This is a long overdue update. Welcome to 2018, y’all!
I’m providing the song(s, it’s kind of a 3-in-1 deal) below as a sort of soundtrack for this post. give it time if you don’t like it right away – it’s a good one. Promise.
So! Christmas was a loud, chaotic rumble of family and food and gifts and cheese. So much cheese. We crammed my entire family into the two small rental homes of my sister and I, the walls positively bursting with Somervilles.
With our (my) struggles with teaching gratitude in mind, I was watching Olive with great curiosity this Christmas as she opened her gifts. And you know, there wasn’t one moment where she wasn’t gracious and thankful and incredulous about what she received.
Even the little things in her stocking like leggings or hand cream (she gets really chapped hands from the antibacterial soap at her school) were received with joy and excitement. It was really wonderful to see.
We bumped Christmas day to the 27th this year – which was also my birthday – so that we could have my brother (above) and his wife and two kids join us. It was a bit strange at first, waking upon the 25th to a normal day, but so worth it to have all of the kids together for Christmas morning. They get along so well.
My brother and I are still working on that part.
You may have noticed (how could you not notice) that we are wearing matching pyjamas. That’s because my mom and sister conspired to get us all matching pairs. And when I say all of us, I mean all of us, from the nine-month-old baby to Nana herself.
It was dizzying.
For my gift to Olive, I found and refinished a secondhand child’s writing desk. She spends so much time these days drawing and writing and transferring the world of her imagination onto paper, I wanted to create a dedicated space for her to do so.
I spent evenings after Olive was asleep sanding it down, painting it, spraypainting the hardware an antique brass look, and distressing it.We moved it upstairs on Christmas eve and her face when she saw it was basically the best thing in the world – definitely worth the lost hours of sleep.
It has quickly become one of her favourite places in the house. It’s inexplicably gratifying to come around the corner and find her here, sitting at her desk and creating something of her very own.
After Christmas faded, I found myself craving solitude more than any time in recent memory. I found myself desperate for quiet and reading and stillness. I hermited and busied myself with purging all of the clutter that had made its way into our lives over Christmas, mindful of making space for this new year that’s now upon us.
I spent New Year’s Eve, as I have for the past two or three years now, at a midnight yoga class. I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the feeling of stretching away from an old year and reaching toward a new one. I’m not a hardcore yogi by any means, but goddamn am I in love with this tradition and so grateful for the teachers who give up their own New Year’s Eve parties to make it happen
NYE always feels so hyped up and filled with expectations, and I’ve never had one that didn’t feel slightly disappointing. How many years did I spend entering a new year by waiting hours for a cab in the wee hours of the morning, waking up feeling muzzy-mouthed and groggy, taking days to recover?
But ever since I started NYE yoga it feels different. It’s a time for me to spend an hour or two giving my body something to do as my mind sorts through the events of the past 365 days. I begin the year feeling stretched and spent and strong and clear.
On January 2, Olive was at her dad’s so I headed up to Banff for a few days of snowshoeing and skiing. It’s not often that I get the chance to get out of Calgary and move at my own pace instead of Olive’s. It was glorious to soak up the sun and the snow and the bright, new feel everything had to it.
A few weeks ago I sat in a dark theatre and cried, and then immediately felt silly for crying because I wasn’t watching some maudlin film, I was watching Disney’s brightly coloured rendition of Ferdinand the Bull.
I’d taken Olive and one of her friends to see the movie, the afternoon activity a welcome respite from the dull January weather outside. They sat beside me happily kicking their feet and munching popcorn as tears streamed down my face.
I could blame it on the outsized eyes or the perfectly timed swelling violins of the soundtrack, but I think more than anything I was bawling because of the story – the world trying to make a fighter out of someone who just didn’t want to fight.
We’re asked to fight so often now. To fight against corruption, oppression, systemic racism and sexism. To resist, persist. To fight cancer and fight depression and constantly be mounting an offense for, or defense against, some thing or another. These are worthy fights, of course, and far less than many others find themselves facing. Yet, it’s overwhelming, it’s it? You just can’t escape it. We’re being pitted against each other more and more, all retreating further away from each other into our respective corners. Fists up, ready to battle.
In that theatre it was like all of the stress and chaos and dismay of the world in the past two years got whittled down and personified by a gigantic cartoon bull in a massive arena, being stabbed and lanced and wounded in order to make him fight.
And so I found myself crying because I guess it didn’t seem too far off, that story. And because I knew that the two little people sitting beside me with their mouths full of popcorn would soon be asking innocent questions about why did they try and make Ferdinand fight? and where was his mummy? and did his Dad really die? and do they really make meat out of bulls in Spain when they break their horns?
And so, although I was in a great mood before and after the film, I sat in the dark and let myself cry a little as I watched it, and hoped that Olive and her friend were oblivious to the cruel truths of the movie and instead, absorbing the lessons that cartoon Ferdinand was heavy-handedly laying out in front of them: Be true to yourself; Being tough doesn’t mean hurting others; Don’t do what everyone else is doing if it doesn’t feel right to you.
If you don’t like the direction of the story, be bold enough to write yourself a new one.