Christmas has just gone by and tomorrow a new year begins. As usual I’m sitting here checking out what is going on with Ryan Seacrest at Time Square in New York, wishing I was there because it looks like quite the good time. As I watch, I’m thinking about the year I have had; about what I have learned and what I would change and do differently. Perhaps I will try once again to make New Year’s resolutions and perhaps like every year since I was able to understand what a resolution was, they will fade away – but like my body, my hair and my mind, the way I do things will change yielding both good and poor results and life will go on. I will make many new mistakes but I think I shall not make old ones. I will have to be forgiven, I will have to forgive but I will not forget and as usual, I will live and learn with eyes and mind wide open and hope that so too will my sons.
I have been blessed to have all that I have – the good, the bad, the painful, the stressful and the maddening as all of it is a component of who I am. Every emotion, every situation and experience is the fibre of my life and this journey that is the most intriguing story. If life was a book, it would be the most perfect book filled with great mystery with endless twists and turns and around every other corner, a surprise for the main character. Whether the story be a long one or short, how fortunate we are each day to open our eyes with an opportunity to see a new episode of “the show”…our show and even on the most mundane of days there is something miraculous that happens with every breath, every sight, every step…most of which we take for granted. But that’s okay because all of us have moments when we stop and realize just how good our life is …because we have all tasted the bitterness. Yet, as sure as the sun will rise we also know the darkest days are always redeemed by days of light…we just have to pay close attention and we will all see that there is indeed good in everything.
With my 50th birthday just over a year away, I’ve been settling into the next-phase-of- life Daniella and I love her more than I ever did between the ages of 25 and 35. The numbers vary from person to person but we all can recall those flying blind, confusing, career chasing, home building, family life balancing, ever so busy and ever so-tired-from-taking-care-of the-the-babies- you -could-just-puke years between ages of 25 and 35. After all the growth and knowledge I gained during those years, I find the growth and knowledge that happens between the ages of 40 and 50 pleasant and comforting. Thanks to my mother, when I was quite young, I learned the importance of being comfortable in my own skin and confident in my choices . She always said, “If you can’t live with yourself, you can’t be happy living in this world,”. Over the years, on the days where my confidence was shaken or a difficult decision had to be made, that one sentence of my mother’s sometimes was all I needed to move forward and in the last ten years, more specifically the last three, I made a concerted effort to discover and re-discover the things I wanted to do that filled my soul and simply made me feel good. Absolutely, Tom and the children and all the things we did together and all the places we visited made me happy and satisfied but when you are juggling raising a family, working whenever you could, raising a kid like Adam, driving kids, encouraging kids, being that shoulder to lean on for your husband, keeping people properly fed and healthy, staying on top of what goes on at school, sports, tutoring, and therapies and funding, it is easy to lose a chunk of who you are and for me I put a part of myself on hold, mostly because when you are a wife and mother sometimes, it’s what one must do. So for a while, I put that Daniella on hold – the girl who always had time to do the things that made her heart smile … the girl with the imagination that ran wild with ideas and stories that stretched out the days and now that my boys are older and finding their paths and at work Tom and I are entering that fifth year of business that is a nice somewhat settled place to be, the opportunity to nudge that girl on hold and get her back in action again.
With age 50 approaching, I started looking at the way I did the “everyday ” things I thought were in order. Stupid little things that were a part of my life that had become stale and un-enjoyable. So, I started to re-evaluate them and made changes that changed my life and brought that dormant part of Daniella back to life. It started with the silliest of things like quitting the gym three years ago, to play my sports and to take up yoga which I love and now crave. But as I moved through the postures, I realized that something else was missing, something that yoga and my sports did not give me so I signed up for adult ballet classes and moved my body in ways it had not in what seemed like a hundred years. And in spite of the agony of retraining my body to move in a balletic and graceful way, I smile from that first pique at the barre to the final courtesy and applause for the pianist and I am bursting with joy.
Re-vamping the simple things started me on a path of slowly learning to re-vamp other areas of my life. On a friend’s suggestion, I started this blog. She knew I always wanted to write novels and articles and she knew even though I had a taste of being published a few times, I loved it and hated it equally. With our sons having autism she and I have a busy and unique lives compared to typical mothers and she understood why I always found it a struggle to find the time to write. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get manuscripts in on time, always checking and re-checking publishing requirements, tweaking and re-tweaking formats and praying and crossing my fingers and toes that I wouldn’t get a rejection letter. But this blog allowed me to start writing when I could find the time. With no deadlines or pressure, I could hit the keyboard and say what I had to say. It was a neat way to write for myself in a format and style that was perfect for me while sharing my thoughts with readers around the world. Taking her advice was the best damned decision I made with regards to my writing. While I feel that it is important to continue to learn how to write well, I cherish the no pressure outlet that is my blog, the freedom it affords me and the endless and priceless joy it brings me. It is all mine. I don’t have to change my words or phrases to please anyone and for the first time in years, I feel and smell and breathe this love of words once again. Perhaps when my boys step out on their own in a few years, I will buckle down in front of the computer and write my novel(s) but until then I shall blog to my heart’s content.
2015 was also a turning point for me as a parent. Raising a family today is quite different from when my parents raised our family and quite different from when Adam and Logan were children. I had to learn and learn to change in order to be everything I need to be while I walk beside my boys’ two very different journeys through puberty on their way to manhood. Raising young people is a fascinating privilege but it can be worrying and draining too. You have to be firm enough, authoritative enough with the right amount of trust, gentleness, support and understanding with a generous sense of humour and copious amounts of patience all wrapped up with reams and reams of love. I have found it more important now to take the time to step away from dealing with them (especially Adam) than I did when they were little because there is a whole lot more to worry about now than when they were small. Happily, Logan is on the right path so far and hopefully, Adam will find his way back to the peace he used to have before puberty.
Looking at the last 10 years of our life like a rollercoaster ride, our cars were filled with moving back to Ontario and establishing ourselves, raising little boys who are now teenage boys, my father’s illness and ultimate death, my mother’s life without him, new jobs, old jobs, Tom’s parents’ health, our growing businesses, perimenopause, school,religion, work relationships, friendships and Adam’s autism. And as these very full and heavy cars approached the top of the track Tom and I worked very hard and hoped and prayed that on the long steep decent that preceded all the twists and turns to come, we could keep everything and everyone securely and safely fastened in the cars. But like any ride, not everyone survives all the twists, turns and loops and in 2015 some of our shit in the form of friendship, flew out of it’s car and blew away in the wind forever and though I did grieve that loss somewhat, I have come to realize it was for the better. I’m too busy with my family and my life to waste my time on insignificant, vapid people who simply cannot grow up and see beyond the superficial bubble they share with their equally defective peers. This year was the first time I ever had to verbally end a friendship. There was some sadness, some anger and bitterness over what I felt was a waste of my time and effort and then there was relief followed by gratitude; I was grateful to have had this experience because it re-affirmed what I knew in the first place…I had enough amazing friends not to mention an awesome family that includes my sister, my mom and my dozens of cousins no matter how near or far away they may be. As this year comes to a close, I embrace the people and things that make me feel good, even closer and I abandon the trite, toxic and the ignorant to the past.
Barry Neil Kaufman wrote a book which he simply called “Happiness is a Choice”. I remember reading it when I was trying to navigate Adam and our family through the initial stages of his autism. Everyone chooses whether or not to be happy. I am guilty of sometimes choosing the thing that can bring me down. I’m not one for resolutions but in 2016 and beyond, I’m going to try and choose the things that lift me up. If it doesn’t feel good; if it’s inconvenient, out it goes. Life is wonderful but its hard and sometimes upsetting and frustrating and sad and it is also damn short so but I’m going to try and make those not so great moments as short lived as I possibly can. Maybe I’m onto something by choosing to remind myself of all that I’d read in that short simple book by Kaufman. I’m going to keep on with finding the simple things that make my heart feel full. I’m going to try and choose happiness over the nonsense and put myself and my feelings first in certain situations and see where it takes me. I have a feeling it’s the right choice. Here’s to choice in 2016 … choices that make you happy.
To Tom and Logan you are my pillars of strength and I love you to the ends of the universe and back. May 2016 bring us all everything we hope for and may the four of us be together, safe and happy for years to come. And to Adam – all I can say is we love you. You are talented and you make us proud but you are difficult to live with at times. You did turn it around somewhat this year but there are still some important lessons you need to learn. I hope in 2016 you can see the consequences of your actions. I hope in 2016 you can understand that positive attention is better than negative attention and I hope in 2016 you can bring us all to a place of peace. Happy New Year, my son.
Lastly, to my dear friends here in Canada and around the world, to my SJC sisters who tether me to who I really am, you mean so much to me… to my sister Reina and my mother and all my relatives wherever you may be, I love you and wish you peace, joy and a happy new year.