Remembrance Day

In 2000, I was in 5th grade. In November of that year, we were tasked with memorizing the poem In Flanders Fields by John McCrae. On Remembrance Day, each one of us faced the class and recited the poem.

All these years later, I remember the words.

Today stirs up a lot of feelings. My dad joined the Canadian Armed Forces when he was 18. He was inspired by his own father’s service; he wanted to help people and make the world a better place.

So I grew up on military bases around Canada. I knew my dad had a very important job. His job took him away from us for months at a time. As I got older, I would hold back tears during the schools’ Remembrance Day ceremonies. I thought of the times he was in war zones; the times he came back but some his friends and colleagues didn’t.

I remember when he was overseas in Afghanistan. I would hardly breathe when the news came on TV, waiting to see if his name and photo would flash across the screen.

The first time I saw my dad cry was when he said goodbye to us before his second tour. I was a teenager, and I did my best to hold it together for my parents.

He is retired now. I know that as a combat engineer and EOD specialist, he saw and experienced some (or a lot of) very bad things. He doesn’t talk about it.

So on Remembrance Day, I am thankful to all soldiers for their service. I hate that they experienced so many awful things; I hate war. All of the senseless death and destruction makes me physically ill. I hate that war is so often viewed as necessary.

We can do better.

Turning Points

Today I turn 30.

I struggle with milestone birthdays. 25 was a hard one, too. At 25, I was on the verge of a completely new life – single after many years in a relationship, a young daughter in tow. I came out the other side, obviously. I survived 25. I moved on. I did what I could to put the pieces into some semblance of a picture.

But 30?! I had all these plans and ideas of what my life would look like by now. A white picket fence sort of thing, with a doting, successful husband, a few children, a few pets. A garden. A front porch with a swing. A fulfilling career for myself. By 30 I would have all of those things. Wrapped in a perfect pretty bow.

I can still have those things. I know this. But it felt like 30 was a deadline and if I hadn’t achieved every single goal and dream by then, I’d be a failure. And so for the past few days, I’ve been feeling like a failure. I wanted to stay in today and hide from the world and not acknowledge anything or anyone.

But I didn’t. I went for supper with a few friends. We laughed and talked and had a good time. I’m glad I didn’t hide. I know ‘age is just a number’ and it’s ridiculous to think that life somehow ends at 30. I’m remembering to breathe and to remind myself that life now is good. Not perfect. But good. And that’s okay.

There’s loads of time for me to get what I want.

I am being very intentional about how I spend my time and where I put my energy now. I want love and compassion and reliability, so that’s what I put out into the world. I do my best to be kind and to be understanding. When I feel sad or frustrated, I take time to actually sit with the emotion, hold onto it; I acknowledge that shitty feeling and then I let it go.

It’s not easy, of course. I have a tendency to dwell on negative thoughts and feelings. Stew in it. Or push it down and bury it until there’s no room left and it all comes out at once in great howls of despair.

I don’t want that anymore. So I’m trying something new. I’m going into 30 with with as much hope and confidence as I can muster. That hope and confidence is a tiny, flickering flame right now, but it will grow.

I’m sure of it.