Turning the page

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Well, here we are again. December 31. We’re coming up on that kind of trippy moment where the day, month, and year all change over at the same time. We’re at the end of one chapter, and we’re about to turn the page and start a new one.

Okay so speaking of chapters. Books are made up of chapters.

Okay so speaking of books.

We generally don’t start reading books from the middle. We start from the beginning, of course. However, if we were to pick up a new book, open it to the middle and start reading, we wouldn’t be surprised when things didn’t make sense. We wouldn’t know anything about the characters. We wouldn’t know who they were, let alone why they were the way they were. We wouldn’t know what they had been through or what storyline they were in the middle of now.

And without going back and reading the first half of the book, we would intuitively just understand that we didn’t have the whole story.

People are kind of like books.

You’re in the middle of living out one of the chapters of your life, and everyone around you is doing the same. Every single person. And as you interact with the people around you, you become a sentence in their story and they become a sentence in your story. And then you both go on and become sentences in other people’s stories, and they in yours. And those people’s stories are written around the people they came across before they came across you. And so on and so forth.

It’s basically just a big jumble of words and sentences and paragraphs without any context. It’s messy. 

We spend a lot of time stuck in our own books trying to make sense of our own stories. Our own brilliant, devastating and everything in between, stories. Our stories consume us, and because they do, and because beyond our own books is that big jumble of words and sentences and paragraphs without any context, we lose sight of all the other stories taking place around us.

While we’re keenly aware of how other people are written onto the pages of our own lives, sometimes we forget that the reciprocal is also happening. We often don’t get to read more than a sentence or a paragraph of someone else’s book, and so we forget that they’ve lived through pages and pages of their own brilliance and devastation and everything in between.

Every interaction we have with another person is like picking up their book and starting to read it from the middle. There is always more to the story.

You’re probably familiar with the YouTube Rabbit Hole. You know how when you watch something on YouTube, suggestions about what to watch next show up…and then you watch one of those…and then that next video has more suggestions…and you open a few in new tabs but each new video in each new tab has its own suggestions…and then all of a sudden it’s 3am and you have 20 tabs open and what have you even spent the last five hours of your life doing and on that note what are you even doing with your life???

Trying to make sense of the stories of the people around us, that big jumble of words and sentences and paragraphs, well it pretty much goes the same way. Is that person upset because of what you said? Or is it because of what that other person said to them yesterday? Or is it because what that other person said yesterday reminded them of that terrible thing that happened last year? And on and on because of all the words and sentences and paragraphs and all the people walking in and out of each other’s books.

It’s a rabbit hole of its own. We will never know the whole story.

But we really don’t need to.

The last meeting I had with my health mentorship program students was centered around my story. After I’d rambled on for a long time about a lot of things that had happened, one of the students commented on how one of the challenges of clinical practice is that they’ll never have the opportunity to actually get a patient’s story. Not just the part of the story that explains why the patient is there and what they need that day, but their whole story. The story that includes how they got to where they are.

The demands and time constraints of their jobs mean they will never get to know the whole story. But I’m going to tell you, now, what I told them, then:

You don’t need to know what someone’s story is to know that it exists.

The thing is, no matter how long we’ve known someone or how well we know them, we will never read every single word of their book. Most of the time we don’t even get to read an entire chapter, but rather we get a few sentences here and there. Maybe a paragraph or two.

But that can be enough. Because we don’t need to know what the story is. The pages are still there even if we never read them, and recognizing that is what makes all the difference. Simply remember that the story exists. And respect its existence.

Other people’s stories.

Our own, too.

And so. Here we are once again. The day, month, and year are all about to change over all at once. New sentence, paragraph and chapter. But our lives continue. The stories continue. Mine. Yours. Everyone’s. None of them more important than any other.

May 2018 be the year we honour them all.

10, 9, 8, 7…

Turn the page.

6, 5, 4…

New chapter.

3, 2, 1.

Happy New Year!

Together in the darkness

It’s been a hard week, you guys. And month. And two months…this could go on a long time!

November was…a lot. It was just a lot. It left me pretty defeated.

For the most part I’m pretty open, and I do write about a lot of things that I go through, but there’s also a lot that goes on that I don’t write about and don’t share. Sometimes that’s deliberate, and sometimes it’s just too much to explain. And I’m sure that goes without saying, but I’m saying it in case you’re confused why I’m bemoaning November when the only post I made was about watching Christmas movies.

November was a lot and I was pretty happy to see it go. December, though. It’s letting me down a little, as well.

Especially this past week.

This past week was one of those weeks where it feels like the world is working against you. Where you feel powerless. Where all your efforts end up being all for naught so you start to wonder why you’re even trying in the first place.

I’m pretty done.

I know from past experience that if I start to type it all out, I’ll get halfway through and realize I’m already way past a full length post only to end up deleting everything, so I’m just not even going to try and get into it. It’s mostly all just medical stress, a lot of it bureaucracy. And I mean, yeah, I’m used to it, but this has just been one thing after another, each thing wearing me down a little bit more until I’m all but worn right down into the ground. Which is then of course when another thing happens.

Now, I have a four foot pre-lit Christmas tree in my room. This tree is probably my favourite thing about November and December. I love the warm glow of my tree lights and how they make my whole room feel cozy. They’re set up on a remote (thanks, Lisa!) and so the first thing I do every morning is turn these lights on, and the last thing I do before going to sleep is turn them off. And I know this seems irrelevant but it’s actually not.

Because on Thursday, after Thursday’s stressful stuff happened, I turned off my tree lights. It wasn’t even noon yet, but I was just beyond frustrated with everything and turning off my lights seemed like a good outlet for that frustration. Later that day, still frustrated, I texted my best friend.

Besties at Christmas

Oh my goodness how perfect is it that she’s the star!? Sharing her light with me our whole lives

This is not the first mention of her on this blog, but in case you’re new here, we’ve been friends forever. To the right is a seasonally appropriate throwback photo of us. Below is the text I sent her.

“Everything sucks this week and I’m angry and I kept my Christmas tree lights off all day in protest of the world because I’m mad at it.”

You know, like the mature adult that I am. And then I honestly forgot I’d even sent that text until just before midnight when she replied with the very best reply.

“Oh no, I’ll keep my Christmas tree lights off in solidarity.”

She then asked me what happened, and on Friday, after Friday’s stressful stuff had happened, I filled her in on everything that was going on, including that my lights were still off.

That’s when she told me that so were hers. And sent me the photo to prove it.

And I melted. I just felt so loved. And supported. It made my heart so happy. My favourite thing about how this all went down is that she told me she was turning her lights off in solidarity before even knowing why exactly she was doing it. Because she didn’t need to know. She simply saw that I was sitting in the dark, and she came and sat next to me.

It changed nothing, but it meant everything.

We all have darkness in our lives that we muddle our way through. And yet, we’re oftentimes just so uncomfortable seeing other people in their own darkness. It makes us feel helpless, and so we say and do things to try and pull each other away from it. When that doesn’t work, we end up feeling even more uncomfortable and helpless, and so we shy away from those people and their darkness. And then sometimes, their darkness becomes so dark that we can hardly see them in the middle of it.

Let’s not do that anymore.

Darkness happens. We can’t keep it away from ourselves or from each other. Not forever, anyway. But instead of trying to pull each other away from it, and instead of losing each other in it, we can sit together through it.

It’s harder this way. And scarier. Because we’ve all been through darkness, we all know what it feels like and so why would we ever willingly walk into that? Because. Do you remember what it felt like when you were in the dark? Do you remember how you felt when you didn’t think anyone could see you sitting there in your darkness?

That’s why.

My friend came and sat with me in the dark, just walked right in and joined me. She didn’t try to pull me away from it. She didn’t try to disguise it with some big, blinding spotlight. She just sat with me. She shared some of her light with me.

And then I wasn’t alone anymore. And it wasn’t quite so dark.

So I turned my tree lights back on.

And she did, too.

How to find happily ever after by Christmas

Something you may not know about me is that I’m somewhat of a holiday romance movie aficionado. I’m actually pretty stressed right now because there are more holiday movies on the PVR than I will be able to watch in the next month. Now, if you’re an astute person you might be thinking that perhaps I’m not actually stressed about getting through all the movies, but rather that I’m projecting all the stress from the other areas of my life onto the movie situation. If that’s what you’re thinking, well I’m sorry but you’re wrong.

It really is the movies. They keep premiering new ones every year and I still need to watch all of my old favourites plus all of the ones I never got around to watching last year because of this same predicament. How is a girl supposed to keep up?

Anyway. While there are still dozens that I haven’t seen, I’ve watched enough to have a pretty good idea of how falling in love works this time of year. And today is your lucky day because I’ve gathered all of my research and I’m going to share it with you.

First things first. Relationship status.

If you’re single and looking, then you’re in luck, because your chances of being engaged within the next four weeks are pretty high. If you’re single and not interested in being in a relationship, well, change of plans, because your engagement is likely imminent as well.

For those of you who are in a relationship, I don’t know how to tell you this, but according to the movies you’re probably not actually right for each other, it’s just that you can’t see it yet. You will also likely be engaged by the end of the month, but just not to the person you’re currently dating. The only exception, happy relationship folks, is if you get to be the supporting characters in someone else’s December romance. Then you can stay with whomever you’re with now. So you’ll have to work that out amongst each other.

The next thing we need to discuss is setting.

Ideal settings for falling in love this time of year include toy sections of department stores, baking competitions, small Christmas-themed towns, family businesses or the family home you’re back visiting for the holiday. There are others, but these are the most tried and true. You’re in extra luck if the store, business or small Christmas-themed town is on the brink of bankruptcy and about to be bought out by a larger company or put out of business by a big box store. If you’re unsure where to start, I suggest the toy department of Sears.

And of course, you can’t have a romance without another person. So let’s talk about who you should be looking for.

Is there someone you can’t stand? Because chances are that they are actually the love of your life. If they hate the holidays then those chances are even higher, provided you’re prepared to win them over with your own endearing Christmas joy and holiday traditions. What about an old flame? Is there someone you used to be in love with that you have unresolved feelings for?

But don’t fret if those scenarios don’t apply to you. There are plenty of other good options.

You could try the nephew of your beloved boss who is about to retire. Don’t ask me why these successful business people never have their own children to pass their businesses onto; I don’t make the rules. Widowers with young children also make great candidates. No need to worry about how the child will take to you because they will instantly love you which will help soften their parent towards you. Another option is someone socioeconomically better off than you, particularly if they have staunch parents in need of your holiday whimsy. Bonus points if they are royals.

Now, don’t be thrown off if your love interest is in a relationship already, particularly if their current partner is a bit uppity. The same goes for if they have a meddling ex trying to get in your way. While you might think this would be a problem it actually works in your favour and helps highlight what a breath of fresh air you are.

Ah, and let’s not forget the fake relationship turned true love scenario. In this case, you just hastily find someone to pretend to be your date or fiancé. The goal here is to avoid looking bad in front of an ex or being the only one in your family still single. Sometimes even both! There is no technique for picking the right person to be in a pretend relationship with. No matter who you pick, statistics show that by the end of December you will be actually in love and likely engaged. I’m thinking of trying this one this year so just a heads up family, I’ll be bringing my (fake) fiance to Christmas dinner.

Now I will give you some tips for how to keep things on the right track to reach happily ever after by Christmas.

I hope you enjoy snowball fights and ice skating because they are a must, especially skating as it gives you a reason to hold hands with the other person. You also need to pick out a Christmas tree together, but only if you both end up at the tree lot at the same time without planning it beforehand.

Falling off a ladder is also really important. There are a few rules, though. You need to be up only one or two steps of the ladder, and you’re not falling for any other reason other than your love interest is right behind you to catch you. As with ice skating, the goal is physical contact followed by that awkward moment where you really look at each other for the first time.

The safer alternative to falling off a ladder is to end up with food on your face and then be incapable of removing it yourself, leaving the task to your love interest. The end result is the same, the awkward but necessary moment where you first really look at each other. Seeing as I don’t eat food and won’t come across this moment organically, I’ve decided to start carrying around a bottle of ketchup with me at all times to smudge on my face at just the right moment. I was going to go with mustard, but ketchup is a more seasonally appropriate colour and it’s important to take such details into account.

A few final rules for happily ever after.

You cannot discuss the important topics that should be discussed before getting engaged. If you are playing the role of “happily in a relationship supporting character” then you cannot be alarmed that your family member or friend has found love so quickly and is getting married without first discussing said important topics.

There also must be snow. If you live in a place where there is not usually snow on Christmas, fear not, because the moment that you finally share your first kiss on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, it will start to snow. Because meant-to-be trumps meteorology, obviously.

One last thing. There must be music playing at all times.

So you see, it’s really not that complicated to find love before the end of the year.

I look forward to seeing many of you at Sears tomorrow. BYOL – bring your own ladder. Ketchup provided.