Google, gratitude and giving in. (Or, how not to spend NYE alone)

Two days ago I googled ‘How to spend NYE alone’. It felt like a courageous thing to do on some level at the time. I have never spent New Year’s Eve alone. I have always kind of resented it, and my favourite way to spend it has usually been in front of a huge bonfire with close friends, far away from any sort of bar scene or fanciness. Everyone seemed busy this year, or they had plans with their kids, and mine were scheduled to be with their Dad. So there it was. How would I spend this night on my own, and find a way to mark it somehow? It’s not like I don’t spend almost every night on my own; I’m completely used to that. It’s just that I usually find a way to be with friends on this particular night of the year.

There was a fairly sad list of ideas. Spend time with your dog. (Check.) Read a book.(Check.)  Do the things you never get time to do. (Like clean my house??) And then, Write a Gratitude List. That sounded like something worthwhile. So I started some notes.

They looked something like this:

There it is - a quick summary of a year that has been as wrought with peril as it has been full of growth.

There it is – a quick summary of a year that has been as wrought with peril as it has been full of growth.

There are so many reasons I am able to be grateful for these things. And there are so many things not on the list. I was able to do things with my time because people helped me out. They mowed my lawn, took care of my dog, drove for me when I couldn’t, appeared at my side when I needed to rant. Which, sometimes, I do.

Making this list of monthly reasons for gratitude made me think about the passage of time, and how sometimes over the past two years time has crawled relentlessly slowly, and I have watched time go by, sitting on my couch forgetting to breathe, and coming out of my revery feeling as though hours must have gone by and realizing it had only been minutes, agonizingly empty time that I wanted to fill but couldn’t. There have been other periods of time, like this fall, when I jumped and realized the month of September had passed, and blinked and was at the end of October, and then it was almost Christmas, and I found it difficult to keep up.

Through all of these passages of time there is the constant recognition of how far past surgery I am. The months that go by slowly make me certain I’ll never make it to that magical five year mark. The months that speed by like the landscape beside a train make me feel like I’m not necessarily using my moments mindfully, like I would like to, like I’m missing so much of what I’m supposed to be seeing, and at the same time provide me with some relief. Whew. Three months closer to the two year mark, after which point the chances of recurrence reduce significantly. This is part of the reality of post-cancer treatment. And so it goes.

My parents just celebrated 44 years of marriage, and just days afterward, my sister and her husband celebrated their 9th anniversary. Occasions like these swim by me, and I can’t help but do the math: The likelihood of me ever celebrating 44 years with someone is slim to none. If I got married tomorrow, I would have to live until 86 to see that happen. Not likely. 9? Even that seems like a stretch to me. But who knows? Although I have been told that my ‘type’ is ‘rare like Dalai Lama’, I still like to think it’ll happen. In the meantime, while I’m waiting to meet that person I may get to spend a few years with, I am going to consciously take advantage of the here and now. I’ve written my gratitude list for the year. Now I’m going to sit down for a few minutes and write a list of goals for this year. They will be all over the map. Some might take me to different places on a map. And if I am given time to work towards these goals, and if I can attain even a few of them, there will be another gratitude list on the agenda for next year. Here’s hoping.

Back to googling ‘How to spend NYE alone’. I was invited, for the record, over the past few days, to a few get-togethers, and for that I am thankful as well. I also love that I am friends with people who are just throwing something together at the last minute. As it turns out, my BFF called me this morning, saying her son had been invited to a last-minute sleepover, and so she was free if I wanted to do something.  I have decided to split my evening in two. One, cook purposefully for myself and write. I find if I leave these thoughts simmer too long they burn down to nothing and disappear.

NYE dinner for me was portabello, bacon, chicken risotto with goat's cheese and grated truffle. Happy New Year's to me!

NYE dinner for me was portabello, bacon, chicken risotto with goat’s cheese and grated truffle. Happy New Year’s to me!

Two, go and spend a quiet evening playing cards and drinking wine with my best friend. There are many, many evenings spent alone. Tonight doesn’t need to be one of them. 

We don't have husbands at present, but we are each other's partners. We discussed getting t-shirts that say 'straight' on them for when we go out together. Meh. Pretty sure it's clear.  Thanks for always being there, sweetie!

We don’t have husbands at present, but we are each other’s partners. We discussed getting t-shirts that say ‘straight’ on them for when we go out together. Meh. Pretty sure it’s clear. Thanks for always being there, sweetie!

Line-ups, libations and left-overs

The line-ups at the LCBO yesterday hit the back of the store, and it’s a big store. Apparently I’m not the only one who kind of wants to curl up and hibernate with a bottle of wine during the holidays. I think our city actually made some sort of news for emptying liquor store shelves as though the apocalypse was coming. Which doesn’t really make sense, because I think if the apocalypse were coming I’d be looking for canned goods, water and toilet paper, and hoarding all of my homemade pickles and jam instead of giving them away as Christmas presents. I kind of get the analogy, though. There’s some sense of impending something-or-other around this time of year. I want so badly to say I’m so looking forward to it, and I just can’t wait to drag that giant tree into my living room and struggle under it (after begging help from a friend, because this is one of the things I just haven’t been able to master as a singleton) so that it doesn’t fall down a third time. I do wish it didn’t hurt so much to haemorrhage money maniacally in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas. I want to say I’m perfectly happy going to all of the family celebrations as the only one not cozily coupled up, or that I never give it a second thought. I would love to tell you that I will clean up my Christmas tree right after New Year’s Eve, and that I won’t park it outside of my front door for the next three months. But all of those things would be a little bit of a stretch of the truth. And I know I’m not alone. Every single person I saw out shopping in the days leading up to today looked nothing short of miserable. Some were bordering on hysteria, some didn’t even try to pretend, and just silently shook their heads, which kind of translated universally into ‘I would rather be just about anywhere else in the universe than here, in this never-ending line-up.’

My mother asked me the other day if my kids had any real traditions that they look forward to at Christmas, and I guess the ones we have are different, because we’ve had to be flexible. Ours are small, like there is always night skating over the holidays. I always give my family my homemade pickles or jam at Christmas dinner. There are always new Christmas pyjamas, although this year that meant bears, camouflage and stripes, and we’re okay with that. It means putting on Christmas music and drinking eggnog until it makes us sick, and Christmas cookies and decking the tree out in my homemade birds, of which they do have their favourites. It means having that hopeful moment in the dark before we light up the tree, in anticipation of what is, without fail, a very imperfect and crooked tree. This year the tree is too tall for the star on top to fit, and so the star is all askew, and it just seems fitting. Things are often just a little askew in this house. And that’s okay.

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Pajama selfie. If you drop by over the holidays, chances are this is how you’ll find us. You’ve been warned.

This is the first skate of the season. There's always that moment before I step on the ice and I wonder if my body will remember how to do it. It always does.

This is the first skate of the season with friends, at a fortieth birthday party.  There’s always that moment before I step on the ice and I wonder if my body will remember how to do it. It always does.

Part of what gets me through the holidays is food. Planning it, making sure I bring something to whatever dinners to which I’ve been invited. This year I tried my hand at pâté, made with chicken livers (Thanks, Mom, for liking that!), truffled brie wrapped in phyllo pastry, and artichoke dip. All very festive, and the preparation gives me a sense of purpose.

Appies for Christmas dinner. I have lost the brie left-overs, which really pi$$es me off, because I was forced to eat cheese and chips for lunch today instead of that.

Appies for Christmas dinner. I have lost the brie left-overs, which really pi$$es me off, because I was forced to eat cheese and chips for lunch today instead of that. I hope the cab driver likes truffles. 

Dinner with family is always an adventure, five adults and five children and a dog hiding in there somewhere finding a way to make sure everyone is happy and well-fed and full of good cheer. I usually have to drive the 20 minutes home at the end of the evening, and last night on the way out when I had myself worked up about whether or not I had forgotten anything, whether or not my kids were wearing matching socks and had I remembered to clip the fingernails of both hands on both boys, and what if no one liked the pâté,and whether or not I had packed deodorant because I was doing the body-sweat-hair-curl cycle, I decided that 60$ in cab fare would be well worth it, and I would leave my car there overnight. Would you like some red, Tanya? Yes. Please.

Happy kids, happy Mom, and their first cab ride. Another memory made. I can’t pretend that on every occasion that goes by I don’t wonder as I take these pictures whether or not there will be another Christmas selfie, or birthday family portrait. And you just have to flip that around, and decide to simply be thankful for this one, because it’s really all that any of us have. Right now, today.

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And that’s why we put the tree up. That’s why we brave the stores to buy tokens for our loved ones. That’s why I push the fifth-wheel feeling to the back of my head for dinner. That’s why I try to breathe deeply and relax that ever-present tension between my shoulder blades and enjoy the moments I have. That’s why I pour myself a fizzy patchouli bubble bath when my kids go to their Dad’s for Christmas Day, and decide to enjoy my quiet time rather than miss them.

The boys left, I poured myself a wine spritzer and enjoyed the time to myself.

The boys left, I poured myself a wine spritzer and enjoyed the time to myself.

Some days are just about drinking in the pretty moments, and putting all of your energy into those moments. A slippery walk with T and Frida this afternoon provided me with many of those moments. Bright red against the white snow. Simple pleasures.

Some days are just about drinking in the pretty moments, and putting all of your energy into those moments. A slippery walk with T and Frida this afternoon provided me with many of those moments. Bright red against the white snow. Simple pleasures.

Tonight, I get to attempt that crazy pomegranate thing that’s been circulating all over the internet, and look up some exciting pomegranate salad dressing for the salad that I am bringing to dinner. And that will make me feel like I have contributed to the Christmas dinner that I am attending, while my children are at theirs.

If you’re having a rough time during these holidays, I am sorry. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, financially strapped, anxious, sad, worried, hopeless, or afraid, I am sorry. If you are missing someone you have lost (Happy Birthday, Grandma!) I am also so, so sorry for that. These are indeed very difficult times for so many, and that’s why when I saw the woman being pointlessly irate with a clerk the other day, and when I saw a man say to his wife in front of their children ‘F- this. I’m dropping you off and going shopping by myself’, I just wanted to stop both of them and give them a hug. That’s likely what they needed. So. To all of you out there, happy or sad, I wish you, from the bottom of my heart, good cheer for this Christmas. Find some joy. Find some love. Hug someone. Merry, merry Christmas.

Birthday, birthday. it’s my birthday.

According to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything. This morning when I woke up with zero recollection of how I got home from last night’s staff party this was not necessarily the first thought I had, but after a long sleep-in, shooting a few cups of coffee and detoxing with a hot bath, it did occur to me. Can I be hopeful? I’m going with yes. Even though it was confirmed last night by friends that I have officially reached the age where people don’t recognize me in pictures of me when I was young. Yeah. That happened.

I remember dreading my 40th birthday. I hated the idea of aging, and something about that particular number made my blood run cold. Maybe I knew what was coming the following year. Diagnosed with cancer not quite 3 months after my 40th birthday changed my perspective on aging. The two birthdays I have had since have been met with gratitude, not dread. I get to have another birthday.

This is my sister and me, at my 40th birthday. Totally oblivious about what was going on in my body.

This is my sister and me, at my 40th birthday. Totally oblivious about what was going on in my body.

Last night was my staff party, and I kind of made it into an extension of my birthday celebration, because, well – why not? Needless to say I was in bed, tucked in by one of my besties by 11:01pm. She even made sure to tuck me in and leave me with a glass of water by my bedside. I really hope everyone else had as good a time as I did. From what I’m told, there was even some sort of meditation.

Apparently meditating between feeds of risotto balls. Or something like that.

Apparently meditating between feeds of risotto balls. Or something like that.

Anyway. back to this morning. Glorious, decadent sleep-in, bubble bath and caffeination, (and yes I think that’s a made-up word) later, I got to pick up my boys and bring them out to my parents’ place on the lake and feast on venison sausage, bacon, eggs, pineapple and more coffee. And my Dad being the Dad he is, took my kids out to purchase a gift for my birthday for me from them. And it was awesome.

Apparently they all agreed that it was a 'Tanya colour'. They were right. (Yay to being over my post-chemo aversion to red!)

Apparently they all agreed that it was a ‘Tanya colour’. They were right. (Yay to being over my post-chemo aversion to red!)

My parents gave me what might be the most perfect card ever, and I’m a picky card-chooser. I may have teared up a bit. Because it was lovely.

Black and white, and birds, and such a lovely message, really. I actually think illness makes us more willing to make our sentiments more naked. I am grateful for that.

Black and white, and birds, and such a lovely message, really. I actually think illness makes us more willing to make our sentiments more naked. I am grateful for that.

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Such loveliness. So lucky.

This afternoon, I had a near-moment of feeling sorry for myself because I was going to be ‘alone’ on my birthday. And then I got two phone calls from friends of my life, one a while-cooking FaceTime, and I looked at the gazillion well-wishes I received today on Facebook, and I realized that ‘alone’ is not an adjective I could ever apply to myself. Also, I decided that regardless of the fact that I’ve made a decision to lose the weight I’ve been calling my ‘investment weight’ because surgery isn’t likely to happen until April or May (that’s an entirely different blog post) and I haven’t had a carb since last Saturday (well. There were probably some at the staff party.) I decided to give me and the boys comfort food, which for me is pasta, to celebrate. I also must admit to giving myself another Happy Birthday to Me gift, because, well, I’m really happy to have another birthday, and so this painting kept us company at dinner tonight. It’s my favourite colour of night, and everything that I love about lakes and tree stands on one canvas, and I’m really happy with it.

Full moon, favourite colour of night, and woods. I am so pleased with it! Also, dinner with my favourite boys. It should be noted that they were laughing because between the moment when I asked them not to touch anything before the picture was taken, there was a spilled water glass. Such is my life. Wouldn't trade it for anything.

Full moon, favourite colour of night, and woods. I am so pleased with it! Also, dinner with my favourite boys. It should be noted that they were laughing because between the moment when I asked them not to touch anything before the picture was taken, there was a spilled water glass. Such is my life. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Texts, phonecalls, messages, e-mails from those far-away, and even packages in the mail. I feel like the luckiest girl (well. Woman would probably be more appropriate at 42) in the galaxy.

Maybe the Hitchhiker had it right. Here’s hoping.