I’m A Lot Happier

I’m a lot happier these days and nothing has changed. I still live in the same small house, have the same job, get annoyed at the same things and have the same old irritating habits like my penchant for misplacing anything important: passports, taxes, work papers, keys and my glasses. I’m a lot happier because each day I wake up (I still groan as I pry myself from under the sheets) feels like a gift. It started when my friend died of cancer at 49 leaving her children and her life behind. I got to know her well only at the end having known her not so well for over ten years. When I helped clear out her condo, it felt, as another friend so aptly said, someone pressed the stop button on her life, while she was in mid-sentence. It wasn’t like clearing out an elderly person’s house. I felt her presence so acutely as if she was going to walk in and continue her life, as if she would just pick up where she left off. It felt unfinished: her work papers, newly bought groceries, freshly painted children’s room.

I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t know someone who has died of cancer and unfortunately, the longer we live, the more likely we are to know more and more people who pass this way. I don’t know what my end will be and perhaps it’s morbid to think about, but thinking about it and realizing it could happen any day makes me really want to enjoy every day. It has made me hug a lot more, give more compliments and be grateful that I’ve woken up yet again, something I’ve always taken for granted. Better yet, it’s made me do some things that I’ve put off like writing a will, telling people how they’ve made a difference in my life, and working harder on my new book. Sure the other side may be way better, free of pain and sorrow and all the hard stuff that’s on this side. But I really like this side. It’s what I know and at times, it’s a lot of fun so I want to stay here for awhile, for as long as I can. That’s why tomorrow morning when I, night owl and sleep lover, get up far too early and start that tedious morning routine, I’m going to be very happy, because once again, I’ve woken up to a new day.

One of the best things I’ve ever done

I wanted to surprise my first born with a gift before she went off to university so I bought a blank journal at Walmart and started writing to her a year before she had to go. I figured a year would give me plenty of time to complete it. Sometimes I didn’t know what to write. Other times I had plenty to say. When we didn’t see eye to eye, I wrote about it, giving her my opinion. At times I wrote about my frustrations with life but most times I wrote about how proud I was of her. I wrote about my regrets of the past and my aspirations for the future. I bared my soul.

I didn’t finish the journal even though I tried to write almost every day. Handwriting takes a lot longer than typing but in this age of emails and texts, I wanted to go back to handwriting and I learned something about myself in the process. I had to think more to avoid making mistakes that couldn’t be deleted. I learned that actual handwriting gives me great joy, much more than typing on a keyboard. I learned that I write more honestly and more creatively when I put pen to paper. I don’t know why this is. I’ve read it’s because we process and synthesize information differently when we write than when we type. I just know that handwriting felt more authentic and enjoyable than if I’d done an online diary. Journalling made me remember how much I enjoyed this pastime of mine and how reading back through the pages of a journal brings back memories in great detail. Facebook posts are the opposite of authentic. Let’s face it. Everyone mostly posts the good stuff.

As for my daughter, she says she reads a little bit of my journal every day and it’s interesting to read my perspective on things. She says it makes her cry sometimes. She says she feels closer to me and she’s glad she has it. And the unfinished pages? Well, she says she’s going to write in them. I hope she shares her writing with me one day.