As I enter 2024

We returned from our Christmas trip to Nova Scotia on December 29th. The next day, we had tickets for the Cirque du Soleil show on ice called Crystal with our son and his girlfriend.

Hanging out with grown and independent children is a source of deep satisfaction for me. The delicious reward for the years spent actively parenting and raising my brood is that I have many years, God willing, to appreciate this reality. What a gift.

It was our first Cirque du Soleil show since moving to Montreal 8.5 years ago. With our upcoming move to Nova Scotia, we are trying to do the iconic Montreal things while we still live in Montreal. It’s a little embarrassing and also sad that we haven’t seen a Cirque show before this. It was gorgeous.

That was the only thing scheduled in the days following our Christmas trip. Otherwise, it was sleeping in, napping, reading books, and watching lots of YouTube videos, movies, and shows. Yes, even in the middle of the day.

Between all the rest, I cleaned up and organized from our trip: my laundry, the bags of clothing and stuff, and the food. I made some chowder with leftover cedar plank grilled salmon I brought back from Mom and Dad’s.

All the Christmas decorations remain up. With our artificial tree that doesn’t shed needles or dry out, there’s little incentive to “take down Christmas”. I like the color and sparkle that Christmas decorations add to what are still the darkest days of the year. The decorations will stay up for a couple more weeks. I feel no rush to take them down.

On January 1st, after 2 solid days of chill, I cleaned our bedroom and my desk area in preparation for returning to my paid work the next day. Everything was sorted, tidied, vacuumed, and washed. That felt good.

I have an inspiration board above my desk where I pin all sorts of “inspirational” and heartfelt stuff. A few family photos, cards my mom has sent in the mail, quotes, and lots of pieces of paper with ideas jotted down about the kind of work I want to do as a writer and thinker, and motivational messages to keep me moving on that track.

I looked over all of it while dusting and vacuuming, stepping for a moment into a non-holiday mindset.

Pretty much all my values and goals are up on that board. I don’t feel the need to journal anything this year. I’ve made huge progress in recent years on certain life goals, like our decision to move to Nova Scotia and how that aligns with and allows many of our goals to be achieved and worked towards. In other areas, like my desire to find or figure out paid work in the realm of ideas that animate my soul (education, family, spirituality, philosophy, etc.), well, I can see progress, but the going is slow, and the destination is very much unknown.

While at my desk, a place I hadn’t sat down at for 10 blessed days off, I spent some time cleaning up and organizing 2023 photos. The timing of this task with the year’s end was more incidental than intentional. Still, it was a great tool for year-end reflection as I sorted through and was reminded of 2023’s memorable and happy highlights - travel, family gatherings, outdoor adventures, gardening, and the comforts of home.

I am almost embarrassed to say that 2023 treated me, personally, really well. I have had much harder years in the past and come into other new years with a heavy heart.

I can’t complain about any particular situation in my life. My relationships are good. I love going to school and studying, reading, and writing. I have work that helps fund our goals and dreams. Damien’s work provides security and opportunities. The kids are doing well. We’ve been healthy.

I am incredibly lucky.

As we crossed the threshold into a new year, I’ve been reflecting on and feeling a debt of gratitude for my life. I’ve also been thinking about the changes we’ve experienced and are experiencing in our lives and the significant changes coming up.

I’ve been remembering, with deep fondness and gratitude, for having had those experiences, previous Christmas holidays, and places we’ve lived while celebrating them. Specifically our time on the snowy Gaspé peninsula.

Those were our family adventure years. I didn’t know that period would be a distinct season in our family story. At the time, the goal was to transition into a different model or pattern for our lives. But in the end, it was an experiment that we concluded after a handful of years by moving to Montreal and securing more stable employment for Damien.

There was much that was difficult about that time, my insecurity-induced anxiety, for example! But there was also a particular magic to those years that only existed there and then, a magic directly connected to the beauty of winter and mountains. Magic, I have also experienced, though to a lesser degree and requiring greater effort (often driving) while living in Montreal.

I hope the special winter memories of the Gaspe, the sunsets, the skiing, the snow-draped trees, living in a ski chalet, the blustery cold, and the winter memories of Québec more broadly, remain with me my entire life. Memories that can be recalled through whatever climate changes I will be experiencing in the coming years.

Climate change and warm El Niño conditions aside, my winters are about to change. So, these memories are that much more meaningful to me.

This is my last winter in a place with outdoor rinks, months-long cross-country ski conditions, decent downhill skiing, mountain accessibility, and extensive opportunities for snow activities of all kinds.

I have been mentally and emotionally preparing for this change for a couple years now. The decision is not sudden. At one point, because of my deep love for winter’s magic, I was not willing to even consider living in a place without a lot of snow. But priorities and life circumstances change.

This is exactly what I’ve been thinking most during this liminal time, as we rounded the corner on the shortest day of the year and crossed the threshold from the old year into the new: things change.

I think about this reality, this prophecy, this truth while I sit in the comfort and hopeful expectation of my current life. Someday, this comfort will change.

Hardship, loss, disease, and death will rend my life’s tapestry, and I will step across the threshold of a new year battle worn, weary, heartbroken, and grieved. If not this year, maybe the next, a knowledge I carry not as a fear but as a reminder to appreciate each day.

I sometimes miss previous stages of family life and “who we were” at different times. I feel some grief for the loss of activities we no longer do, downhill skiing, for example. I miss our regular excursions out of the city, many of those for winter outdoor activities specifically. However, I don’t miss the dissatisfaction and even discontent that drove the need for those weekly excursions.

Although I miss what we did, things that I thought defined us and were indeed expressions of our deepest values at the time, I don’t miss the old versions of myself and who I was during that time. I especially don’t miss the anxiety and insecurities.

I have thought about all this during the last few days. Who I’ve been. Where I’ve been. Where I’ve lived. What I’ve experienced and loved in those places. And how all of it keeps changing.

2024 will be a year of significant change. All years bring change, but I am going into this one with the knowledge of a scheduled change and all its attendant labor bearing down fast.

It’s sobering because change, especially moving, is stressful. We will become empty-nesters this year, in a reverse situation where we leave the children instead of them leaving us. How will I handle this? How will they handle it? (Mostly, I think it will be a good transition for all of us, but of course, there will be rough spots.)

The kids need to find new living arrangements this winter for when our lease expires at the end of June. The four of us who still live together will all be moving this spring/summer. Moving vehicle rentals, apartment (& roommate) searches, packing, loading and unloading, long drives, incidentals, and unexpected costs, all of it coming down the pipe.

The dominant mood for me, though, as I enter this new year and walk towards this huge life change is anticipation and expectation. My eye is on that eastern horizon, with every day a countdown to our departure. And just like life, this imbues every day with meaning.

This time will end. Appreciate its gifts. One day these days will be cherished memories.

« How to live after having eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
Leaving Home & Returning Home »

You can subscribe to comments on this article using this form.

If you have already commented on this article, you do not need to do this, as you were automatically subscribed.