On reclaiming a life

I hit my stride in August.

I pulled out my Passion Planner, bought a set of coloured pens, and started filling in all those empty gaps.

8:00am – Coffee.

8:30am – Reading.

9:30am – Writing.

10:30am – Working.

12:15am – Boot camp.

1:30pm – Working.


I sat my ass in the chair and I worked. I started working on my guidebook again. I started getting my weekends back. Do you know what it’s like to go from non-stop continuous movement and stress for six months to…well, two full days a week of freedom? What do I even do with that spare time? I don’t know how to fill those empty spaces.

For the first part of the year I’d find myself working until 11pm every night. The gorgeous luxury of finishing my day’s work in the early evening was disarming. What did I do after 7pm? Read? Watch TV? Relax?

There’s entirely too much time to think. So sometimes I get caught off-guard by a memory of Mom being in the ICU for the second time with sepsis. Or I’ll suddenly think about that time we ate pizza in the hospital kitchen while I waited to fill out a form to defer my Delta flight to Costa Rica. Or I’ll be scrolling through my phone and I’ll find an image of my brother bent over our mother in her hospital bed, and it takes my breath away. But I can’t seem to delete it. There are dozens of other memories trapped in my head somewhere, waiting to pop out. The crunch of snow underfoot as I dragged myself from the apartment to the hospital at 7am, feeling awful and alone and tired. The doctors calling me to ask for permission to intubate my mother. In a strange town where I knew no one. The complete and suffocating aloneness amplified by the winter stillness. The most mundane, bullshit details.

My readers were so supportive and sweet when they learned about Mom being sick, but I never really followed up on what happened. Amazingly, against all odds — two major surgeries, two ICU stints, multiple organ failures, and a significant amount of time spent in special care — Mom made it home. I never told you guys that part. Even her surgeon was blown away by her recovery. Me and Sean picked her up from the hospital on June 21st and drove out to meet Dad, and they ferried her off to Bay d’Espoir. Just like that. I even wrote that story about the kindness of strangers, but I published it for the CBC instead.

(The response was amazing, and unexpected. Tearful nurses came to thank me, saying that news about our healthcare is usually pretty awful. They’re not wrong.)

So I reclaimed my life.

But it took some time.

My plan to immediately run off to Berlin was a sort of reward — I needed a clear line drawn somewhere in the sand to divide the old life and the new. It worked beautifully.

And then I came back to Canada and immediately set out on a road trip to the Northern Peninsula, to soak up my island and feel myself rooted to home again. There’s an ethereal quality to life on the Great Northern Peninsula that you just can’t replicate anywhere else in Newfoundland. It was like pushing “reset” and starting all over.

But all this running around, all this chaos, it had to end. I decided that for the month of August, I’d stay still. No planned trips; no weekend jaunts. Just stillness and beers on the patio and cartwheels on the lawn and flip cup with my best friends (we like to pretend we’re 20 sometimes). I came to realize that all of the running around and busyness of my day-to-day was a way to mask the emotions bubbling beneath the surface. Now, I think, is where the real healing begins.

I have been feeling a lot of things, but somewhere in it all is a peaceful balance. I work hard; I play relatively less hard. I look forward to my bootcamps and my slow weekends and my quiet mornings of reading. I am sincerely grateful for every minute lived.

Of course, I’m about to set out on a three week trip to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and then Austin, Texas. We can’t stay still forever. 

  • September 07 2018

    It seems like 2018 has been a bitch of a year for you. Glad to hear your mom is doing well and back home. Your piece for the CBC was fantastic…those little acts of kindness can make a difficult time so much easier.

    I look forward to reading about your experience in Taiwan and Hong Kong. I haven’t been to Taiwan, but did go to Hong Kong and loved it. If you get the chance to go to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Po Lin you should. I actually liked it more than going to the big Buddha on Lantau island.
    Alouise recently posted…8 Free Museums in Edinburgh, Scotland

  • September 07 2018

    Such good news about your Mum! I’m glad things have turned around for you – also your August work schedule sounds like a dream! Nothing like a bit of backyard trav and the revisiting of old beloved haunts to soothe the soul. Enjoy your holiday, look forward to reading about it.

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