Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Year of The T-Bar

A cold nose and a whiny nudge wake me up on the couch. My home is full with my boys upstairs, their lengthy bodies no longer able to stretch fully on their boyhood beds.  A sweet girl from Switzerland in our guest bed. Two of my favourite "outlaws" and their dog in my room.
It’s 2019.

The vinyl siding of the suburbs is lit in pink and the temperatures are in the negatives so far that steamy clouds stiffen and sit above each home, as though a waxy crayon in a child’s hand drew them there.

The dog goes out. The cat comes in, frozen and indignant as if he didn't demand release at 5 am.
I start the coffee maker and my hand hesitates in front of the cupboard full of mixed mugs and random glassware that nearly eleven years has accumulated. I grab a pottery mug - one saved for company or special occasions. Even if I broke it today, it’s a wedding gift that outlasted the marriage by more than a year. I am not saving things for special days anymore. I’m enjoying what I can, when I can.

The year behind has been full, though every year upon reflection carries its share of laughter and pain, successes and failures. As I look back, I see friendships that have deepened, work that is rewarding and a life with three of us figuring out that family is word that can evolve and change and strengthen. I look back on my time in Zimbabwe and Zambia as a reminder that the things I value are still available to me even though they may be harder to achieve on my own, I can prioritize them differently now and make them happen. As the New Year began across the globe, the messages that lit up my phone by time zone reminded me that we live in a world where friendships aren’t bound by proximity and relationships can be mature and deepen despite distance.

I overuse the word gratitude when it comes to my life but I’m at a loss for something that encompasses the feelings I have for the lessons of living through the the grief of separation and divorce; the ridiculous pride of having two sons who continue to grow and mature into good hearted people and the simple happiness that comes from sitting around the island with them, their girlfriends, my friends...

2018 started as a notch above rock bottom for me but I’m not going to look back on it with anything but clarity. There were days when white knuckles and a message from someone praying for me were the only thing that kept me going. There were also days where peace of mind and a contentment with ambiguity lasted from dawn to dusk.

I always think back on something one of the men I admire most in the world said to me. In those days, I worked in a ski school and our days off were spent looking for more vertical footage to ski, more powder and fresh tracks as often as we could get them. We'd drive hours to other mountains, pooling our resources for overcrowded motel rooms and pitchers of beer. This particular weekend, we were skiing with a group and while most of us were in line for a high speed chairlift, he poked me with his pole and motioned me to follow him to a nearby t-bar lift. This man, respected for his skiing technique and awards, could have pushed to the front of the lift line with his credentials but didn’t. We stood side by side, propelled up the hill with our feet never leaving the snow and he said to me, “It’s all vertical feet.” We went through the trees, smelled the evergreens, absorbed the quiet and felt the topography under our feet on the way up the hill.  Over the years, it’s been sort of a mantra in tough times. It doesn’t matter how you get up the hill, it’s the same destination regardless of whether you glide above the heads of those below or you are pulled along. And sometimes, most times, it affords you a very different perspective.

2018 has been my t-bar. 2019 will probably still find me taking the long way up but enjoying the feeling of the mountain beneath my feet.