A Successful Cross-Continental Search

June 9, 2014 § 2 Comments

tmavThere’s nothing quite like a series of old photographs to remind us of places we’ve been, friends we’ve been there with and the person we were ourselves at the time.

I’ve been on the road for 5 months to the day. My explorations have taken me across 9 countries and 5 continents, I still have just over a month to go before I’m home for the summer.

When I was leaving, one of my friends commented on Facebook, “I hope you find what it is you’re searching for!” I hoped so too. An epic trip like this had been my only real end goal since I came back from a 4 week trip to Italy and southern France in 2004… and now was the time to do it. I was lost.

Back in 2010, I had a moment. A moment where, like a ton of bricks, the reality of my brother’s death came crashing down on me. I’ve never had a moment that dark before (and thankfully haven’t since). In the days after that moment, I found myself reaching for my friends. Emails, messages, phone calls and notes, apologizing for being a “horrible” friend for feeling like I hadn’t been present for them in a long time. Most everyone just gave me a hug or an encouraging note back, except for two long time friends. They were hurt because they felt like they had lost a friend.

This point is only important now because I’ve been circling on our conversation a lot, trying to understand their perspective, looking through their eyes, remembering.

In these last 5 months, I’ve been clearing out a lot of lingering cobwebs like old beliefs come back for another go and nooks and crannies I hadn’t quite gotten to on my last internal sweep. But I’ve also been able to take a full step outside of my life and do a proper evaluation on what happened. My diagnosis–I suffered from a really, really, really broken-heart.

I’m on my own out here. Being on my own has given me ample time to feel, to reflect and to heal. I circled back to that conversation with those two friends to help me understand that part of me (my feeling heart) disappeared for a long time. It wasn’t lost exactly, it had just buried itself so far away from everyone that I had to go looking across continents for it.

The good news is that I found it somewhere back in Spain and today, looking back at all of my old photos and reconnecting with the person I was in them, I think I’ve convinced it to make the trek back with me this summer. I miss me and the friends and family I’ve surrounded myself with too!

I promise to keep a closer eye on it from here on in… and to let you help me by bringing it out more often!

Putting The I In Christmas

December 12, 2011 § 3 Comments

Christmas tree icon

Image via Wikipedia

It’s that time of year again – the season that begins with festive décor emerging in the stores early in the fall and ends with many people making pledges they won’t keep.

Christmas time means something different to everyone. I’m not going to rant about the over-commercialization and out-of-control spending of the season. That becomes obvious in January when the credit card bills arrive.

Although I was raised in the Church where they celebrate “true meaning of Christmas” tradition, I’m also not the person to write on that topic. Still others in society don’t celebrate the season at all for religious reasons.

Kathleen Smith, a friend in Edmonton, provided food for thought in a recent Facebook status update. It helped underline that Christmas is really an individual thing.

Kathleen wrote: “Let hope fill our hearts. Shine a light through the dark. All around the world and everywhere, this is my Christmas prayer.

“Yes, I know I’m a self-proclaimed Atheist, but it’s CHRISTMAS for heaven’s sake! ;-).”

Although I consider myself a small ‘c’ Christian, Kathleen’s remarks resonated with me, so here was my response:

“Then that is what your season is about: giving thanks, spreading joy and hope, using the holidays to spend much-deserved time with family and friends.”

“Thank you, David 😉 That’s exactly what it is for me,” Kathleen responded.

“Although I was raised in the Church, the season is all about family and friends and taking me time. I can’t stand all the commercialism,” I replied.

Kathleen responded with: “This is the one time a year I allow my crusty, hard old broad exterior to crumble. I believe in Christmas; its message of peace and love and family. Christmas reconnects me with humanity, disconnects me from being jaded and bitter.”

I remember very few individual gifts but have many special memories of the holiday season. You will notice a trend amongst my highlights.

There was 1984 when my car was out of commission, having been hit just a few days before Christmas. My friends Darrell and Kathy Skidnuk, who were travelling to Edmonton to visit family, gave me a ride so I could spend the holidays with Joyce.

We whiled away the time rockin’ out to tunes with me in the backseat using the snow brush as an air guitar.

For Christmas 1985 (a green Christmas … yayyyy), Howard Elliott, publisher of the Daily Herald-Tribune, and his wife Pearl, hosted all the orphans from the paper (those who had no family in town and were not travelling for the holidays). The following year, Joyce and I did the honours at our apartment.

Joyce and I were reminiscing about that holiday celebration just the other day, particularly the food involved. One of the guests prepared a most memorable crab bisque.

For Christmas 1987, our first in Sault Ste. Marie, the best thing was that Joyce arrived just in time to join me for the Big Day. We’d had to live apart about a month as we made the transition from Alberta to Ontario.

Christmas 1989 was our first with Peter. We didn’t put up a tree that year with a toddler just beginning to roam. Between him and Sammi, our first dog, we thought the ornaments would be in jeopardy.

We used a poinsettia on the coffee table as a tree.

Christmases between 1991 and 2006 were shared with our friends Jeni and Jim Rice and their daughters, Erin and Mackenzie. Neither couple had family in the community so we became the next best thing, taking turns hosting each year. A couple of times, Jeni’s parents joined in from Pennsylvania. Jim’s mom came up a few times from Toronto. Once, my brother Dennis visited from Edmonton.

Our first Christmas with the Rices illustrated why we were as good as family. Jeni underestimated the time to cook the huge bird she’d purchased and dinner was delayed until about 8 p.m. No worries, we had plenty of snacks and wine.

Speaking of making spirits bright, Jeni’s dad, Bill, poured the best glass of scotch! It was always a highlight guessing what fruit combination Jim would come up with for his sumptuous pie.

This year, we will be visiting Peter in Edmonton, getting down to the provincial capital a couple of days ahead of the World Junior Hockey Championship. We have tickets to five games.

Notice how none of these memories involve gifts wrapped with care under the tree? I also didn’t insist we put the ‘Christ’ in Christmas. All my favourite festive thoughts revolve around family, friend and food.

While Kathleen is an atheist and I am a believer, we both agree that this time of year is about celebrating the good things in life, remembering family and friends near and far, looking after the less fortunate, and looking forward with hopes the world will be a better place.

I think that is what Christ would want.

Regardless of how you feel about the season, I wish you all the best for a safe and joyous season.  All the best for a healthy and prosperous 2012.

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