It’s been over a year since my last blog.. It’s crazy to think that I’ve gone that long because so much has happened, and while I certainly have had plenty to talk about, I just haven’t found the time, nor found the right words.
I sat down to write several times. I actually have several drafts started and half written, yet they were never okay enough to post. It’s actually fitting, as I sit and think about it, that I would have failed to write in that time. No, it’s not a failure on me as a person, I know this, but it well reflects where I feel my life has been in the past 12-13 months. So much chaos, that I simply must put pen to paper, but once given the opportunity, one of two things happen – one) the overwhelming tiredness sweeps in and overcomes all motivation or two) I simply cannot put anything into something that I think anyone would ever want to read – it’s boring, or not articulated correctly, so on and so forth.
But recently, I’ve felt some of the chaos clear. And today, I decided, at 11:13, no less, with my wake up time of 5:45 so close around the corner, that it was time to lay out all this craziness that is the life of Alexandra Canada.
I’ll break it down into things I’ve learned about life and about myself.
So 13 things I learned in the last 13 months.
1. I learned that summer is blissful, and I want to always chase that.
In previous blogs I have talked about my two seasons that make my heart soar: Christmas and Summer. Christmas is for reflection and nostalgia. Summer is for new things and adventure. I still believe these things hold true! Last summer, although separated from my husband due to his hard work at the Academy for 5 months, I managed to road trip to Georgia, spontaneously drive through the night to be in NYC for 24 hours, spent 4 days with my brother and his family while participating in the best ever choir concert, had the most glorious night out with my family (minus the kids) for my parents anniversary, threw a super incredible Birthday Block Party for my beloved Coffee Shop, took a business trip with my coworkers up to Kalamazoo, Michigan, and soaked up the Great Smoky Mountains with Andrew’s family.
All in all, I learned that as long as I live I want to live up the blissfulness of summer. I know that it won’t always be full of travel or sight seeing, or jumping around in a pool. I know it won’t always have parties and vacations, but I think it should always carry adventure. I want this to be something I try to push each year and pass the desire for to my children.
2. I learned that I am way more emotional and cry way more than I ever used to be.
With my brother being a part of a separation of church and state lawsuit against his original musical that his students worked incredibly hard for, it was such an emotional time when his students and their parents tirelessly worked to make the show go on anyway. When my brother was given recognition (which he of course would rather have not had) my heart could have exploded with the pride I felt in that moment. And tears I could have once stopped, could not be.
When my husband received his Firefighter badge after 5 months of torturous, tearful, exhausting, and utterly painful training, I couldn’t believe how much my heart hurt I was so proud. I couldn’t believe that my husband was a Firefighter and he had worked so long and hard for this moment. Again, so many tears.
These are only two examples, but movies make me cry now – they never used to. It’s not a hormonal thing, it’s just that now everything seems to have a direct line to all the feels in my body. I don’t bawl like a baby always, but tears well up in my eyes almost daily over some sort of touching thing I’m experiencing or witnessing. I can make myself tear up almost instantly thinking about a tragic or touching incident. Blessing or a curse? We’ll see.
3. I learned that I wasn’t sure I would ever want children, and that thought broke my heart.
This realization came around Thanksgiving as Andrew and I were driving and it hit me like a brick. “I’m not sure I ever want kids.” This was the first time I had ever said these words out loud and meant them. We had talked before about being the cool Aunt and Uncle that travelled the world and had lots of money and spent it on our nieces and nephews. But that wasn’t ever supposed to be something that I actually wanted. But here I was thinking – I couldn’t actually handle being a mom. I don’t want to be woken up every morning unless I have to. I don’t want to make 3 meals every day. I don’t want to be thrown up on. I don’t want to not have time to myself until my kids go to college. Andrew, who has been my rock through what seems like so much in 2 years said, “Then we don’t have to! We’ll figure it out as we go.” Knowing full well he would be ready to have a kid any day, that was such a kind thing for him to selflessly say. More on him, later.
4. I learned that I couldn’t actually work 60+ hour work weeks back to back for a couple of months and still enjoy my life.
Around Christmas I was working incredible amount of hours. Not by force, but because I thought I had to in order to complete all my tasks. I had also scheduled all these Christmas events in order to “enjoy the holiday” in our shop, but then I scheduled myself to work during them (most of them were in the evening) because I wanted to facilitate them. Then, however, I realized I was missing out on all the fun Christmas stuff that I could be doing in my personal life. All of these realizations, coupled with a time card that, once added up reached more hours than I thought possible for my body to endure led to a bawling 24 year old on a bed as her husband tried to figure out why, during her favorite time of the year she was upset. I remember going through so many emotions that were followed up with an intense anger because I was feeling anything but positive feelings around my favorite holiday. But then, after chatting with my boss, who has proved through and through to be wise and understanding, explained that, no, I actually could stop working after 40 hours. I actually didn’t have to do everything myself, but I could delegate to other people, and I could actually finish a week with a project not 100% completed from time to time. How relieving that was. 6 months later from that conversation I’m still learning how to do that, but the lack of the burden from him is much more freeing.
5. I learned that my family, no matter how different lives we lead, is the most incredible.
My family hasn’t necessarily had a traditional Christmas celebration in a few years due to random schedules, so I have stopped expecting much – it will be fun, it will be light, whoever is there, is there, and it will always be different. But how great it was to find out that on Christmas day all of us were going to be spending the night under the same roof! We played kick ball, ate a feast of Kings, and had such a great time living life for a few short moments. We ended it with a well put together Christmas celebration at our church with our extended family. My heart was incredibly full after this weekend as I was reminded of the many blessings of my life, not the least of which is my family.
6. I learned that there is so much to see on this planet that I can’t even imagine.
I had never once wanted to go to China, I’ll be honest. When I found out my cousin was getting married there, I thought, maybe I could go, but then thought, no it was too expensive, I don’t really think it’s a place I want to be. However, I was given the opportunity to go as a gift from my generous and loving dad who thought I should be there. And so in January we set off, and it was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I got to be with a side of the family with whom I’m extremely close, and learn that China is such a great country! I developed a love for it, and was deeply inspired by the different parts of the world I had never known. It made me want to start a bucket list of countries and places to travel. So much to witness that our Creator has put on this Earth!
7. I learned that depression, no matter how severe or not, coupled with lost expectations can ruin even the greatest days.
I can’t even begin to imagine how some people deal with this disease, and I would never pretend to be amongst those who suffer from it the most. I don’t know if it was partly me becoming slightly stagnant in my faith, the knowledge that depression runs in my family, any effects of any medication I might be on, or a combination of everything, but I started learning a taste of what it’s like to deal with this crazy psychological/emotional/mental disorder that hurts so many on this Earth. It seems as though it’s something you can be talked out of, but there’s no way you ever can. My poor husband had to deal with so many tears, so many mood swings, and so many dark moments of my soul, it seemed like. I am indebted to him for constant patience. There would be days where I would have expectations, and when they didn’t happen, there was so much of a deep sadness I would have a hard time controlling my attitude. I knew better than to rely on expectations – I had learned early on in life to not hold onto them too hard when it comes to, well, pretty much anything.
Yet even on days like my 25th birthday, I felt more alone than surrounded by love, even though people were filling my day with well wishes and support. And yet, a great thing about good days turned bad, is you always get another chance the following morning, or perhaps the following year. There’s so much that I’m sure I still don’t know about this kind of stuff, but I do know that God can defeat anything. Will power might not be effective, but the power of my Jesus always is. And to this day I am clinging to that.
8. I learned that I can’t achieve anything if I don’t actually try to achieve it.
Thus the last 10 years of my life when it comes to many bad habits.
I believe a lot of the above emotions stemmed from this feeling of failure. I had been trying to get in shape for about 10 years now. Yep, 15 years old I hated my body. Now 25 years old, still hate my body and have all the way in between. I had been wanting to learn this or that for several months or years, yet still wouldn’t. I had been wanting to read this book, or complete that goal, or work on this skill, but was too lazy to actually make it happen. I had been wanting to work on different aspects of being a wife and keeping a home, yet 2.5 years later, I was the worst wife I knew (at least from my perspective). I had been trying to get into a daily quiet time with God since I was a camper at Flipside Camp (also around 10 years ago) yet I still struggled with these waves of good Bible time and then none at all. And I was hit with the realization, of what did I expect? It doesn’t just happen.
I remember getting this vision of me floating in a brook. The water was moving all around me and running towards a beautiful bridge that was just up around the bend. The bridge was beautiful and life was all around it. I couldn’t see what was beyond the bridge but it looked bright and even better than where I was. As I sat in the brook I wondered why I wasn’t moving with all of the water running. Why was it not carrying me? I felt around me and realized it wasn’t that deep at all. In fact I wasn’t floating at all. I was laying the shallow rocks as the water raced by. I wasn’t moving anywhere. because I was literally not doing anything to move. It wasn’t going to be as easy as the the water being deep enough for me to just float toward the bridge, which I figured out represented my closest moments in life with God. And beyond those closest moments in life were blessings beyond what I could imagine. But I couldn’t see what they were from where I was just sitting. I had to actually use my hands to push and pull myself forward. I had to move rocks around and maybe even stand up and walk through. Only then would I be able to get back to the bridge and walk underneath it to the other side.
Even as I write this down I get chills again realizing how vividly God can speak to us! This was just a picture in my mind, and the Holy Spirit filled in all the rest.
9. I learned that death hurts, but God is still King.
On March 19, 2016, my friend Katie, whom I had worked with for a little less than a year and then had remained friends with after she left the coffee shop, tragically fell in a hiking accident just outside of Lexington. When I opened the text from my co-worker I started to half read it, thinking it was a just a “let’s send her flowers, she fell and is in the hospital.” But as I re-read it and realized what he had said “Katie went for a hike at Raven Run this morning and had a fall. It was fatal.” I sat up and read it through again. I called my friend quickly, still in shock. He said he wasn’t sure if he believed it because he hadn’t heard it directly from the source, and that gave me hope. I slowly walked out into the living room, unsure of what to think – I definitely wasn’t processing it correctly. Andrew walked out, starting to tell me something else, and I stopped him and said “Hey…Jeff just texted and said that Katie died in a hiking accident at Raven Run.” Andrew stopped and his eyes grew wide. He has an app on his phone for the entire Fire Department telling them where the various trucks and engines are at any given moment. He said “That was her?! There have been a ton trucks out there all afternoon!” And then it hit me. He was confirming it to me.
The next few hours were spent calling the rest of our staff and trying figure out how to tell them and then attempting to process the pain of it all. UK Basketball lost in the March Madness tournament that night, but none of us really cared. I was so thankful for Andrew being here in these moments while I began what would be a long grieving process.
Yet, almost instantly, I began to see my Jesus working. He hadn’t made it happen so he could work, he worked in spite of it happening – something I think a lot of Christians or skeptics don’t get. It’s not that God “let” something bad happen so he could work. He’s working in spite of something bad happening. That’s a whole other topic to dive into some day. But I was so wowed by the power I could see moving through the situation.
There is so much more that went on in my heart and throughout the next few weeks that I would love to share face to face. I’m so grateful for people like my cousin Maddie, my friend Ellen, and my sister in law, Ember, for the words they spoke to me in those weeks that brought great peace. I won’t go into it here, for the sake of space and trying to articulate it, but please ask me sometime in person, as it’s just really incredibly cool to see God moving through such a rough situation.
10. I learned that my work family means more to me than I ever imagined
My Coffee Fam had gotten close over time but sometime around the fall of 2015 and early 2016, while we had great moments and fun times together, there was a tension steadily building. I can feel tension a million miles away and it kills me to know that even two people aren’t getting along. When everything with Katie happened, we all realized what actually mattered. These little things we were getting frustrated with didn’t hold a candle to the fact that we were a family, and we cared for each other more than we wanted to admit. We aren’t perfect, and we still fight, there will still be more arguments to happen, but one of the coolest things that came out of Katie’s death was our crew dropping everything we were doing to sit at the same table, swapping stories, holding hands, hugging each other for long periods of time, crying with each other, and telling each other we loved each other, because you really can’t say it enough.
On Mother’s Day this year, I was surprised with flowers that said “Happy Mother’s Day From Your Coffee Family” simply because I was the “Shop Mom.” These people are my crew. I love them all, ya really just can’t understand how much.
11. I learned that my husband is the greatest gift God has given me.
You’ve probably found a pattern with a lot of the lessons learned above. But my husband has been there for me through thick and thin. And I haven’t always been the best counterpart for him. I haven’t always been the most loving or selfless wife. I haven’t always thought of him before myself or had the best attitude with him. And no, he hasn’t with me either, but he has been such a force in my life. He’s been a part of it for 5 and a half years now, and married to me for 2 and a half of those. That man is my very best friend and I’ll love him till the day I die.
12. I learned that I really really do want to be a mom.
And yes, about 7 months past that original thought that hit me, I’ve decided that I do, in fact, want to have kids of my own. I don’t know when yet – I know I’m not ready. But I can’t wait (can actually wait, but for effect..you say can’t wait) for them to be a part of this life of mine.
13. I learned (re-learned, I think) that God has to be the very forefront of my vision and I must run towards the prize.
This of course is the most important lesson, and I feel like I learn a page, then turn back two, then learn another page from this particular book. But what’s cool about God is he’s always there when you turn that page back or forward. He’s ready with his arms stretched wide. People ask how you know God is real. I could give you a million reasons, but the biggest is He is so evident in my life. He always has been – I can point him out all through the years. And he has never failed me! I’ve failed him so many times, but he has never failed and he won’t start now! And, much like that vision of the brook, I can’t just sit idly by. He has to be the very essence of every moment. My first thought when I awake, and my last thought when I go to sleep (of course this is symbolic – I may spend time in prayer and then think about cheeseburgers before actually falling asleep, let’s be real, but in general…). He is truly everything. And I don’t always get that, and I’m sure there will be plenty more times where I have to remind myself to re-focus. But that’s the beauty of it, we can always do that, and every time we can get further and further towards that bridge.
I’ve also recently signed up for a 5K. It’s been a New Year’s Resolution for several years and this year is the year. I started this program called Couch to 5K where it slowly helps you go from walking to running. With an eye on the prize, I’m finally working out pretty regularly. I’m sure this will go in phases too, but it’s incredible how actually succeeding in something makes you want to be better at everything. You love the feeling of succeeding and you want to chase that.
So, my dear friends and family. I sit here, with it being about an hour later (and my wake up time has, oddly, not shifted back an hour. That’s rather rude, don’t you think?) but feeling fuller than I have in a while, having really processed so much of what this past year has brought. I’m sure much of it has come as a surprise to some of you, and not as much to others. I appreciate the opportunity to be open and honest, but also to be able to process. As I’ve written I’ve had a smile on my face during parts, and cried through a lot of others. I am loved by so many, I know. But what’s cool is that, as much as I am an emotional rhinoceros (charging into everything and probably breaking it), I am so thankful for a heart that feels so deeply on both ends of the spectrum. I’m thankful for a mind that can process. And I’m thankful for a God that loves me beyond my comprehension, and hasn’t given up on my soul that can sometimes be oh so pathetic.
“You split the sea so I could walk right through it. My fears were drowned in perfect love. You rescued me so I could stand and sing, “I am a Child of God.” – No Longer Slaves, Bethel Music