I haven’t done a lot of writing over the summer. The truth is writing became my medication for a year. I took a healthy dose every single day. I opened my wounds, I poured the salve in and allowed the healing to begin. Then, one day, I realized I had little left to say.
Looking back I feel really good about how I approached my grief journey. I own every aspect of it. I’m satisfied with the steps I took to disinfect these wounds and heal my open sores. Like all deep cuts there are of course scars, but these scars are part of my character and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. They’ve made me who I’ve become; a richer, deeper, advocating version of myself. I’ve become more aware of my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve had the courage to rely on community to help me through, and community has used my experience to understand how to help others like me. Everything, it seems, has somehow been stitched together to make a beautiful tapestry of woven tales, of golden threads and rusted contrasting colours, and I’m glad this tapestry is mine. I’m glad for every strand another has contributed to making this living art-form what it’s become today; a blanket that envelops me and hugs the richness of who I’ve become.
Will I still be involved in suicide prevention advocacy and sharing my story? Of course I will. It is one of my many passions and I truly believe it is life saving work. I also want people to know there is life after suicidal tragedies, and my passions are diverse.
What can life after trauma look like? It can look hopeful, happy, complex and character-building. It can be filled with opportunities to connect with others in a way that was never possible before. It’s reforming. It can cup the dreams of once-upon-a-time, of love, and childhood fantasies. It looks like my daughter’s first day of school and the beginnings of other new chapters. It looks like themed parties and Kimono BBQs. Moments of contemplative solitude, learning the violin and ukelele, attending rallies and adding my voice to causes that are close to my heart. Swinging from dangling tree hammock chairs in the hot summer breeze. Discovering Lindsey Stirling. Meeting David Usher from Moist. Having a house concert at The Healing Place with Me & The Mrs. Commander Hadfield dropping back down to earth from space, but not before my new niece trumped his entry with her birth. New life was born and new friendships formed.
Paul & Heather Zacharias from Me & The Mrs
David Usher (Moist) and Shawna MacDonald
In addition to suicide prevention here are some other causes, and special moments, that have been filling my days and contributing to a fascinating summer:
ALEXIS’ FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
As I was preparing for Alexis’ first day of school I was taken aback by how much I didn’t know about her life during the day. What did she eat for lunch? How much did she eat? What should I pack? Will she know she’s loved in those little moments when she hesitates to walk into the unknown?
To all you stay-at-home-moms out there, thank you for all you give your children. For the stay-at-home-moms and child care providers who open their homes up to our children to become secondary homes to them, thank you for all you have given my child. For every parent who doesn’t have the choice but to work instead of staying home with their child, thank you for pressing on, for having the courage to place your children in the capable hands of others whose hearts are large enough to love them as though they were their own.
We enter a new day. It’s a good day. It’s a big day. It’s a day to take stock.
DON’T DRIVE DROWSY:
Last night, while driving to Toronto from Stoney Creek, a 20 year old girl fell asleep at the wheel just before her exit for home. I heard a strange noise that alerted me just seconds before she crossed in front of us. She must have hit the guardrail on the right hand side of the highway because something caused her SUV to turn and cut across all lanes of traffic (including right in front of our car) before crashing into the guardrail on the opposite side of the highway. I’ve heard before that most accidents happen close to home. People become lax. They think they’re not that far away from their destination so there’s no point in stopping. There is a point. When you are the speeding bullet shooting sideways across multiple lanes of high speed traffic, there is a point. When your life and others are put in serious danger because of a stamina miscalculation on your part, there is a point. And this is not the first time I’ve seen a car drive off a highway because the driver fell asleep. The first time was in broad daylight not too long after lunch, which is apparently another high risk time for dopey driving. It is an absolute miracle that 20 year old girl walked away from her totaled car. It is an absolute miracle she did not hit, nor was hit, by the busy traffic barreling down the 401. And, I believe it is a miracle I was driving at just the right speed that I, and my daughter who was sleeping soundly in the back seat, weren’t caught in her cross fire. Please, for the sake of your life and others, DON’T DRIVE DROWSY!
HOW TO CREATE SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE
With knowledge comes responsibility…choices. Once I have information I need to choose what to do with it. Ignore it, share it, live it. Here’s something that encourages me to share and live what I’ve learned despite the Goliath-sized obstacles that sometimes intimidate my reasoning.
For over 10 years I’ve worked in the coffee industry. It’s a volatile industry. It can make people rich. It can make people poor. At one point thirsty consumerism fed poverty, war, and intellectual famine. But at some point someone cared. Someone started asking “Where does my coffee come from? Who grows it? What’s their name? How big is their family? Do their kids go to school? Why not? What does it mean to the health of the farmer when they use pesticides to protect crops instead of the more expensive methods of organic farming?”
Someone started asking questions and perhaps thought, “I’m just one person. Maybe I can’t make a big difference, but a little difference for the better is a start.” And they adjusted their spending. They shared information with others. They traveled to other parts of the world to connect. They discovered the coffee farmers’ names, circumstances, cultural quirks and endearing personalities. They discovered they were real people and they mattered.
Someone started asking questions, tweaked a few habits, and today there is a whole socially responsible certified or fairly traded coffee industry and movement. I LOVE being a part of it. Today, we can look back and see we were never meant to solve the whole problem on our own. We were meant to make ourselves aware, make minor adjustments, and our change in behaviour inspired others to think perhaps they could think that way too. At one point demand grew so high for certified coffees the farmers couldn’t keep up. Today, companies are in a race to see who can be fully fair trade certified first!
My point is this. Our present reality is volatile. Pick a subject. There are a lot of shadows creeping over the coloured canvasses of our lives. Don’t be discouraged. Ask some questions. Share information. Make minor changes to your lifestyle. Love. It’s tried, tested, and true: Significant social and environmental change can be born out of simple acts of caring.
NOTES ON BEING AWESOME!
I’m going to live my life and make decisions that I will own, and I am going to choose to be AWESOME! (and on the days I’m not I’m going to choose to remember self-forgiveness.) Today though, AWESOME!
MOVING FORWARD, NOT MOVING ON
It’s our last night at Basswood (our old house.) Thank God moving forward is not the same thing as moving on. Thank God I can carry these people, this community of neighbours, these memories with me. All the good that has happened in this house, bringing sweet Alexis home from the hospital, watching neighbourhood kids play in the crooked play house in the backyard, backyard BBQs, hang outs, street hockey, trails. Thank you to everyone who make us rich so we could spend this wealth on others and give back to you. With love, Shawna & Alexis