28 Lessons in 28 years

For as long as I can remember, my birthday has been my favourite day. I’ve always been the kind of person who craves being the centre of attention, so it’s only natural that a day focused solely on the celebration of me would be my most favourite holiday (yeah, it’s a holiday in my mind). When I turned 27 last year I lamented on how my birthday would never be the same again. I remember Darcy telling me that the day would no longer be all about me anymore, that next year I would be a mom, and the day would inevitably be about doing something with our child.

How little we knew.

Yesterday was incredible. The best day I’ve had since last year, easily. Darcy gave me at new smart TV for my birthday (I can finally watch the news and On Point! It has an antenna so I can pick up CBC). I got two bouquets of flowers, a bottle of champagne, a bottle of wine and a Starbucks card at work. A very dear friend took me out to lunch, I went to the works for supper and an amazing friend called into the restaurant and picked up the tab (so incredibly sweet!!) , Got to talk to my family in Ontario and my God baby and her brother (and their lovely momma) and ended the evening with some champagne. It was just an amazing amazing day. THANK YOU to everyone who took time out of their day to help make my day so special. I am so lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life.

I’ve always liked to reflect on things that a new year of life has taught me, and this year, more than most, I have learned some of the harshest lessons that reality has to offer.  But, I have had 28 years to learn all kinds of valuable life lessons, and in the spirit of beginning another trip around the sun, here are 28 things I have learned at 28.

 

  1. Happiness is a choice. The past will hurt you if you choose to let it. You can grow stronger from pain if you don’t let it destroy you.  This has become my everyday reality for the last 9 months. I constantly have to remind myself that I can choose to be happy. That I have to take everything as a bump that will make me stronger. Even in my sadness I can find moments of happy and it’s one of the hardest things that I have ever done. 
  2. When you change it doesn’t mean others are changing with you.  I have been blessed to have some of the most amazing people in my life. The saddest part about growing apart is that people seldom do it at the same time. For various reasons people come and go in life, but what’s important is never forgetting what those people taught you.
  3. If you love someone, tell them. You never know when it might be your last chance. Love without fear. Your heart won’t lie to you. 
  4. You can never take too many pictures. Someday you’ll long to have evidence of those memories you hold dear. There are periods of my life that I wish I had more pictures of, even now. My time in England, high school, my pregnancy. Take the time to stop and smile. You’re beautiful. 
  5. Never let making a living get in the way of making a life.  A lesson taught to me early in my university life by the incredible Tom Brophy.  I am not my job. 
  6. Learn when to say, “no”. If you are always agreeable, people will take advantage of you.  Saying no doesn’t make you a bad person, sometimes it just makes you a realistic one. 
  7. Stay true to your friends ALWAYS.  They’ll save your life in more ways than one. 
  8. Some people are jerks.  They’re not worth your time so don’t waste your breathe. Sometimes you have to give up on people. Not because you don’t care, but usually because they don’t.  
  9. Always wear incredible underwear. Even if you’re the only one who will see it that day. Good underwear make you feel like you can take on the world. 
  10. Don’t let comparing yourself to other people steal your joy.  I am not anyone else. They haven’t walked in my shoes. We haven’t had the same experiences. I will never be them. They will never be me. 
  11. Try not to be so hard on yourself. If someone talked about you the way you talked about yourself, would you be friends with them?
  12. Care about your appearance. This might go against every other “life lesson” list that you have ever read, but it’s completely ok to take pride in how you look. Do your hair, put on your makeup, and always dress up instead of dressing down. You’d be amazed what it does for your confidence, and you’ll never know who you’ll impress that day (especially yourself!) 
  13. Never let anyone borrow money. Give it away if you must, but don’t expect it back. Too many friendships have been sacrificed to unpaid debts. 
  14. Be thankful more often. Saying thank you, and honestly meaning it, is one of the most important interactions you can have with another person. 
  15. You don’t need everyone to like you. If everyone likes you, you’re doing something wrong. 
  16. Believe in something.  God, science, humanity, yourself; we all need something to believe in.
  17. Bad things happen to good people. Believing anything else will cause you to lose faith in the world. Everyone has their own pain. It’s what you do with the pain that matters
  18. Take time to step out of your comfort zone. That’s where you’ll shine the most. 
  19. Speak when you’re angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret. Calm down. Think before you speak. 
  20. Sometimes people thousands of miles away from you can make you feel better than somebody right beside you. You know who you are.  Some of the best and most amazing people I know are the ones I have spent the least amount of physical time with.  Sharing physical space with you is amazing, but it’s not needed to make you the most incredible friends. 
  21. No relationship is ever a waste of time.  I have been in some REALLY shitty relationships.  I don’t regret any of them. They taught me exactly what I needed to know at that moment. I could have been spared the pain and heartache, but I will forever be indebted for those lessons. They have made me the fiercely loyal and assertive person I have become.
  22. Winnie the Pooh holds many secrets to life. Seriously. The bear is WISE. 
  23. Open communication is key. If you have a problem with someone, tell them. Don’t shy away from confrontation. Passive-aggressiveness will get you nowhere. 
  24. Friendship is not a conditional thing. If you’re my friend, be my friend, do not be my friend under certain circumstances. If you decide to do that, you were my never my friend to begin with and I do not need you in my life.
  25. Just because is the best reason to do something nice for someone else. 
  26. Words to live by:  Picture yourself as a cup and Love as water. First you must fill the cup completely and it will overflow and spread around you. If you just spill it everywhere, you’re left empty. A dear friend taught me this when I was 15 and it literally saved my life.
  27. Beauty comes in all sizes.  Not just a size 5, or 12, or 16 or 22. ALL  SIZES.  Scales belong on a  fish. Health. Health is what’s important. If you’re not healthy you’ve got nothing.
  28.  Love yourself. Above all else. Love yourself. 

 

 

 

 

 

Lies

When she died I had a choice.  I could give up or I could go forward.  For a moment the choice was absolutely clear.  When I was told that she was dead,  in that moment,  I could have followed her along directly.  A leap off the building.  A knife.  The wall and my head. But then right away thoughts of family and friends flooded my brain.  I had to be strong because this situation was already going to screw everything up forever and I couldn’t also double down and make it worse.

So for many, many months, not killing myself was the baseline I had established as “doing pretty good.”   Plus, when you start there, getting out of bed is like successfully climbing Mt. Everest.  I gave myself accolades for simply going outside for a little while.  But those impulses kept growing, kept beating in my heart, kept pushing me forward.  I learned to lie. “I’m ok”.  I learned to breathe again.  And yet I’m still not sure I can reconcile what my life should be versus what it is today, right here. Everything is always coming next, and it is the incredible human spirit that allows us to face the day and tell the lies and forge the hope we have no right to expect and yet we do.

I’m used to the lies by now.  They are common and easy to say.  I say them for the sake of other people, but also for myself.  I have to lie so that I’m not always the one that sucks the air out of a room, even if that room is the entire outdoors on a glorious fall day and someone has questions about me, about my life, about how I’m doing.  There is no point in ruining every idle conversation and friendly chatter with truth about my dead daughter, Everlee.

You’re welcome everyone that I have spared the honest recounting of my recent life.  It is the absolute least I can do, and it cuts me with a slice of sadness every time I do it.  Eight months since she died and it is still recent to me.  Because it is not so much that time has healed my wounds as much as it is that the wounds themselves are the very nature, the very fabric, of my everyday existence.  I miss Everlee as a matter of course, just like breathing, just like moving my body, like blinking, like the beat of my heart.

I am still amazed to have learned that a heart can remain beating when it feels like only dust and awful and the endless void inside.  I am compelled to go forward, no matter the pain of my past.  If anything, her lost life is a fuel for me to live twice as hard, twice as present, twice as calm as I ever would have before. 

This weekend I celebrated my 28th birthday. (My birthday is actually next Monday, but for scheduling purposes I held my celebration this weekend). My birthday has always been my favourite day. I remember having to scale back my celebrations last year because I was beginning to get to that stage in pregnancy where going out just wasn’t a wise choice. I remember thinking at the time that maybe for my 28th birthday the baby, Everlee, could have her first sleepover to that we could have a party at the house once again.

How silly. I had no right to expect that to happen.

I was truly on the fence about whether I wanted to celebrate this year. It seems to me that I don’t have much to celebrate most days. But I had to push forward. I am so glad that I did. I am constantly reminded at every turn, that despite how incredibly tragic my life has been at this juncture, I have also been incredibly blessed with people who stand by me, people who will take the time to lift me up when I can barely life my head to look at the world. I had an amazing night. With amazing people.

Am I ok? No. I don’t know when I’ll be able to say “I’m ok” and mean it when people ask me how I am. But those little lies get me through that minute, that hour, that day. Convincing other people is easy. And maybe if I have enough of those little moments of good, soon I’ll start to believe the lies too. And maybe someday soon they’ll become my truth again.

Thank you everyone for making this weekend something truly special for me.