New years eve came and went. The holidays are over and we are somewhat settled into real life. Or what real life has become. Its easier I think because holidays are so often fraught with rush, overspending, and overall stress. I still wasn’t ready for a “normal” Christmas. The joy just wasn’t there. In November it was one year since my husband passed and I was congratulating myself on having survived the year. Survived is the operative word here. Because really, it wasn’t living. Unfortunately when we lose the ability to look forward to things it is only a short hop to depression. But then as January settled in my thoughts turned to spring. As it always has in my life. I was looking at the garden in the back yard, coffee in hand. I had thought of changing things for years now but it never happened. Then New Years day, I felt like Clarke Griswald in the movie Christmas Vacation. Gazing out the window imagining all of the changes the following summer would bring. Soon I was out back with pajamas tucked into my boots as I measured off the distances where I wanted the new vegetable garden to take up residence. For days I poured over magazines and websites looking for the ultimate raised bed layout. I drew and redrew the positioning of the beds. Positioning the various vegetables over and over again as not all plants like each other. I looked up various ways to build a deer fence since this year I have decided not to share the bounty with those four legged creatures. They are quite selfish and leave little for me. After three weeks I am quite excited about the new garden and I can hardly wait until the spring when the ground thaws and I can make my plans a reality. I realize, for the first time in a long time I am looking forward to the future.
As a child so much of life depends on decisions made by parents. I remember when we would move from one town to another I was always so excited. I looked forward to a new house. New people. A different school. I wasn’t really all that sad to leave things behind. At night I would play out the first day of school in a new town. What would my new teacher be like? The kids. What would I wear? It was so exciting. The day would come and go with little fanfare and my new normal would begin. It wasn’t as big as I had built it up in my mind. Just ordinary days. I remember my first day at Westmount Elementary. I met a girl who took over my life and got me into trouble the first day. That was almost fourty years ago and we chatted on the phone just last week. She is as spunky now as she was then. Through all of the anticipation as a child I remember the feeling quite well. The memories are dotted here and there with not so much fun but again a feeling. One town had a swimming pool and I remember the day my mom brought home a bathing suit for me. I was over the moon. I have memories of four years in that pool but none as exciting as the day I got the first real bathing suit. I was six. There was the time in grade five our school took a trip to the big city to see the Philharmonic and then we were allowed to shop at a mall before returning home. I dreamt of that bus trip for weeks. I lived in a tiny town where most of the kids were bussed to school so it wasn’t that big of a deal for them but for me the bus ride was the best part of the day. Looking out the window. Watching the fields pass by. Seeing the city come into view. I remember next to nothing about the concert and the mall but the thrill of the bus ride stayed with me forever. As did the anticipation I felt.
Through the years celebrations like Christmas and Easter have changed significantly. As a child Christmas began with Advent. My mom would decorate her advent wreath four weeks before Christmas with oranges, candles and evergreen branches. Dad would put up a few lights outside on some tees or a few bushes. Nothing elaborate but a sign of what was to come. That was advent. A sign of what was to come. Looking forward to the birth of the Messiah. Preparation. The baking. Lighting of the candles. Church. Shopping. Anticipation. Oh the anticipation. And for years I loved the Christmas holiday season. I cherish the memory of going to the city and parking downtown. Dad would hand out some money and we would dash through the stores looking for just the right gifts. Often my youngest brother and I would pool our resources in order to double the buying power. Afterwards we would meet up with mom and Dad and go to china town for supper before heading home. My daughter says she loved the year we all dressed up to go downtown for dinner and shopping. Its special. Grown up. And then getting married and having children changes things. All of a sudden you have to share time between families. The celebrations grow larger and the magic disappears as we age but bringing the magic to our children brings a new type of joy. Priorities change and presents take a back seat. I began to rejoice in the excitement I saw in the eyes of my children. These days it is the grandbabies. This year Christmas eve was done by facetime. I did little preparation and anticipation was nil. However there were some amusing moments and all was not lost. After dinner we watched as the grandkids danced around the tree. More than once the screen went black as the cord came loose from the wall and the room was plunged into darkness. Once in awhile one of the twins would walk past the computer and see us on the screen. At 21 months of age they are pretty amusing. Like goldfish swimming in circles they were surprised to see us. Then began the back and forth of Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi. Until boredom set in and they would wander off and run around the room. And then… yes they would see the screen and begin again. It was a hoot and when it was over I shut off the computer, relaxed in peace and quiet and there was no mess. It wasn’t too bad. In fact the event was better than the anticipation.
Years ago Carly Simon wrote a song entitled Anticipation. Like all music, we often sing along mindlessly but when we stop and examine what we are listening to the meaning sometimes blows our minds. Songs are often deeper than we initially give them credit for. She sings about the future and wonders if we are dreaming about bigger and better rather than just living in the now. Something I guess I always did in my life. As a loner and introvert I often lived too much in my head. I also always spent lots of time thinking about tomorrow. Not wishing it away or dreading life, more that I looked forward to happy times and things that brought me pleasure. Was it a waste of time? Did I dream my life away? Who is to know. The reality is that the life I lived was spent flitting here and there. I felt things just happened to me as I floated through life. Truth be known, everything that happened was mainly because of the choices and decisions I made. While I was floating through my younger days I was excited for what was to come. Even when things weren’t so great and the future seemed unsure, I knew it would all work out. Life works out. As they say, the universe will unfold as it should.
There are those who live too much in the past and that can cause so much pain. Reliving past hurts are as damaging as when they first occurred. Your brain responds to your thoughts as if the event just happened. But remembering the past with thoughts of loved ones and good times can bring enormous pleasure. Like wrapping yourself in a big hug. On the flip side looking forward can bring great joy but if our dreams aren’t realized as we thought they should we can undergo massive pain through our perceived failure. When we don’t live up to the goals we often set for ourselves. Sometimes we are unrealistic and that bar is just too high. A current thought is that we need to live in the now. That will solve everything. Will it? Really? I think even that has its drawbacks because we can’t just give up on our future. To truly live entirely in the now is to abandon all preparation for a safe and secure future. However the positive side of living in the now is we can just sit and enjoy. We have all had those days where we sit outside on a blanket in the sun and just feel good. Maybe read a book or people watch. I guess what is really meant by “living in the now” is to try and do it sometimes. Slow down. Listen to the wise words of Ferris Bueller. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile you could miss it.” Todays self help guru’s are full of wisdom on living in the now. What steps to take or what we should change in our lives. We don’t need others to tell us what to do. If you are honest with yourself you already know what is causing you stress. Ultimately there is a place in all of our lives for the past, the now and the future. Remember the good times and try not to dwell on the bad. Try to enjoy today and all it brings and at the end be grateful for the happiness and learn from the disappointments. As you drift of into the land of sleepy time think about tomorrow and what new adventures it will bring. It may not come to you but you will have had the pleasure of what you thought it would be.
Carly’s lyrics speak to me in a different way these day now that Rene’ is no longer with me here in this world. Memories of our life together bring him back to me and I cherish the good times. I am trying hard to forget about past hurts. Its easy to make Rene a saint and forget his faults. Because I love him so much. Its harder to do with other people but I am trying. I have to because it only hurts me. I looked forward to the life I thought Rene’ and I were going to share and it isn’t to be. The anticipation was gone for some time but it is coming back. I still have a future and although I am not sure how it will go, I know it will be okay. Everything is always okay. I try to take each day as it comes with its little pleasures. I have drifted somewhat back to the person I was before marriage and kids. More spontaneity and less structure. Do what feels right at the time. But when the night comes and I am snuggled in my bed I think about tomorrow. Can I work in the garden? Is it warm enough to golf? Maybe a fire and weiner roast in the backyard. Or maybe in the fall I should go back to university and take a class or two. As I drift off I am happy and if tomorrow never comes the end is happy. I don’t care what anybody says… Anticipation is great!