Doughnuts, Eggs, and Self-Discovery

While on my way to work, driving under grey skies, along Vancouver city streets, a realization hit me like a lightly powdered doughnut.

If I hadn’t been paying attention, I would have missed it. The more I thought about it, the more the doughnut powder clung to its imaginary imprint on my face.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be “that girl.” The girl who got married at 20, and had 3 kids by age 25. I wanted to be a wife and a mother. I knew I’d be great at it. If only I could figure out my circumstances to make that happen, my life would be fulfilled. Then I would be happy.

I was raised in a conservative household. One in which I watched my own mom closely. I felt that I too had the skills that it took to be a good mother. All I wanted was to find someone to love me and cherish me. I wanted to get married, to sign my life away at an early age, and I didn’t really care about much else.

I used my desire to get married and to have a family as a scapegoat for my life. For not knowing what else I wanted to do. Or who I really was. If I’d had the opportunity, I would have run full steam ahead into that life, and not really known who I truly am. Not taken the time to assess my own failures and achievements. To discover and develop my passions. To figure out how I like my eggs cooked.

Now, I can confidently say that I’m SO glad that I didn’t get married and that I don’t have three children. I’m free to explore. To discover.

I realized that I’m happy. I’m really, really happy. I’m content with my life. I don’t think I’ve ever said that out loud, and it feels empowering to say it: I’m content with my life.

We decide who we are. There is no specific rule book. What’s that? You’re unhappy with your current state of being? Change it. Do something. Join a book club, take a cooking class, sign up for dance lessons. Take the time to find out who YOU are. Uncover your greatest passions. Discover what drives you. Figure out how you like your eggs cooked.

Take risks. Make mistakes. Get hurt. Because it’s in those moments that who we truly are shines through. It’s in those moments that we get hit in the face by lightly powdered doughnuts.  It’s in those moments that we inch closer to contentment and happiness. 

Original 1950s Window Glass

“Did you know that these windows are original 1950’s glass?”

“Hmm… yeah I think I read about that when I got here.”

“Ok well anyways, Mom and I were thinking that when Simon and Jo get here – with their four boys – that we’ll immediately tell them that they can NOT touch the windows!”

“Uhh…”

“But then I thought I’d wait until the boys go near the windows, and I’ll run over and stand in their way. I think that’s better.”

“Well Dad, I would probably just wait to see if the boys even go near the windows. And if they do, then just tell them to be careful.”

“Oh no no no. I’d prefer to just run in front of the window every time they go near it. That’s probably our best option.”

Oh boy.

I’ve learned to stop trying to fix this pattern. I’ve learned to accept that my dad is incredibly particular about almost everything. And who am I kidding? I’m particular too.

My Grandma came to visit us at the beach house today. She’s a sweetie, but I can’t imagine that her life was easy. And she’s incredibly particular too. When we sat down for lunch, all of us piling onto the beautifully sunny deck with our plates of sundried tomato and sweet basil pasta, Grandma sat inside alone. Apparently the deck was too sunny, and too much sun leads to skin cancer and inevitably, to melanoma. So we had lunch in separate spaces, with my brother going to sit with Grandma, and the rest of us enjoying the wonderful sunshine outside. She ate inside for dinner too – this time it was too cold on the deck.

I love my family, but there are definitely moments when I wonder how some of us make it through the day. Especially with disastrous diseases waiting to get us at every turn.

Simon and Jo were a breath of fresh air today. And their boys were everything that young boys should be: adventurous and shy, inquisitive and quick, with adorable eyes and smiles that melted me. Not only was this family highly functional in themselves, they somehow lent themselves to us for the afternoon.

We drank wine and beer in front of Grandma today, instead of hiding it in ceramic mugs like usual. Mom had a wonderful time caring for all fourteen of us, Dad restrained himself from getting lost in the details, and the rest of us thoroughly enjoyed Simon, Jo, and the boys, and their fresh perspectives on life.

At this exact moment, while I write, my dad is surrounding me in my little writing corner with candle lanterns. The warm glow given off by the candles is like the sky at sunset. My mom and I just made eye contact through the window and smiled at each other. We both know that this act of kindness, this genuine display of love, is not an everyday occurrence for my dad. Which is what makes it extra considerate, and sweet.

I had a counsellor tell me one time – “Your parents are doing the best that they know how to do for you.” I didn’t believe it. How could that be true? I felt miserable and desperate and confused. They couldn’t be doing the best that they knew how.

Now that I’m older, I’m able to realize that desperation and confusion are just part of the teenage lunchbox that you carry with you each day. I can also see the value in what the counsellor was trying to say. No, they aren’t perfect. But they aren’t claiming to be. Now that I’m older, I can accept that.

Holding on to bitterness or resentment towards the mistakes that your parents made never truly helps anyone. Forgiveness feels much better. Even though it’s hard – trust me… I was the ultimate stubborn child in this area – forgiving your parents for the mistakes they’ve made allows you to live a better life. It’s like drinking wine out of a wine glass rather than a ceramic mug. Once you get a taste for the glass, you’ll never go back to the ceramic mug.

Try it. It’s Addicting.

It’s like taking a deep breath – one that causes your chest to rise and fall dramatically, leaving your entire body on a dizzying rollercoaster ride.

It’s like being paralyzed in thought – eyes wide in awe, mouth cracked like an old floor board, breathing non-existent.

It’s like opening the cage around your heart to let in the sun – freedom washing over you in soft waves.

Humbling yourself is a beautiful thing. It’s something that most of us don’t often do. It feels a bit uncomfortable – to admit we’re wrong, to surrender, to let go.

Life is difficult – You’re right. It’s not easy. And because it’s not easy, because life can be devastating and heartbreaking, we try to protect ourselves. We put walls up. We secure ourselves in our blanket fort, stabilizing our surroundings as much as we can.

The problem is though, that we forget to take down the walls we’ve put up. We get so used to living half-lives, full of insincerity and mediocrity, that it begins to feel comfortable after a while. And humbling ourselves begins to feel uncomfortable and unusual.

It’s when we begin to take down our walls that we begin to see the light.

Everyone has a friend who they haven’t been in touch with for some time – a friend who saw the walls go up at the end. And we all have moments where we choose the wrong thing, and are unwilling to admit that we know it’s wrong. That’s life. You’re not alone. We all do it.

The beauty is that we can go back. We can humble ourselves. It may feel strange going back, but once you’ve done it, the cage around your heart will be opened to the sun. You’ll feel fantastic. It’s freedom, baby. Freedom feels fantastic.

Here’s to humbling ourselves. Try it. It’s addicting. 

I Think Good Gets Better

Do you ever have those moments where you feel transported backwards in time, to a younger, more foolish and less experienced version of yourself?

I don’t often have such moments, but when I do, I instinctively try to morph my body into the chair beneath me. And let’s be honest for a second – I’m no shape-shifter. So I end up sitting there, momentarily paralyzed by an embarrassing memory.

The other night I went for a Martini with a friend after work. I was glad to be off of work. I was tired of making small talk and of laughing at awkward comments that weren’t funny.  

“If my son were here, he’d be up one side of you, and down the other. Ha ha ha…”   *ahem* Thank you..?

“I’ll take you home with me so that you can continue to feel useful, whaddya say?”  *long pause, blank stare*

The thought of being able to just be–to have a drink and just be–sent tingles up my spine. Upon entering the restaurant, however, I instantly recognized the server. He was someone I had known years ago, when I was quite different.

I’m quite sure that I froze for a second or two as he walked towards us. My brain was flooded with memories and I felt transported back in time.

It took me a few minutes, but eventually I came to terms with the situation. All I could do was just be myself and hope that the good in me now would be enough to silence the echoes of the past.

Minutes ago I was watching Into the Wild, a true story starring Emille Hirsch as Alexander Supertramp. It’s a movie about a college educated young man who chooses to give up his materialistic life in order to truly live. After donating all of his savings to charity, he wanders across the United States, ventures down to Mexico, and eventually ends up in Alaska. He meets various characters along the way who enrich his life with their perspectives and experiences.

My favorite line in the film was this: “I think good gets better.” This line cut me deep. It was so beautiful. So poetic. So true.

Good does get better. Life gets better. We learn, and we get better.

I won’t ever get to go back and re-write the foolishness out of my own script. But good gets better. And thankfully, I get to write a new script. A better one.