Winter 2017 has been awful.
A hurricane landed in my life mid-January and almost blew me over for good. If I were the Queen you’d be calling this my “annus horribilis”, and it’s only March.
These last few months have been some of the most difficult of my life. My longing for spring is about more than a craving for sunshine and warmth. It’s a desire for tangible proof that I survived the winter. Everything that’s happened over the past few months I associate with winter. Winter has been the constant companion to the cold, dark mood that settled over me in January and never left. “Winter” is what I mutter when colleagues and neighbours tell me I don’t seem like myself. Winter is getting the blame for everything.
Spring will be a new beginning in a lot of ways, but it’s going to take more than chirping birds and an increase in temperature to make things better. In trying to move beyond recent events, I’m also trying to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to take from all this. How can I use this to become a better and more resilient person? What has all this conflict and disappointment taught me? Should I just get pizza delivered to my bed until 2018?
I’ve decided to create a personal Silver Linings Playbook to live by for spring. And its been created, in part, to honour the legacy of my dear friend who died last month. During her long battle with cancer she almost never lost her ability to put others first. She’d emerge from another bad test result, another failed treatment, or 48 straight hours of vomiting to send me a text, asking how the new college semester was going and whether or not my students were behaving.
“I love your blog,” she never failed to tell me. “I shared it with everyone.” I don’t even share my blogs with the fervor Colleen did. She believed in my writing more than I did, and while there is no silver lining in losing Colleen, I will honour her memory by trying to see the world like she did: with a kind and open heart. I can’t promise to love everyone (like she did) or even to like everyone (like she seemed to), but I will try to ensure that those who cross my path know they are valued and loved. This has been difficult to do, of late, but perhaps that also makes it the perfect time to try living life as she did.
If not now, when?
The fallout from this wicked winter also encompasses my marriage. I’m going to spare you the gory details because one day my children might read this and, quite frankly, I’ve embarrassed them enough on these pages.
To be blunt, I’ve never felt more scared, threatened and vulnerable than I have these past few months. If crying in the shower were a marketable skill, I’d be turning down job offers left and right. Getting to a point of calm and clarity has been hell, and while there’s still a lot of work to be done, our recent struggles are finally giving way to a better, healthier and more honest way of being.
Shockingly, I found not one, but two silver linings in the implosion and reconstruction of my marriage. The first is the realization that I’m a damn good mother. I’m a damn good mother, full stop. No qualifications, no “except when I ….” I’m a great mother who loves her children ferociously and is committed to doing right by them no matter what. I’m a mother who, even through the fog of war, can make rational decisions and generally keep her shit together (despite the odd evening spent parenting from my bed). I tapped into strength and a sense of purpose I didn’t know I had, which has been a wonderful and empowering realization.
On the really bad days, I started to wonder if leaving would be easier than staying. Would giving in to all the negative chatter in my brain ultimately be simpler than learning to banish it? Would giving up be easier than staying and fighting? Would turning my back be less emotionally exhausting than facing what was wrong and trying to make it right? So many questions and no easy answers.
I used to think that women who stayed in less than perfect situations were weak. I thought relationship problems that seemed unsolvable were best addressed by pulling up stakes and moving on. Cut your losses, assert your independence and take this party elsewhere. And while that approach may be right for some, it’s not right for me. I now believe that those of us who choose to stay aren’t weak, we’re warriors. We’re warriors who stay and fight, warriors who try and make sense of a disaster, warriors who won’t rest until they reclaim what was lost.
My second silver lining is the realization that even though staying means struggling in messy and unpredictable ways for who knows how long, I’m going to do it anyway because I believe what we have is worth fighting for, and I know I have the strength to see it through. I believe our future has the potential to be even better than our past.
So whatever nonsense the winter has dealt you and whatever the new season holds, find your silver lining. Figure out what it’s teaching you.
Grab it and don’t let go.
Author: Jen Millard
Jen Millard is a proud wife and mother of two living in Markham, Ontario. After adopting both her girls at age four, Jen and her husband Daren became passionate advocates for older child adoption, foster care reform and LCBO gift cards. An avid traveller, Jen counts Hawaii, Edinburgh, Greece and Canada’s east and west coasts among her favourite destinations. Jen is happiest when she’s got her nose in a book, a glass of wine at her side and a nap on the horizon. Jen is at her unhappiest when she is talking to her husband about her credit card bill or contemplating working out. When she’s not blogging, Jen is busy cleaning up after three badly-behaved pets and working as a part-time College instructor and Stella & Dot Stylist. Jen and her family spend their summers on Prince Edward Island.