Her name was foreign

Upon the tip of my pen

Where once it had been fluid.

It wasn’t that I had forgotten her, but that I had forgotten to remember her.

His voice carries an authority,

An air of confidence spiced with pipe tobacco

These days life itself can be a little overwhelming and now, particularly at this time of year (I can’t believe I’m saying this), Christmas can be a little much. All the incessant cheerful music and sparkly decorations and gooey commercials can sometimes leave you feeling like you have been beaten over the head with a candy cane. So, to cleanse your palate of the sugar high let us take a glimpse into the not-so-sweet side of Christmas legends and lore.

We begin right here within Canada. Although we may not hold the same kind of ancient history as other parts of the world we can look back to our Nation’s roots and thank the Inuit for this first contribution of Christmas creepiness.

It is the eve of Old Christmas day in Labrador, January 6th. Nalujuk Night. It’s very cold and dark and the community gathers anxiously to await the arrival of The Nalujuk. A Nalujuk or many Nalujuit, arrive from the eastern coast on the sea ice carrying crude handmade weapons, are clad from head to toe in traditional furs and seal skin boots, and their faces are covered with masks made from animals skins, cloth, or more modernly – store bought masks. Through the town they chase the children, moving quickly and quietly on snow covered streets in their seal skin boots. Shrieks of terror, singing and laughter echo through the cold of the night as children, once caught by the Nalujuk, must sing a song to be freed  and are often given candy to quash the trauma .

Well that sounds like fun and not terrifying at all.

Singing is an integral part of our Christmas traditions. We have carollers and choirs belting out the same joyful tunes we know and love. Songs of peace, joy, and happiness. It is said music will calm even the savage beast but will it be enough to make a zombie horse leave your house? Next time we pop on over to Wales and see what the Welsh are up to – and *spoiler* it’s weird.

I woke up late to a confusing sound. My alarm radio was set but it’s usual music didn’t wake me, there was just a lot of talk. I was camping out on my sister’s living room floor as I waited for residence to open up at my first year experience at the University of Guelph. An impulsive and regretful decision brought on by the death of my father the previous year.

On the radio I heard words of disbelief and anger and confusion but no one was saying what actually happened. I was scared. I didn’t know what was going on and I couldn’t get anyone on the phone to explain it to me.

It was all over the news when I got to school. In the cafeteria I stood numb, crying unabashedly at the scenes that unfolded over and over again. The plane crashes, the fires, and the collapse of the towers that took my breath away. I was left hollow. I have never felt so alone and I was terrified.

I had a class that evening, philosophy, and I could not understand how everyone could continue on about their lives like this was no big deal. Sure, we were far enough away from the States, but this act of terrorism affected everyone. We should be talking about it. We should be crying about it. We should be acknowledging it. But no. This class didn’t matter. Not today. However, that feeling remained and I feel into a deep depression that semester. The only semester I would attend. It didn’t matter.

Still, the memories of 9/11 haunt me and I was never directly affected by the tragedy. I didn’t lose a family member or friend. But I do feel we all lost a little bit of innocence that day, and that is trauma.

If this year has taught me anything it has been humility. Time and time again I’ve been proven wrong. Wrong about what could happen. Wrong about the possibilities in my life. Wrong about my capabilities and wrong about my limitations. Everything I have thought to be true, etched in stone and unwaverable has been shown to be inaccurate.

If I could take away anything from this experience I’ll take away this – anything can happen. And that, that is both exciting and terrifying.

I have always hated the word “normal” and now this term has become ever more cringeworthy. In the news we are inundated with the turn of phrase “the new normal” and you cannot have a conversation without saying “when things get back to normal” in an effort to make future plans. But here’s the thing, normal was never and should never be the desired state of outcome for our lives. Normal is a sad excuse of maintaining a status quo, without making any trouble. Well look around, we finally got into trouble. Big trouble. And the beloved normal is to blame. Normal is lazy. Normal is boring and stagnant. Normal is devoid of creativity, progress, and evolution.

We need to move forward with the idea of being better, so let’s strive towards not getting back to normal life, but moving ahead to an exceptional everyday life. Throw away the outdated and dusty ideals associated with normal. We are better than that. We have to be.

Take this from someone who has spent the better part of the last month grasping for any minutiae of information regarding Covid-19 and I can tell you this, it doesn’t matter how much we read or listen to the news we, as a collective layman society, know nothing more about Covid-19 and can offer no new insights to the scientific experts and decision makers leading us through this pandemic. This is NOT the DaVinci Code that, only by watching ALL the news and Tweets and Facebook stories and Instagram posts, you’ll amazingly figure it all out. You, me, and my neighbour Walter are not going to solve the puzzle of this disease. Why, because we are irrelevant. Unless my buddy Walter here was an infectious disease expert but alas, he is not.

We have been told repeatedly the job we have to do and it’s quite simple – Stay home. When you absolutely have to go out, you keep at least 2 metres of distance between your own germ carrying vessel and others.

Any other time I would be tooting the horn of civil liberties for the populace but right now I’m with the government in releasing only “need to know” information. I don’t feel we’re owed all the transparency that’s being called for. Why? Because our collective working class opinion doesn’t matter right now. And, we have displayed that even with all the harrowing information out there about the disease and the simple rules to stay home, we still don’t listen. There are still people gathering in groups, hanging out at Walmart and the grocery stores. So no, I don’t think the government is obligated at all to release the projections they have been given to guide their decision making during this situation. If I thought it would solidify the degree of seriousness in those people that weren’t already abiding by the rules to stay at home then yes, by all means release the data. But I don’t think that. The same people who aren’t taking this seriously are going to take that information and look for loopholes, and the other spectrum of individuals are going to use that information as a means of placing the blame from here on out upon those that delivered that information. Because it is SO much easier to place blame, then take on the responsibility yourself. The Prime Minister has said repeatedly, the magnitude of impact the pandemic will have on our country and the lives of it’s citizens depends on YOU and YOUR BEHAVIOUR.

So, I’ll put this simply: I don’t care about your “need to know”. I don’t care if you think it is within your rights to have transparency. What you need to do now is listen to the rules given to you by the big brains in our country and worldwide to STAY HOME. Wash your hands. Distance yourself from other Germbags.

Let the government with all their advisers do their job and you do yours. Trust that everyone wants the best case scenario for all of us. Trust and have faith that once this storm passes, and it will, what’s left over will show how well we pulled together or how horrible we fell apart.

I have spent this last week in grief. Grieving the loss of what life was, what life is, and what I thought life would be. We’ve lost huge, massive foundations of our life – security and safety. We’ve witnessed the fragility of humankind and the environment, but we’ve seen the absolute persistence of both as well.

So yes, I’m sad. I’m sad to hear of all those people that have lost family and friends.

I’m mad. I’m mad at all those fucking idiots that don’t listen to reason and warnings to stay inside.

I’m anxious as all get out, because that’s really my default setting. I’m worried about someone I know getting sick or myself getting sick. I’m worried about the unknown – where do we go from here??? I’m worried that my children will be afraid. I’m worried for friends with small businesses, friends that have been laid off, friends that are alone, friends that are immune compromised or have children that are.

But, as with everything in this diametric universe there is the flip side. I am relieved to slow down. I am thankful for a job that has supported it’s employees through this time. I am grateful that my friends and family are in the good health. And I am beyond thankful to all those first responders, hospital staff, and essential services workers who still do a job every single day for the benefit of all of us.

I’m still a hot mess, and I can pretty much guarantee I’ll be like this for awhile. But in the meantime I’m keeping my eyes wide open to see those small glimmers of hope, those moments where memories are made and miracles happen.

I thought I had long ago dealt with the trauma I experienced with Fitz’s birth. It’s not something I need to explain, it was personal and subjective and I don’t need that experience validated by anyone. I realized today, though, that that fear, which I thought was gone, is actually very much still here. It had disguised itself so well as a rationality that I didn’t even realize it had been a major player in my life for the past 4 years.

I realized it through a conversation. Through noticing my choice of words. I used the words ‘pain’ and ‘hurt’ more than once along with ‘afraid’. Even though I was saying, “I like and expect a challenge when pushing my physical limits”. I was even confusing myself.

It wasn’t until I was back in my car, obsessing over what I said when I realized “holy shit, I’ve been avoiding any physical challenges for the past 4 years because of my child birth trauma.”

For the past 4 years I’ve let a few hours experience determine how I live my life, or don’t live in this case. I gave up on things that were huge parts of me. I gave up on trying, experiencing, and even just showing up. Because I was afraid – afraid that what happened before, would definitely happen again.

All this from one conversation.

Take the time to not only listen to others’ stories, but also, really take the time to listen to your own. Your version. Your words. Your story. You just might learn something about yourself.

If I could give you all the answers,

I would.

If I could save you from all the hurt,

I would.

But if I keep you from all that the world has to give,

Then I’d be denying you the chance that you have to live.

If I save you from your very first heartbreak,

You will never know True Love.

If I gave you a reason for every little thing,

You will never know everyday magic.

And if I shelter you from all the Hate,

You will never know the need to stand up against it.

You must live little darling,

And that can sometimes feel like too much.

But you must live little darling,

Because otherwise, you’ll miss out on all the fun.

If you never fall,

You won’t know how great it is to fly.

If you never fail,

You won’t know how to get up again and try.

If you never hurt,

You won’t know what it means to heal.

And if you never cry,

You won’t ever know what it means to feel.

You must live little darling,

But know – you’re not alone here.

We’re all just living little darling,

And with that, there will be nothing to fear.

I can’t do it all for you, my little one,

But I can teach you what you need to know.

I can’t do it all for you – I’m sorry,

Because you and I, we both need to grow.

Eternity lives in moments.

In the most desolate and desperate situations, hope can shine and miracles do happen. Know this and be well.

I remember the details with perfect clarity of that evening of Dec 23, 1997. Amanda and I were returning home on a snowmobile from a overnight cabin trip with friends in the middle of Labrador, our home. It was a lengthy trip over the frozen lakes and we had left in the mid afternoon with another couple of friends but got separated along the way because we had to make a stop to switch gas tanks. Not long after we started on our way again, I was sitting comfortably and listening to music on my Walkman when Amanda yelled “look out! We’re going in!” Through the ice we went, Amanda went to the left of the ski doo, I went to the right and immediately submerged into the frigid December waters of a Labrador lake.

Time did not stand still. It simply did not exist. The whole world, my world, was eternal. There was no beginning, no end – just that moment.

I can still feel that sensation of weightlessness from falling into the water, like a dream where I’m flying. Then I felt a pull, dragging me down, like icy tentacles grasping at my legs as my clothes started to weigh me down. I was enveloped in absolute terror trying to keep my head above water, then utter hopelessness with ice breaking under my arms over and over and over again as I tried to get out of the water. Light turned to dark, day to night, and then miraculously I was out. I have never been able to recall that instant other than exactly as I described – fighting to get out of the water and then *poof* I was sitting on the ice. I remember feeling like I woke from that dream to find myself sitting there. Not knowing how I got there but knowing I was given a new chance. I can feel the ice underneath me as I crawled to Amanda and we remembered enough from survival lessons in health class kept our distance so as not to break the ice again. We argued. I told her we would not give in, that was not an option. Together we made our choice to not give up, then we screamed for help. We screamed. I can still feel the ripping in my throat. Jagged, tearing screams into a clear and quiet night, reaching nothing. You could see for miles and there was nothing. No one. Time did not exist. I could see the lights from the iron ore mine, I was trying to determine how far they would be if we had to crawl that way to get off the ice. I could feel nothing of the cold, even for being soaked to the core with layers upon layers of soaking wet clothes. I knew the threat of hypothermia would become imminent as well if our situation didn’t change soon. Then another miracle, first a distant sound of a rumbling engine, then a bright light staggering in the distance. How, I will never know. It defies explanation how our screams were heard over the roaring engine of s snowmobile. How we were seen in the middle of the lake when we never should have been there. But we were.

There, the 3 of us, rode to the highway on a snowmobile meant for one. I was on the back, barely holding on, screaming again inside as I felt the ice breaking under my feet as we drove off. We arrived at the highway to flag down anyone that would stop and take us to the hospital. And so there, once again, a miracle, after a few hours of observation, tightly wrapped in warm flannel blankets, once the shaking subsided, neither one of us had hypothermia, no one else from our party had been in trouble (which was my fear) and we were released to go home. I tried not sleep that night. I felt I had just squeaked past death’s hand too many times that evening that I was not going to be given any more chances. Eventually though, sleep took me.

I may not have gone on to change the world, but my world was changed from that moment. And from there I’ve helped create 2 new precious worlds and with that I know, without a doubt, miracles happen. Miracles are real.