Reflecting on 2014

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I chose this photo as my favourite from 2014 for one big reason: my children surprised me on my birthday with a blanket with this photo weaved into it. It was an incredibly touching and thoughtful gift. It speaks to who they are and how well they know me.

I often like to start my posts with a quote and when searching for one that might help encapsulate my year, I found that Dr. Seuss quotes seem to be full of snippets of my year:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”

I love this quote. I feel that returning to university is helping me appreciate my “brains”, motivates me to keep moving and growing and learning. The only downfall is that it has opened so many paths, so many options for learning, that I find choosing which direction to pursue next a hard thing to do – not really a downfall but rather a windfall!

“The more that your read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Every day I feel my brain expand, become stronger, more adept at working things out. I remember more easily, which is something I was warned would be a downfall of being an older student. Perhaps in comparison to my younger classmates I am deficient, but I certainly feel more capable and less scattered than prior to going back to school. I am definitely more efficient with my time!

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

I found it hard at first to “fit in” at university. Everyone is soooo young. I wandered around and wondered where I would fit in. Two things stick out from this year that made me accept and embrace that difference. I had a conversation with a young lady, as we walked between classes, and she asked me what was the hardest part of returning to school and I shared that I sometimes felt lonely, that I didn’t fit in. She stopped walking and turned to me and said, “Then you do fit in, because lots of people feel that way.”

The other encounter that put it in perspective was with a professor. He also asked me how I was finding the return to school and I shared that I was wondering what I could bring to the class given the age difference. He explained that I had a perspective that was unique and valuable. He said that I needed to “get over” the age difference and that my peers would follow suit.

When people ask – as they frequently do – how I find fitting in at university, I tell them it’s amazing. I do have difficulty, though, in explaining how and why it works, but it just does. Now, standing out is something I don’t feel is a negative. I embrace it and accept it and flourish within that framework.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

With children on both coasts of North America, there are hard, tearful goodbyes, even when another visit is in the works and not far down the road. The last goodbyes, ones we had in the last few days, are long goodbyes. We have no definite plans of when we will see each other in person. Yet, I have accepted that it is what it is. My children have wonderful, full, happy and fulfilling lives. They have people in their day-to-day lives who love them and care about their well-being. They have work that not only pays the bills, but that allows them to support and encourage those around them. They have launched into their own lives. My children are two of my greatest supporters and are transforming into two of my dearest friends. We are lucky to have close relationships and that is why I will always smile thinking of the times we share and look forward to the next opportunity to get a “squeezer” hug. They are happy, I am happy and I am happy for them. Life is good.

“We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.”

Well, yes. Let’s call it love. For more than 33 years, I’ve been in mutual weirdness with my sweetie. Without question, I would have been lost this year without his support – beyond the 3 meals a day he prepares for me, his encouragement, understanding and boldface bragging have been a significant part of my successful return to school. We shared one of my greatest memories of the year – our cycling trip to France. It was an experience beyond words. I could not think of anyone in this world I’d rather be weird with, now and forever.

“Breathing in, there is only the present moment” – Thich Nhat Hanh

A few days ago, I was out with Kyle, Laura and Warren in Toronto. I was beginning to anticipate their departures and was feeling anxious and sad. We were walking through Queen’s Park and I decided, instead, to focus on how I was “walking as if my feet were kissing the earth”. This practice brought me back into the moment, the moment of actually BEING with the three young people whose departure I was dreading. The moments of departure did come, and they were sad, but I also “lived the moments” when the children were around.

One of the greatest gifts of this year of abundance has been beginning the journey of learning mindfulness. It has contributed to my life in ways that have been subtle and profound. I feel that 2014 was full of changes and experiences that brought me an incredible amount of happiness and fulfillment; mindfulness is the foundation that I am deepening those experiences through.

Hand in hand with mindfulness are other words of wisdom. When my friend, Lois, told me of her terminal diagnosis, I asked her what I could do for her: “Live each day to the fullest”.

Lois is with me every day as I try to do just that; she influenced me for all of the 30 years we knew each other. My life is her life.

And it is one amazing life.