In Appreciation of Growing Up

West Vancouver

Do you ever have those days when you are just at loose ends? That was me this morning. I didn’t have a lot of energy, didn’t have anything specific that I had to do and it was a wet drizzly day. I could easily have pulled on my jammies and gone back to bed, but I knew that wouldn’t really help. I didn’t have quite enough energy to muster up a run but knew I needed to get out and get some exercise. Closets are sorted and the yard is ready for the onslaught of November rains. What to do, what to do? And then I knew what I needed to do. I needed to go back to my roots.

Fortunately, my roots, or the area I grew up in, are only a 20 minute drive away. I was headed to Ambleside and a walk on the sea wall. There’s just something about going back to West Vancouver that calms me and in some ways, reconnects me. It’s familiar and holds so many memories and firsts. First school, first best friend, first kiss, first party, first driving lesson in a standard…..you get the picture. For me, going back to West Van and walking the seawall can clear my head and remind me about what is important. Family, friends and belonging.

West Vancouver is not necessarily the same place today that it was when I was growing up. The majority of the ranchers and cute little bungalows are gone. Replaced with huge, gated homes. Not many kids walk or ride their bikes to school anymore. Park Royal Shopping Centre has doubled in size and increased its profile. Bonnie Belle Makeup has been replaced by Sephora and Bootlegger by Banana Republic. Most people I knew have either moved away or, in the case of my parents friends, have passed away. But you know what, it’s okay. Times have changed everywhere and selfishly, West Vancouver gave me what I needed and I’m grateful for that. What did it give me? So many things.

An appreciation of nature. There are so many fabulous outdoor spots in West Vancouver that it’s sometimes hard to know where to go. Not just the sandy, park like beaches of Ambleside and Dundarave but also the rocky, often deserted, beaches between 29th and 31st streets. The trails and rocky bays of Lighthouse Park. For so many years I was convinced that the boogie man lived there. The mountains. A family friend had a cabin up Hollyburn Mt and we would hike up there in the summer and swim in the extraordinarily cold glacial lakes. Access to the island and Whistler were only minutes away. Believe it or not I did my first overnight Girl Guide camp out at the top of the British Properties. Somewhere up there amongst all those new homes is a trail leading up to beautiful wooded spot where we (gasp) lit fires and slept under the trees.

An appreciation of a good school. I still keep in touch with some of the people I went to West Bay Elementary School with (thanks to Facebook) and have such great memories of that school. Sports day three legged races, music class with Mr Rose, the annual track and field day at West Van High track, and of course those after school dances. It was such a simple time in my life but it was also a lot of life lessons. Like the time Katherine Taylor hit me over the head with her metal lunch box. Lesson learned? Don’t be friends with kids with metal lunch boxes. Walking to school, starting in Kindergarten, was not only accepted but pretty much mandatory. Lessons learned? Get over your fear of dogs, loud trucks and the weird kids who lived along the way.

An appreciation of community. May Day Parade 1974. I was one of the flower girls in the parade. Not only did I get to ride on the float but I got to dance around the maypole in my pretty pink dress. My daughter will be very jealous one day. If I ever tell her. West Van in the 70 was really just a small municipality. The ice rink on 22nd street is still there. I wonder if they still have Teen Night every Saturday? The aquatic centre didn’t exist then. If you wanted to take a swimming lessons, the rec centre assigned you an instructor and you went to somebody’s house and learnt to swim in their pool. If you wanted to hang out at a pool you went to the outdoor pool at Ambleside. Kids all took the bus. Everywhere. There were crazy people around then too but we all just accepted them and they lived their lives in their own way.

Really, I could go on forever. So many memories of people and places and events, all just a short drive away yet really so far away. I came home after my walk with a better outlook on my day. For me, The Best Thing in Life today is being able to just go home for a quick visit and a reminder of some of the important things in life.

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Options to Explore

It’s been two months since I left my job. Sixty days. Not very long really. I am almost at the point where my mind has shifted to a new way of thinking. I wonder how I did everything before and stayed sane. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe I was going a little wacky. I read a quote a few weeks ago. “The trouble with being in the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be a rat.

I do find myself falling back into old patterns though. Feeling like I need to fill every moment with activity and busy-ness. I’ve found that every once in a while I need to look back at my original blog post. Finding My Thing. Why am I doing this again? I’m fifty years old and I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up? How can that be? I have a son who is almost a grown up himself. That’s when I take a step back and say ” Okay, what are my priorities in life?”

Surprisingly, writing this blog has been a huge source of focus for me. Even it, however, is still a work in progress. Why am I writing a blog of all things? Am I writing for myself or the people who are reading it? Do I really care what people think? Of course! Why do you think they have a stats button on WordPress? It is a bit scary. You’re putting yourself out into the world that everyone can see and if they can see it, they can judge it. While I have been fortunate so far to have only received positive feedback, I know that the day will come that somebody will not like what I have to say. Do they have an Ignore button on WordPress?

path

I read a lot of other blogs too. Some are really journals of peoples lives, some are serious, some are hysterically funny, some are written by truly gifted writers, some are not. Where do I fit into all of it? Do I fit in? Do I want to fit in? I’ve made a conscious choice not to make my blog a place of controversy and as a result probably don’t have as many readers, but that’s okay. Now, I don’t even pretend to call myself a writer but I have realizes that I enjoy the process of writing a post. I don’t think I would enjoy it as much if I HAD to do it. If I had a deadline and was forced to write about something or someone that I wasn’t interested in I’m not sure it would be as fun. Then again, I could be wrong.

Yoga? Yes, I’m still going to yoga. Once or twice a week I try to make myself into a pretzel. I still fall over and I still hate the pigeon pose. What does it give me? (Because for me it’s all about getting something out of what I do) My brain tends to get stuck into a fairly high gear sometimes. I find it difficult to stop and just….be. Yoga has helped with that, but so has writing. I can be doing about five things at once but when a thought hits me and I sit down to write, everything stops but that thought. Yoga still doesn’t do that for me. Randi says I need to find a mantra to repeat during shavasana. Namaste.

One of the huge benefits of having a little more time is that I’ve reconnected with people that I haven’t spoken to in years. I’ve made deeper connections with people who I thought I knew. I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone by sitting down and having conversations with new people and people I was interested in but didn’t really know very well. I have learnt so much already about new things yet I’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to determining what my “thing” is. Some say we write what we need to learn. For me, right now, the The Best Thing in Life is having options to explore.

Friends

friends hugging

You know those cheesy posts on Facebook about how you know you have a true friend when you don’t have to talk to them every week, or even every month, yet you still love them? Every time I see one of them I automatically think of Tani. Not because she’s a Facebook over user, but because she’s one of those friends that I talk to maybe once or twice a year but still consider one of my closest friends. We are so different in so many ways but somehow after 35 years we are still close.

We met in grade 9 at an all girls school on the West Side. You know the one. Big ivy covered walls, tartan skirts, stern head mistress. Thinking back, I don’t remember becoming friends; I just remember being friends. We both had a certain sense of adventure. When everybody else in our grade ten class was attending the Governors Ball to be presented to society, we were scoring off sales at a bar on Broadway and going to a party at Wreck Beach with two seniors from Point Grey. Okay, so maybe that was more irresponsible than adventurous, but you get the picture.

I grew up in West Van with very strict British parents. Tani grew up on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island in a family that regularly threw roaring jazz parties. My parents drank sherry by the fire and Tani’s parents drank martinis at the Timber Club in the Hotel Vancouver. When we were all wearing white gowns to our grad dance (private school tradition) Tani had the guts to wear a sapphire blue off the shoulders gown. (I’ve always admired her for that). She’s happy to stand out in a crowd whereas I tend to try and blend in. Also, Tani is incredibly smart and always did really well in school. I struggled in high school and pretty much gave up on university after one year.

me and tani

We’ve had some amazing times together. The trip to Fiji with Tani and her parents is still one the fondest memories I have. Long weekend trips up to Winter Harbour to discuss philosophy with her step brothers. Some creative and champagne fueled Halloween parties at her townhouse. Her wedding to Bill. Although, I still haven’t completely forgiven her for making four pregnant women wait to get to the buffet.

We’ve seen each other through some not so great times too. Lost pregnancies, failed marriages, (okay maybe that was just me) and lapses in judgement (yes, that was me again). Tani was my maid of honor the first time I got married and three years later saw me through an ugly divorce. I wouldn’t have blamed her for saying “I told you so”, but she never did. And then there was the time that we both got called to the head mistresses office after a weekend party in Langley. Sitting on that bench outside her office is an experience I wouldn’t wish on anybody. How she found out what we were up to is still a mystery.

We were roommates in university for a year. Didn’t go well. I wanted to go to bed early and she liked to stay up late playing cards. She liked the apartment to be clean and I would rather go to an aerobics class than clean the bathroom. (Hey, it was the ’80s). We didn’t talk for a long time after that. She moved back East and I went to live in Banff. One night I had a dream about her and the next day felt the need to call her. No, I do not believe in it being a “sign”. I don’t really buy that stuff. Anyways, turned out that she had just moved back to Vancouver and we reconnected.

tani and me in victoria

Over the years we have seen each other less and less. We live in the same city but have totally different schedules and live on completely different sides of the city. She travels a lot for work and I have a young daughter and a husband who travels as well. We have different friends and different interests. Yet somehow we manage to come together once in a while and it’s as if no time has passed. The difference is that now we share stories about raising our own teens. May they never do half of the things that we did.

When I told Tani that I was writing a piece about us, I asked her if she wanted to read it before I published it. “No, I trust you.” And there it was. Trust. Trust, that no matter how bad we screw up, no matter how many times we forgot to call back and no matter how many times we cancel plans, we would be there for each other.  How’s that for cheesy?  Love you my friend. Have an amazing time in Italy.  You totally deserve it!