The waning hours of a calendar year are great for causing reflection. Most early podcasters and bloggers developed the habit of thinking about the moments the “needle moved” as a result of a tweet, Facebook post or YouTube video. I was among those who did that. Not this time. Today, I am sharing the 10 moments/periods/events that moved the needle on my life, generally in chronological order.
MOVIE NIGHTS / DATE NIGHTS
While busy periods and travel occasionally disrupt it, Andrea and I keep a weekly movie night date and routinely go out for a beer or dinner, or both. I love that this is part of the fabric of our relationship. Particularly the movie night. In the age of the crippling number of choices Netflix offers, forcing ourselves to see whichever movie is scheduled for the early evening show on Saturdays is a gamble that pays off with great movies and the shared humour of some disastrous acting and poorly-executed stories.
Fifty alumni of the PAB conference I used to co-organize with Bob Goyetche met for a reunion boat cruise in Kingston, the city where the first four of our annual gathering took place. The people who made it, and those who weren’t able to, are all dear friends. Podcasting may have brought us together, though it’s the passion and genuine qualities of everyone in the community that keeps us all clost in one-another’s hearts. I needed that gathering. I needed to see those people, again, and thank them for helping turn a crazy idea into a meaningful event. I still struggle with the death of my dear friend, just over a year ago, and I am moved by his wife and son who are an amazing team. They continue to live life every day, as difficult as it may be, without Bob. I can’t imagine how much energy that takes knowing the way I still struggle with his absence.
I didn’t really accept the idea our older daughter was leaving for university until she “mugged out” of her sea cadet corps. Lucy joined when she was 12, and she instantly fell in love with the program. Her passion was infectious. Pretty soon we became a cadet family. We were spectators, volunteers, and part of the large cheering section for the young cadets. Lucy poured her heart and soul into her home corps. When she received her mug (a gift to cadets who are leaving their home corps after an extended commitment), I felt the awe of her contributions and the heartbreaking realization that she was in full preparation for her departure to university. The countdown clock started for me in that moment.
NEW PROFESSIONAL ROLE
I had no intention of taking a full time job. I’ve been running (and continue to run) Full Duplex, my public affairs company, for nearly seven years. I wasn’t interested when I was first approached with the idea near the end of March last year. However, the draw of the scope and complexity of the work, and especially the calibre of the people with whom I’d be working, made it a very hard opportunity to turn down. It’s been six months since I accepted the position of Director, Public Affairs and Marketing at Commissionaires National Office. Not only am I doing interesting work, I can see the value of the work I’m doing.
Lucy and I travelled to Alberta in August to get her settled in at her university a week before classes started. It was a difficult trip to make for several reasons. Aside from the obvious one of seeing my baby off, the first to leave the nest and so far from home, I struggled with the fact that it was me who was taking her away from the family. I hadn’t slept well for weeks leading up to her departure. I didn’t sleep at all the night before we flew to Edmonton. It worked myself to exhaustion during the trip so I could muster a few hours of sleep each night. I loved seeing Lucy’s excitement for school and her new, adult life. Still, I struggled to let go. We wrapped up my trip with a stay at the farm, hosted by some very dear friends. It was their annual Labour Day weekend party. We were among maybe 60 guests. There was a food, a campfire, music, lanterns and big skies. Lucy and I went for a walk the next morning and had a great chat. It was exactly what I needed. And, it may have saved me overwhelming anguish as we started a new chapter in our family.
I spent a day with soldiers as Canadian Forces Base Petawawa in September. It was part of something called ExecuTrek, a program run by the Canadian Forces Liaison Council to build a stronger connection between the Forces and the business community. I spent the day in full combat kit, learning how and when to fire specific types of weapons ranging from revolvers to cannons mounted on armoured vehicles, how to administer “blunt force medicine” in the battle theatre, how strategic plans are communicated and executed, and how to conduct an “After Action Review.” It was an educational and demanding day in 30C heat. My already strong level of appreciation of the men and women of our military grew exponentially that day.
I could go on at length about the incredible impact the competitors at Invictus Games Toronto 2017 had on me. I have many stories to tell. I will sum them up this way: the competitors and the Games made me a much more compassionate man. The story that best highlights that was when I returned to Ottawa. The lady I was following down the stairs as we exited the train car, stopped when she reached the platform, put down her bag, then looked at her phone while I stood on the narrow staircase holding a heavy suitcase containing 10 days of clothing, a laptop, and audio and video recording equipment. Ten days earlier I would have very bluntly suggested she get out of the way so the rest of us could get off the train. This time I contemplated that travel may be hard for this woman; perhaps getting on the train was an ordeal or she was about to be reunited with family members with whom she has a complicated relationship. I’m a very different man because of those 10 days.
As if living in Toronto for 10 days wasn’t more than enough big city for me, I went back with our younger daughter the week after the Invictus Games. It was the first time Bayla and I did a trip on our own. And, it was long overdue. We hung out, went to the aquarium with our younger cousin, saw a good play with an amazing performer, watched some Netflix and generally chilled-out. That weekend in Toronto helped set a new baseline for our relationship. It had been a crazy few weeks for our family since becoming a three-person household, and I had travelled for work most of September. It was nice to see Bayla with her cousin and to see her in a different light, out of the shadow of her older sister.
REUNITED WITH MUSIC
For reasons I won’t get into here, I abandoned music two-and-a-half years ago. It wasn’t that I just walked away from music, I severed our relationship. I parted with guitars, basses, amps, and music books. I couldn’t fathom listening to music either by choice or when exposed to it in stores, etc. It was only in the spring of this past year that I very slowly and tentatively started to reacquaint myself with listening to music. After at least a year-and-a-half of suggestions from a longtime friend and long-ago bandmate that we should perform on stage again, I finally dug a bass out my basement at the beginning of December. I’ve been doing right and left hand exercises for a few weeks. It’s frustrating how much dexterity and musical theory I’ve lost. This past week I started to enjoy the process enough that I plan to stick with it. I even bought myself a bass amp.
Four months to the day that we (my wife, our two daughters and I) spent a full day together, kicking around in Wakefield and then going out for a nice dinner, the four of us curled up in our living room on Christmas day. We relished in being together, taking our time opening gifts, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, gabbing away the hours in our cozy living room, then working together as a family to prepare a turkey dinner with mashed potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts and pumpkin pie. I have never appreciated the holidays as much I have (and continue to) this year. I am grateful for my family. I am grateful for my friends. I am grateful for my professional colleagues. I am grateful for the military, first responders, and their families who keep us all safe and sacrifice their own time together for the rest of us.