New Year, New Life: Joy, Gratitude, and a Small, Meaningless Grief

New Year, New Life: Joy, Gratitude, and a Small, Meaningless Grief

Every new year I find myself falling into that same seductive trap: I reduce myself to a few tidy shortcomings and vow to "be better". These lofty goals are often really superficial, though they masquerade as noble. Maybe I'll say something like I want to eat more healthy but actually it just means lose weight.

It's part of this larger fantasy I've always had of Future Me. I see Future Me all the time. Future Me never mishears someone at a networking event, responding "yes" to an open ended question then shuffling away to eat free shrimp. Future Me knows how to take a nice picture and isn't so uncomfortable in front of a camera that my hands do this funny dead lock thing.

But this year I began the biggest goal making day of the year, New Year's Eve, with a beautiful meditation session led by Sepideh Alavi at Moment Meditation Studio. A motley crew of mindful people (group meditation newbies - hello! - and seasoned monks alike) gathered to reflect on the past year and consider what's to come.

To transition into our first meditation, we were invited to write out all the things we were grateful for over this past year. My cup. Runneth. Over. I've never felt more grateful, and during the meditation I felt so lucky I thought I was going to cry. I found that this year I cared so little for platitude-filled goals, probably because a baby grounds you right into reality. A baby teaches you that you may think you're meeting someone for coffee, but actually now you're just covered in poo.

I was either pregnant, very pregnant or a new parent for the whole of 2017 - I've never had a more challenging year. But the joy. The Joy! It's as though our sweet family addition has increased my physical capacity to feel. It's hard to imagine life before Row. 

And yet I would be remiss (and a liar) if I said we never did. Of course we reminisce about a time when we could sleep in, do things like go to the gym without coordinating our schedules, or - heck! - get drunk at a party and know that the following day would only bring comfort food and bad Netflix movies.

Now, rather than think of the myriad ways I can "be better" to become Future Me, I'm struck with frequent pangs of who I was before. Of how I used to be and what life isn't anymore.

Before the year drew to a close, we welcomed our precious nephew and were lucky to spend time with the new trio on New Year's Eve. We dropped our girl off with the Grandparents and took transit to our friends' home, spending an almost familiar night together eating thai food and soaking in that irresistible newborn smell. Hours before the ball dropped, the night was uncharacteristically over. Knowing I'd be up in a couple hours to feed our daughter, Liam and I walked to the SkyTrain in an effort to get ahead of the post-midnight crowd.

We haven't really been outside, alone together on any street, since before Row. It was so cold our breath was visible and it felt mischievous. We walked down Commercial Drive and peered into the various restaurants and pubs where people danced with novelty hats and noisemakers, grabbing each others' elbows in throes of laughter.

A pang. We're not those people anymore. But all new parents must feel this at some point. This small, meaningless grief.

Back in the spring on an afternoon that already felt like summer, we were driving back from our prenatal class along Broadway. Not only had our lifestyle already been altered, but by the time we neared the end of the prenatal program I had watched my body transform. As we passed Kingsway I asked Liam if he realized, like, really realized, how much our lives were going to change.

"Sure. Of course," he shrugged as he turned the blinker on. We kept rolling along.

In reality, neither of us knew exactly how it would feel. That while so much stays the same, becoming a parent is a seismic shift that also somehow renders your old life unrecognizable. But one thing is true: there could have been no other path. There weren't two doors, with me electing to walk through this one. There was only ever this one. 

So this year I'll take those brief, wistful pangs because with them comes immense joy - and challenge like I've never experienced. It turns out beginning the new year with meditation was a more apt endeavour than I could have known. Meditation is all about allowing yourself to experience the moment you're in - is it possible for life to be that simple? That good?

I walk Rowan around a coffee shop and show her the beans sitting on display, the colourful juices in the fridge, and all the plants that line the perimeter. To her, every little detail is worth observing. My only goal for this year is to forget about Future Me, let go of what has passed to bring forth this great change, and try to allow myself to experience the world a little more like Row does.

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