Hello good old bee-readers,
There was no way I was ending the year without one last post. I have been longing to write since my last post this summer, however, as you know, life happens. As 2019 wraps up, I look back on it and cannot help but see a dominant theme: endings, departures and finalities.
Certainly, endings and beginnings are part of life and to be expected. It seems however, as I had noted in a past blog post, in my case events or moves come in extremes: strong stability and calm waters or back to back waves of madness and sadness…the latter is what 2019 brought me. It’s as though the universe knows how bad I am at letting go of the past and saying goodbye and decided to throw a bunch of events that forced me to do so, back to back. I really started to feel like a ship riding through a storm, crashing into wave after wave.
While some endings I expected and saw coming from far away, others were much more violent and plunged my head back under water, just when I was starting to catch my breath. Read me well though: ALL of these endings were significant. All of them tested my entire toolbox of coping mechanisms without exception.
Without wanting to make this post a negative or depressing one, I simply want to share what I learnt from this and express gratitude for many friends and family members who offered their support. I also want to share a more vulnerable side of me and that yes, I absolutely do feel down sometimes, scraping the bottom this year apparently.
Before I start rambling on forever, I will limit myself to the three life changing events that truly marked my year, and these were the passings of three individuals:
In between of course, there’s the regular crap that continues to pile up: colleagues leaving, a friend battling cancer, career shenanigans, my father losing his childhood friend a few weeks after losing his own sister, and the list goes on. And we all know that even when you think shit has royally hit the fan, it can always get worse… so with every bit of bad news, I tried my best to go back to basics: I can eat, walk, talk and do my job daily, shut up and don’t complain Ivana.
I was just starting to slowly sew up the La Zia wound when I learn on a Monday night that one of my best friends had put an end to her own life. I literally screamed when reading the message that her sister sent to me as my heart shattered and played back our childhood and teenage years like a film without sound. I truly did not see this one coming.
It was tough.
Another strong punch in the heart. Another final departure I can do nothing about. I was starting to lose hope, my energy tank was already on its reserve as it was. Even Phil, my stable force of truth and of calmness, poured me a Scotch, before I was even able to ask for one that night. Something I rarely do.
How the hell was I going to get through this?
Well, in my daily activities as a career counsellor, when supporting my clients, I often present the “Stress is N.U.T.S.” concept, a tool developed by Dr. Sonia Lupien, director of the Center for Studies on Human Stress, to help us grasp the triggers that activate our innate fight or flight response in this day and age. We are more likely to stress when a situation has:
N - novelty; something new
U - unpredictability; no way of knowing it could occur
T - threat to the ego; feeling your competence is questioned
S - sense of control; feeling you have little or no control in a situation
While some situations have one or a few of these, some, like a job loss, gather them all and pressure you to the max. I can easily say that Véronique’s departure encompassed them all: novelty, unpredictability, threat to my ego (how was I not there? How did I not know?) and complete loss of control – I was definitely not behind the wheel here, this happened and I had to deal with the repercussions. Unlike my auntie and grandfather, I could never have imagined that Véronique was battling demons and that she had been doing so for many years. So much so, that life had become unbearable. Lucky me, the concept of life coming to an end through my own decision is unknown territory; my brain and heart never venture there. Consequently, her decision, though it deserves to be respected, is all the more difficult to comprehend.
To adaptively cope, I focused on...
WORK AND DAILY ROUTINE
For each one of these losses, my work routine saved me. I got up the next day and clung to my morning ritual, business as usual. Instead of taking a bereavement day for any of these losses actually, I kept my schedule and daily appointments on, which helped me focus on those things in my life that I do control. I shed many tears on my train ride to work that Tuesday morning following Véronique’s sad news. However, seeing my clients and my colleagues at the office helped me cope. In these cases, I don’t think staying at home would have been a good idea for me. Doing my job reminded me of my sense of purpose and unconsciously so, my clients were the ones keeping my head out of the water. (I did obviously take bereavement days but for the actual day of the service and ceremony)
LAUGHING AND POSITIVE PROJECTS
Work definitely helped keep my mind off of the haunting reality that was surrounding me. Fortunately, I had just launched ideas that required me to create video montages for our Christmas cocktails, both of which were meant to be funny. I plunged myself into these projects full force. They made me laugh as I was capturing comedy like scenes and was essentially forced to goof around for the sake of the mini film we were creating. As we were filming though, I’d often stop and think, these are the moments I live for. Working hard but also being able to take a step back and laugh at our silliness, at ourselves in this life. If we don’t stop and do it, what is life about then?
The projects turned out to be a success and most importantly, increased the sense of belonging with everyone which filled my heart with joy and gratitude.
We all know people in our life who are energy providers and others who deplete us from it. And then there are some who belong to both categories. I also noticed during my whirlwind of emotions, that I was very unstable with my energy and mood. I felt like during the same day, I could reach peaks of happiness and then crash into sadness and anger. I realized I was probably tapping into adrenaline at times to keep going.
At this point, I cut off all activities that I just didn’t feel were providing me with joy or energy. Including people who tax me of energy. As much as I love them, if they can’t understand that even Ivana has a limited amount of time and generosity, it is no longer my problem. I think I am kind and very giving, but I can’t pour from an empty cup can I? I need to regroup and focus on what I’m going through before I can help someone else. Oldest rule in the psych 101 book.
With that cleared, I was able to just say no without giving a reason and set boundaries. Something I have a hard time with but that I will keep practicing. If people really care, they will understand and not judge you.
Most of all, my friends, colleagues and family members have thrown me countless life jackets and helping hands to keep me from drowning, and I thank you all for that. Those who wrote me cards, who called, who hugged me, who shared even just a glance and a nod…thank you. Without you, this would have been even more difficult. Without Phil anchoring me, it would have been an even rockier ride...
IN THE END
In the end though, it is mainly up to me and how I perceive all of these events and this entire year. I see now that 2019 was one of gigantic life chapters coming to an end and closing, forever. With these three big ones coming to an end, I welcome new ones and can’t wait to see what is in store for me! If change is the only constance, then surely crappy news has to stop too.
I am switching gears to see that I want to attract in the new chapters and projects? How am I seeing this next year unfolding? À suivre!
Given I have already dedicated posts and poems to La Zia and Alfredo, I would like to leave with a word to Véronique Ledoux:
Ma très chère amie Véronique,
Comme je suis heureuse de t’avoir retrouvée ce jour-là, au Carrefour Laval tandis que tu travaillais au comptoir MAC. J'avais rêvé à toi deux jours auparavant et je cherchais à reprendre contact avec toi après tant d’années et te voilà devant moi en train de maquiller une cliente. Quel miracle que nous avons eu la chance de se revoir et quelle belle manifestation de l’univers! Ce que je cherchais me cherchait aussi.
J’aimerais tellement de serrer et te dire que je ne savais pas pour ton mal de vivre…je vivais ma vie pensant que de ton côté, tu faisais la même chose. Clairement, il y avait des combats qui t’habitaient depuis longtemps et j’aurais aimé pouvoir t’aider (comme plein d’autres personnes l’ont très bien fait et ce pendant longtemps). J’espère que tu sais l’importance que tu as eu et que tu as toujours dans ma vie.
Avec qui aurais-je partagé mon casier au secondaire?
Qui d’autre m’aurait laissée tapisser ce casier de photos des Beatles (et de Bush)?
Avec qui aurais-je partagé mes secrets d’adolescente les plus précieux?
Avec qui aurais-je, sans trop le vouloir, forcé mes parents à payer des factures de frais interurbains sans cesse suite à nos heures de conversations téléphoniques? Car il ne suffisait pas de se parler toute la journée à l’école et de s'écrire des lettres
Avec qui aurais-je ri aux larmes toutes ces fois? Et que dire de la fois ou je suis venue vous voir à l’AMP, après avoir changé d’école, et nous nous sommes pris dans nos bras en plein milieu de la cafétéria alors que tout le monde s’est mis à applaudir? Ces camarades connaissaient la profondeur de notre amitié et ont partagé nos émotions en même temps que nous!
…Et si je n’avais pas changé d’école à mes 15 ans? J’avoue que c’est une pensée qui revient très souvent.
Nous avons fait des choix. Nous avons vécu notre vie selon nos convictions…je dois te laisser partir et je continuerai à vivre ma vie selon les miennes. Tu as quitté avec une partie de moi, mais je t’emmène avec moi de mon côté aussi : dans mon cœur, et là, tu y vivras aimée avec tous nos souvenirs qui continuent, eux aussi, de vivre avec une force plus grande que jamais.
Je vous souhaite à tous une SUPER année 2020, remplie de bonheur, de bonnes nouvelles et d’une énergie positive!
May all your wishes comes true and celebrate life until further notice!!
As always, thank you for reading me and don't be shy to comment and offer me some feedback, it means the world to me.
My name is Ivana. I love photography and meeting people. I hold a Master's in counselling psychology and work as a career consultant. Music is my fuel and an important source of energy in my life. I drive my vespa around the city and I love what I do! :) About this blog: me on my artistic soap box!
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