Saturday, 29 December 2012

New Years Resolutions

I’ve always been someone who is really cliché about New Years. When I was younger, my best friend Autumn and I would write out all of our resolutions (which usually included things like “get a boyfriend” and “don’t get fat”… we were deep.) On pretty paper with colourful gel pens, and then wrap them in several layers of tissue and sometimes her mom’s tea towels before shoving them into big freezer bags. We were trying to protect them see, because just before midnight we’d head out into her backyard, dig up the previous year’s resolutions that were buried in the garden, and put our new ones in their place. Then, over drinks of apple juice and gingerale (that we’d pour into wine glasses and pretend was champagne) we’d read our previous resolutions and laugh like crazy.
Usually what we’d written down was immature, inane, and hadn’t been accomplished, but it never deterred us from writing more; we got an incredible amount of enjoyment from at least trying to set goals (however ridiculous) for our year ahead.
So as 2013 approaches, I find myself wondering what I’ll try to resolve upon this year, and how I can achieve it. And while I’ve been thinking about it for a couple weeks, it didn’t really occur to me until last night when my fiancé pulled up a picture on his phone of a guy falling in the shower. Random, I know, but he sometimes sees these things on his Facebook homepage, and last night this one struck him as particularly hilarious. “Look at him!!!” He wheezed, his voice lost between sickness and laughter. “What must be going through his head??” I glanced at the picture, and to be honest, I didn’t find it too hilarious. It was just a man in the shower, legs in the air, one wrapped in the shower curtain that he clutched desperately with his fingers, seconds away from landing on his ass in the most painful place. But, a couple months ago, my fiancé had fallen in the shower due to having to balance on just one foot, and while at the time it was incredibly painful for him, now seeing this man in a similar predicament struck some sort of recognition; the more he looked at it the more he laughed, until he could barely speak and was hunched over shaking with hilarity.
And the more he laughed, the more hilarious I found it to be, and before I knew it we were both collapsed on the family room floor cackling like hyenas with tears streaming down our faces.
This is a relatively common occurrence in our day to day life. I’ve dated some funny guys, to be sure, and some who made me laugh on a regular basis, but never have I been with someone like my fiancé who makes me absolutely hysterical, with that bust-a-gut, cramping, giggle till you can’t breathe laughter. I’ve only had this connection with a few people in my life, and these are people I’d consider my best friends; I’m naturally a very bubbly, happy, easily-amused person, but to really make me laugh like that you have to be able to reach me at my core. My fiancé is one of these people. He’s my best friend, through and through, in a way that none of my previous partners ever have been. I can be my complete self around him (which is often an embarrassing idiot) and he always joins in without a second thought. We do the most ridiculous things together, and find them absolutely hilarious… being together, we’re never bored or sick of each other.
But this past year has been really rough on us. From our disastrous move to Surrey, to our awful townhouse when we moved back, his accident, and even the first few months of our engagement which were tainted by his recovery. We haven’t had too many enjoyable moments this year; it’s been a difficult one with a lot of lessons learned and a lot of touch patches it took all of our strength and teamwork to get through.
And that’s not me. I know everyone has rough years, but I don’t like to go through so many negative experiences in succession. As Jane Austen said of Elizabeth Bennet: “She had a lively, playful disposition that delighted in anything ridiculous”. And that’s me, in a nutshell. But I haven’t been that way this year… it’s been smothered by challenges that at times have nearly snuffed me out. And I’m determined to make 2013 different.
SO THIS IS WHAT I LEARNED FROM 2012: To enjoy my life, my family, and my fiancé, who come March 23rd will be my husband. To not let the trials we’ll inevitably face this upcoming year affect my joy or ability to smile. To do more ridiculous things; to spend more time looking up “faceplant fails” on YouTube when I’m having a bad day; to read more books that make me feel complete. To laugh with my best friends, my fiancé, my sister, my brothers, my mom. To embrace my natural goofiness and enjoy it rather than push it away because of something insignificant. To look forward to my wedding day rather than stress about it, and realize that a day where I get to wear an elegant, gorgeous, flattering, sexy dress of my dreams and party with the people I love most is a wonderful thing.
And I’ve learned to spend as much time as possible outside in the rain, sun, or snow and enjoy nature because it feeds my soul. And to listen to music that does the same. And to run, and hike, and climb, and explore the world around me because I’m a naturally physical, optimistic, adventurous person and sitting at home limits me from reaching my potential in every way imaginable.
But most of all, to laugh. Laugh through the good times, the bad times, the slow times. To let my happiness and laughter be our strength, and carry us smoothly through the speedbumps that lay ahead. To have my overabundance of joy and love and elation be our centre, and keep us grounded, and united. To trust my heart, and let it do the talking.
Bring it on 2013.
A little lesson from life’s imperfections.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

New Beginnings

Yesterday morning I woke up for the second time in a week to hear about a shooting in the USA.
I’d performed my usual habit of checking social media while I’m waking up in bed, but almost instantly, eyes foggy with sleep, I’d seen repetitive tweets about a tragedy at a Connecticut elementary school. Words jumped out at me: “shooting”, and “massacre.”
“Oh no,” I thought. “Oh no.” A sense of panic struck.
I gasped something at my fiancé about what I’d read. Flew out of bed. Turned on the first news channel my tired brain registered on the TV guide. There was so much to catch up on, and I desperately scanned twitter and Google reports while listening to a sheriff give a statement from outside the picturesque school in Newtown, Connecticut.
As I absorbed the awful details about a gunman opening fire on a kindergarten classroom, what shocked me most wasn’t what the reporters were saying, but rather what my own brain wasn’t. Vaguely I felt the nudge that I should be horrified. Disgusted. Saddened. But I was strangely disconnected from it all… not at all surprised and significantly unphased by the events.
It wasn’t until I watched President Obama’s tearful address that the conscious awareness of a tragedy connected with my emotions, and the full weight of it finally sunk onto me. Crying as I my eyes followed the line running across the screen that read “at least 18 children believed dead”, I realized what made this event so horrible wasn’t just the massacre itself but the fact that this was becoming so commonplace in America that I was almost desensitized to it.
I wondered how many other people felt the same way. It’s one thing to watch fictional movies or TV shows where people are being murdered and remain unaffected, but to have it actually occur, and have children- essentially babies- lose their lives and feel no emotional stir is something else entirely.
And then one news channel was interviewing a man whose sons had survived Columbine. His testimony of their interactions with one of the shooters was unsettling. So was the survivor of Virginia Tech speaking about his experience with the massacre. But what I found to be more disturbing was the fact that the Columbine High School shootings took place in 1999. And Virginia Tech, well that was back in 2007. Yet still, here we are, in 2012, about to cross the bridge into 2013, and we’re still talking about these events, and still interviewing these people, because their stories are still relevant in the worst way: they directly connect to a modern world that has experienced almost no real change since.
Columbine was a tragedy; thirteen people were murdered and it should never have happened. But it did, and what did the USA really learn from it? Not much clearly, because less than ten years later the worst school shooting in American HISTORY struck Virginia Tech with thirty-two students and teachers killed (and seventeen injured). And now in Connecticut almost thirty more innocent people have lost their lives, twenty of whom were under ten years old.
What will it take for a change to occur? How many car accidents at an intersection will it take for the city to put a set of lights in? Or even a temporary stop sign?
It makes me sick and it’s an absolute waste. Just the realization that twenty families were notified today that their grade-school child will never return home is enough to crack even the stoniest hearts.
SO THIS IS WHAT I LEARNED TODAY: that it’s important to stop TALKING about the past and start LEARNING from it. Remembering is not the same as reliving, and there should be a very clear distinction between the two. We don’t observe Remembrance Day to project the war propaganda that was put out at the time; instead the day exists to remind us of the huge number of lives lost on all sides so we never, ever let it happen again. So we forget the glory and lies of war and remember the truth of it: horror, mass destruction, and death, death, death.  So our children and our children’s children, and children’s children’s children never forget the lesson our ancestors learned the hard way last century.
These school shootings should be handled in almost the same way; Columbine and Virginia Tech, and even Aurora shouldn’t only be remembered when something similar happens… they should be talked about and remembered every day so that no one ever forgets the pain we suffered and the lessons we learned from those awful occasions. So we can recognize the patterns and mistakes that lead up to the tragedy and stop them in their tracks before they have a chance to occur again.
I’m not going to pretend that I have some sort of infinite knowledge of American gun laws or amendments; I don’t, and I’m not an American, so I understand that that somewhat disconnects me from the situation. But in reality we’re all people, we’re all connected regardless of what side of the border we reside on, and so this tragedy affects all of us. American lives weren’t lost, children’s lives were and something needs to change to stop this from ever happening again.
It’s said that history has a habit of repeating itself; like the economic cycle of prosperity and recession things ebb and flow, but a selective significant event like the mass murder of students should not be one of them. We shouldn’t have to sit and prepare ourselves for the inevitable occasion that this happens again; we shouldn’t wonder which of these survivors will be speaking to the news about their experience during the next tragedy. This should be it. The last time.
It’s a simple concept that one can apply to any area of life: learn from the past, and use the knowledge to change the future.
A little lesson from life’s imperfections.