This day last year was as close to perfect as a day can get. It was two days before we were flying home from Canada, at the end of our 12 month exchange. I skied for the first time with my good Canadian friend, and my last time in Canada.
The day was happy, gorgeous, brilliant, wonderful, magical – a Bluebird day in every sense. The weather, the friendship, the skiing – it was like I wrote the script. Our favourite ski runs at Whistler were called Symphony and Harmony – the soundtrack, Ode to Joy, humming merrily in my ears. I tried hard not to miss the mountains and my friend already.
I had waited all year in Canada for some kind of alchemical transformation, for a complete change within myself as though the cold would snap me out of all bad habits, freeze out every last bit of pain, cauterise old wounds once and for all. I’d put myself under so much pressure to make the year transformative – to work out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life! In the end, not that I exactly realised it at the time, the secret for the rest of my life was revealed on the ski slopes that day.
On my second last day in Canada, muscles groaning in exertion and exhilaration, spirits soaring higher than the peaks surrounding me, perfection defined down Symphony’s snaking run, adrenalin coursing, friendship forging, happiness discovered half-way down Harmony, memories made to last a lifetime – I realised transformation is something that happens in a single day, a single moment.
It happens in surrender – to joy, to pain, to the present.
Being away in Canada for a year had quantified time in a way that simply counting the days could never. It had given place and shape to 365 days, a physical location, a climate that differed from previous years, so that I felt I could define what it is like to live a year, for the first time in my life.
But life is lived in moments. There are 524,160 in a single year.
I’d lived a lot of our Canadian year in yin moments. Contemplating life, searching inside myself as the cold, wet weather left me feeling trapped inside. At first I was pretty lonely. I comforted myself in my cabin fever by running with the whole red-wine-by-the-fire cozy experience. In all honesty I spent the year sponsored by Chilean red winemakers (or we sponsored them) – in part in celebration of our grand Canadian adventure (shared with visiting friends and family and new friends), in part in trying to take the edge off those things I didn’t want to feel anymore, my worries for the future, the change I was so desperately seeking but fiercely resisting.
I carried too much baggage to Canada, and I didn’t want to bring it home with me. The trouble was you get kinda comfortable with your burden after a while, it becomes like a backpack, attached to who you are so that you carry it wherever you go. I’d carried the burden of infertility and all the associated pain for so long, and I’d piled on the guilt I’d burdened myself with throughout the long adoption process so that I was accustomed to the weight.
Canada was the culmination of my life to that point. Fourteen years after we’d starting trying to have kids we finally had our two precious children, our family felt complete. And we had this amazing opportunity to live overseas for a year, to experience a new culture and climate, to gain a new perspective.
For me it was a whole year without the worries of work, clear time to spend with the kids and truly enjoy our first year with Little Yang. It was an opportunity to forge new friendships, to travel within North America, to ski (Oh how I love skiing). Life was indeed ‘perfect’ during our grand Canadian adventure, but only in those moments I chose to recognise it as such.
In hindsight, I experienced many of those moments during our year in Canada. I just chose to focus on moments when I was working through past stuff, worrying about the future, anything but present. Yet because I was gifted so many enchanted moments, alchemy eventually worked its magic anyway, despite my self-sabotage (aka Chilean wine sponsorship and crazy inward thinking!).
And I realised that as I skied for the last time in Canada, or I realised it in hindsight as I was warmed by the memories. I realised it on our very last night at our home in Squamish, as Canada offered one final gift – it started to snow! We turned off the lights and sat in silence, watching, transfixed as the flakes slowly transformed the landscape. It was only a parting glimpse of white, but it was ENOUGH.
Life is ENOUGH if lived in the moments that count, not measured by the number of moments that merge into each other without us even noticing them, without us stopping to really appreciate them, until a whole year has gone, a lifetime drifts away.
The best we can do is to our live our moments fully present, in gratitude for the pain as well as the joy. And if we can’t do that in the actual moment, then we must do it with hindsight and in gratitude for the lesson later on.
A year on from our Canadian experience I am immensely grateful for our time there, just as I arrived home hugely grateful for what we have here in Australia, for sunshine and the surge of yang energy I experienced under a great big Australian sky. I have harvested the gratitude I cultivated in Canada under a hot Australian sun.
At the very least the glass is always half-full. Often it is indeed overflowing.