And it never was. No matter what I tried, it seemed, whether it was bouncing on a yoga ball or forcing myself out for a walk or eating my weight in dates, this baby was not budging.
In fact, Aria held on as long as they would let her: I was induced 11 days past her due date of January 15th. And even with all that waiting, when they inserted the cervidil in the hospital on the late afternoon of the 26th they gave me the following warning: it would likely take 24 hours minimum to kick in. In fact, they would likely need to dose me again the next evening with the hope that things would get within 48 hours or so. However, they added in passing, there is a slim possibility you could hyper react. But that isn’t likely. See you in 24 hours.
Well, world, guess what.
We left the hospital at 5:30PM that day and by 10:30PM I was back having gone from 0 to 60 without warning: I was contracting every minute leaving me barely any time to catch my breath.
I won’t go into too much detail about what transpired over the next 12 hours but suffice it to say nothing went according to plan. But does it ever? Maybe I’ll actually learn this lesson some day.
Even with all of the complications that ensued, however, I agree with every Mom you’ve ever asked about childbirth (I’m not the only one who has always been curious about this, right?). It was all, all of it, worth it. Every second.
Because when all was said and done, when the pain and the fear dissipated at the end of the longest road I have ever walked, time stood still – just for a moment. In my arms was this perfect little girl, the most beautiful creature I could have ever imagined. And she was ours, our child. Our newest love. As I gazed at her precious face and cradled her tiny body against my chest, everything that had transpired suddenly made sense. All of the exhaustion, the nausea, the impatience, the pain, there was a purpose for all of it: her. Aria’s little hand stroked my collarbone and I knew, I just knew, everything was going to be OK.
My existence in this moment was indeed balanced on a perfect point – no matter what came next, the highs and the lows, the light and the dark, I knew Louis and I would be able to face whatever it was because now we had someone depending on us to see everything through.
Those small spaces of time, her first moments earthside, were soon over (too soon it seems) and the weeks that followed were hard, filled with moments of both joy and frustration. But what brought us through was this little human who doesn’t even yet know the love she has inspired in us.
I’m still going to continue posting about my travels, I promise, but I hope you won’t mind the occasional post about motherhood because, well, I have a feeling this might be my new passion.
Who you are is defined by the next decision you make, not the last one” – Rachel Hollis, Girl, Stop Apologizing
Hello dear readers, if you are indeed still out there. It’s been a few days. OK, it’s been over a month, but who’s counting?
I am, to be honest. And I’ve been struggling really hard not to spend a good chunk of my time every day beating myself up at least a little for how much I have allowed my writing goals to take a back seat this year (and I’m talking the back seat of a 747, not a mini-cooper).
When I actually allow myself to pause for a minute and attempt to cut myself some slack, however, I find myself reflecting on what actually happened this past year that pushed writing from the priority I wanted it to be to the “wouldn’t it be nice” archival section of my brain. Not only did I get married in June, in a largely DIY-wedding (shout-out to our wedding party of 20 people and all of the family and friends who made this possible), but I also became pregnant with our first child (due in mid-January), bought a house, got a new job, and moved out of Ottawa (the city where I was born-and-raised). Any one of these things could potentially throw a resolution or two out of whack but all of them? Suffice it to say pretty much every single resolution I wrote about in my last New Years themed post was successfully defenestrated somewhere between January and December of 2019.
But here’s the funny thing about resolutions: they are entirely self-imposed. No one, and I mean no one, is going to judge you for not achieving them. Even if you’re the type of person who shouts their 10 New Years Resolutions from the proverbial rooftops, by the time the first week of January has passed even the people who love you most have already forgotten what exactly you had set out to do with your new year. And by December? Most people don’t even remember their own resolutions, why would they remember – and thus judge you for not achieving – yours?
So, recognizing that I am by far my own harshest critic, I have been working hard to focus not on what I didn’t do this year but instead on what I did. I’d say playing a huge role in pulling off an enormous bilingual wedding is a pretty solid start. Growing a human? Not unimpressive. Finding a new job in a completely new niche and making it my own? Fairly notable. Buying and helping to set up a new family home? At least worth a smile and a pat on the back.
These accomplishments are nothing to sniff at and I need to remind myself daily of how much has transpired this year and, yes, even marvel for a minute at the fact that I am still smiling despite the months of stress and constant anticipation for the next big thing.
Even if nothing about my hectic version of 2019 resonates with you, I bet the following observation will. Along with all the specific achievements I listed above, and even more than any of them or all of them combined, the aspect that I find most remarkable is my ability to dream up a new list of resolutions even after my last ones crashed and burned so spectacularly. I mean, how incredible is the human spirit that even after setting goals and getting nowhere near the finish line on any of them, we can resolve anew to better certain aspects of our life in the coming year? I could just as easily tell myself resolutions were simply not for me and give up on the idea entirely (and, indeed, if resolutions are not your thing, no judgment! To each their own), but instead I sit down at my desk yet again and put pen to paper to determine what my big goals are for the year. Never doubt the power of perseverance, even when it seems most futile. Something is bound to stick at some point!
So, as far as 2020 is concerned, I have decided to narrow down my resolutions to three big ones in the three main areas of my life where I want to see improvement (you know, while I simultaneously learn to be a parent…):
Mental Health: This year, I would like to explore my coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety (meditation, reading, exercise – especially yoga, time with loved ones, entertainment, writing) and put into place a game plan for when I am feeling overwhelmed or panicky.
Fitness: This year, I would like to return to my bare minimum of doing yoga every single day (once I am recovered from childbirth that is) and add exercise from there. Even with a kid, if I could get back to exercising every day of the week, say just for 20 minutes some days, I know I can get back to a place where I feel strong and healthy and comfortable in my own skin.
Career: Finally, this year I aim to take the leap to put myself out there as a writer and editor. I know I have the ability, I just have to have the courage to try. Even if my efforts only produce enough recognition and payment to provide some extra cushion to our budget, I can say I am getting paid to do what I love. How cool would that be?
So there you have it, three broad goals for 2020 to put myself firmly on the path I have strived to walk all my life: one that leads to a happy, healthy and fulfilled existence I can be proud of. The lack of specificity was entirely on purpose, by the way. I have found in the past that setting specific goals (I.e.: I resolve to not have a single panic attack this year or I will write for 30 minutes every day) tends to encourage making excuses for why I cannot check that box off on this particular day until a month goes by without any real progress. I find the more broad I make my resolutions, the more likely I am to chip away at them instead of allow them to hang intimidatingly above my head.
Ultimately, I am trying to look forward as much as possible instead of back – to define myself by my current and future decisions, not my past excuses. I have no idea if this new strategy will be successful but I do know it is worth a shot.
So, what resolutions have you set out for yourself this year (if any)? What’s your take on what kind of resolutions are most successful? I’d love to hear more perspectives on this.
I promise I will return to my France trip on my next post, thank you for indulging this little tradition of mine for my last post of 2019.
And remember, whether you succeed in your resolve or not, life is beautiful.
“I don’t know what to think until I write about it” – Joan Didion
It’s a New Year and so a new me… or apparently that’s how we are supposed to see the stroke of midnight on the 1st of January when all the people in the same time zone as you (who haven’t dozed off already) wish each other all the health and happiness for the coming year. In the past, during the first week of the year, I simply spent half of each day impatiently scratching through yet another wrongly written date and the other half wiggling out of my over-ambitious Resolutions with the help of lame excuses. By the time the middle of January had come and gone, I had already shrugged my shoulders, pronounced my hopeful resolutions as “next year projects” and gone on with my life as usual.
After all, is it not just an arbitrary decision that every time we successfully travel fully around a big ball of fire on our floating rock, we should celebrate as if being given a new life, a fresh start in which to accomplish all the things we always said we would?
“I have stood at the brink of the falls, that thin line that separates eternity from time”
– Cathy Marie Buchanan, The Day the Falls Stood Still
As you may know, the quote above describes the feeling of awe and humility that washes over you when standing on the brink of Niagara Falls, with the sheer crush of water rushing its way over the ancient cliff face to the churning bowels below – it is a glorious and chilling sight – completely unique the world over.
Unique as the Falls may be, the description of that thin line separating eternity from time…that, I have felt elsewhere. On the edge of the Cliff of Moher in Ireland for example, or sitting on the cliffs of the Cape Breton coast, staring out at the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean seemingly without end.
What these places all have in common is that they are viewed from a great height, which is what I figured Ms. Buchanan was referring to in her description. When I went through my quote book today to come up with the perfect way to start this post, however, suddenly this quote spoke to me differently.
“Pierre sometimes felt like an emergency room physician. People streamed through his door, casualties of city life, lugging a heavy World behind them. Broken by too many demands, too little time, too many bills, emails, meetings, calls to return, too little thanks and too much, way too much, pressure… It wasn’t servile work they did at Manoir Bellechasse, Pierre knew. It was noble and crucial. They put people back together. Though some, he knew, were more broken than others.” – Louise Penny,The Murder Stone
This is not going to be an easy post to write but part of me feels like I have been waiting most of my adult life to do just that. I promised an explanation for why I had been so absent from this blog, so here goes.
I suffer from anxiety. Not as crippling as it could be perhaps, but disruptive and intrusive nonetheless. There, I said it. I tend to refer to my anxiety with the more generic title of “emotions” to make it seem more manageable but it’s time I call it by its real name.
“It’s possible that a hidden symmetry is often at work as we stumble our way through life.” – Elizabeth Hay, Alone in the Classroom
There are so many things about life that never cease to amaze. It feels like only yesterday I was last here, stumbling my way through a maze of past feelings and thoughts to try and convey them intelligibly to those who choose to read my words. And yet, here we are more than a year later and I am finally returning to the written word. What a year it has been.