Today is my 51st Birthday! Reflections of my First Year in the Second Half of my Life – What a Hell of a Ride!

51

It is just a number.

To me, 51 represents the distance in this journey of my life.

Reflections

  • Emotions are messy. Regulating them is challenging at best.
  • Sitting with uncomfortable emotions without reaction takes practice.
  • Meditation truly gives inner peace, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and the same applies to my meditation practice.
  • Physical exercise has become my anti-depressant.
  • Living clean mirrors my self-respect.
  • Living an authentic life means setting boundaries with love.
  • I can choose to have peaceful, positive thoughts or worrisome, fear-based thoughts.
  • Having anxiety makes the switch from a fear-based mind-set to a positive, calm mindset very challenging.
  • Structure, stability and routine are very important to my peace of mind.
  • I’m learning that the only thing I can control is me – even my own thoughts, that at best are the hardest to control.
  • Figuring out what I can control, and mastering that to success is a stepping stone to self-confidence.
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day. There is no pressure, never was. The only pressure there is, is the pressure I put on myself and the assumed pressures of others.
  • If I want to live a life of Reiki, I can’t put it off until I have “more time”, or have my own Reiki Studio or time to invest to start my own practice. I have to start today. Small steps are okay.
  • The 5 months I spent alone in that small cabin up in the low mountain, from November to March, was the time needed to face my drinking demons that were debilitating to my health and well-being. These 5 months showed me how much I used alcohol as a coping mechanism.
  • Struggle is inevitable.
  • How I handle and process life may be very different from you. That is ok.
  • Louise Hay is right – how I talk to myself reflects my self-love.
  • Don Miguel Ruiz is right – be impeccable with my words, even how I talk to myself.
  • Love isn’t easy, it requires vulnerability, action, humility and forgiveness.
  • According to recent bloodwork, I’m post-menopausal. I’m not sure when I was peri menopausal because:
    • When I was 48, I had blood work done, indicating I was in menopause. A year later I returned to have my hormone levels re-checked because I didn’t feel full blown menopausal. I wasn’t experiencing hot flashes, I had the occasional night sweat, and was experiencing a lot of anxiety. These bloodwork results indicated I was not in peri-menopause – but just entering pre-menopause.
    • Since then, I’ve never really had hot-flashes or night sweats. However, living with a constant undercurrent of anxiety and fear, it was always difficult to determine if my mood changes and reactions to stress was menopause actually kicking in.
  • Today, I know I have anxiety that triggers post-menopausal symptoms.
  • When anxiety gets really bad, I have small hot flashes and as of late, my hereditary arrhythmia kicks in and goes into overdrive.
  • Since the horrible weekend mass shooting in my home province of Nova Scotia, I have come to pay more attention to the saying, Live Each Day Like It Is Your Last, because it just might well be your last.
  • I am an introvert – I am a homebody who enjoys being with my homebody husband.
  • I am enough – I may not do this enough, or that enough, but as a person I am enough.
  • I am not responsible for the emotional reactions or well-being of others (gotta keep repeating this one!).
  • Cherish love. It is truly a gift. If imperfect you has found your imperfect soul-mate, who is perfect for you – love them with everything you have.

April 25th, 2019 – April 25th, 2020

A Year in Pictures

It’s been a hell of year – from the day I turned 50 to the day I turned 51. I thought I would summarize this year, to help me gain perspective of where I’ve been to help me see where I am going.

If you are interested in more details to the locations we traveled, go back to my homepage and you will find detailed links in the menu of our travels including India, Jordan, Maldives, Qatar, and our entire Canadian repatriation journey.

Life is a journey…that’s for sure!!!

April 25th, 2019

India

My 50th Birthday – Mararikulam North, Kerala, India

My 50th birthday was in India! Michael and I had arrived a few days before, to begin our 6 week stay on the southwest coast of India.

The homestay family who we rented out cottage from, in Mararikulam North, had a surprise birthday cake for me! The family tradition is the birthday gal cuts one piece of cake and all guests take a small bite, saving the last bite for me!

Birthday Flowers & Cake with Dr.Raj

After this small celebration, my Reiki Master Teacher and Yoga Teacher, Dr. Raj arrived for our regular evening session of yoga philosophy. Dr. Raj brought flowers, Michael added the cake!

April – May – 2019

India

June – 2019

Jordan, Maldives, Qatar & Canada

Jordan

Maldives

Qatar – One Day, One Night – Our Repatriation Back to Canada

Before Michael and I left for India – we had two weeks to pack everything we owned of our 4 years together in Qatar into a shipping container that was sent to Nova Scotia. Our pets stayed with friends on the compound, and we packed what we needed for our travels ahead.

When we returned to Qatar from the Maldives, we arrived late at night. We had the morning to say our goodbyes, again, make a quick trip to Landmark Mall for a few needed items, collect the pets and be off to Hamad International Airport.

Expat life is transient. Contracts aren’t renewed and life goes on. It was our time to return to Canada.

Montreal, Quebec to Ottawa, Ontario

We landed in Montreal and immediately rented a car. We loaded up the pets and our luggage, because our next stop was downtown Ottawa, Ontario. Here we would drop off our pets with family. Why? Because Michael and I had 5th wheel shopping to do! Why? Because we needed a place to live!! We were homeless!!

Ontario: Gananoque to Ottawa

In Gananoque, we purchased a new-to-us 5th wheel that took a week to be ready for us. During that week, I stayed in a motel in Gananoque. Michael rode a bus to Kapuskasing to pick up his truck he inherited from his dad, that was stored with his brother, to pull the 5th wheel. He drove the truck back to Gananoque, then picked me and the 5th wheel up. Next stop – Ottawa to pick up the pets, then Montreal International Airport to return the rental car! Confused! We sure were!

Ottawa, Ontario & Montreal, then Sainte-Madeline, Quebec

From Ottawa we drove to Montreal, Quebec to drop off the rental car at the Montreal International Airport. GPS decided to take us through downtown Montreal as a way to exit the city and start driving towards Nova Scotia. As we navigated our way through construction-choked streets, the manual transmission in the truck started to slip and black smoke started pouring out from the engine.

We pulled into the first RV park we could find – and stayed for a week in Sainte-Madeline!! We stayed to get the truck repaired, that thankfully was just dirty oil in the clutch cylinder and get our bearings! We had no idea how to RV!!!

July – 2019

Nova Scotia – We Were Home

RV Campsite Bounce

When we arrived in Nova Scotia, Michael and I moved around the Halifax area, looking for the most economical RV campground. We discovered that last minute bookings were a challenge, because it was summer and many people book months in advance! We finally settled in KOA, in Upper Sackville. Meanwhile, our cats – both Qatar rescue cats – were starting to slowly adjust to RV life – and life in Canada!

Bought a Jeep

We needed a vehicle that we could drive around in, instead of the big, gas guzzling truck! Our Middle East reward to me was buying my dream vehicle – a 2019 Jeep Wrangler!!! I called her Daisy Rae! Daisy, from The Dukes of Hazzard’s Daisy Duke – and Rae – that is my middle name!! Her color – Hella Yella – PERFECT!!!

Bought Some Land

Michael and I needed land, so we could build a home! More importantly, we needed to buy land, quickly, so we could have services installed, then hook up our 5th wheel and call this home. With land and a 5th wheel home base, we could start designing our geodesic dome home.

The upcoming winter? Our 5th wheel was “winterized”, so we thought we would be fine for the winter….

I’m ashamed to say that this Nova Scotian gal had climatized to the Middle East and forgot what Nova Scotia winters are like… But I’m getting ahead of myself!

August – 2019

Moved Again

We tired of paying RV park fees. With the purchase of our land, and having no access to our property because the road was not yet built to reach it, the developer let us stay on one of his unsold, serviced lots.

This was a lovely, undeveloped lakefront property. Michael and I went to work, clearing a “yard”. Michael even built a rock wall fence!

As September approached, our “winterized” home started to show signs that she would be in no way livable during a Nova Scotian winter. Our property was still inaccessible. What would we do? Where would we stay?

September – October – 2019

Moved Again

The developer let us stay in one of his small rental cabins, located on a low mountain in the middle of Nova Scotia. We stored our 5th wheel at his house, located on the same property as the rental cabin. Exhale. We had a home for the winter.

During our first day there, both cats broke out of the cabin! Bob Jazeera was only gone for a day and a night. Georgie Jazeera was gone for a week! I thought for sure we had lost her for good! But she made her way home and now both cats stay very close to home!

I started back to work, at a junior high school in Fall River. This was an hours drive both ways, but I didn’t mind! I was driving my Jeep. Michael enjoyed the downtime, and solitude after so much happenings since April! He had time to start designing our dome home.

November – 2019

Michael Leaves for British Columbia

It was now time for Michael to head to Campbell River, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. He has a house there, that he lived in before he moved to Qatar and met me. The house was rented out since his departure to Qatar. Upon our return to Canada, we could not live in the house, because tenants were there. The tenants were given appropriate notice, and once the house was ready – Michael could return. His purpose – to ready the house to sell in the spring.

Life in the Low Mountain

I remained in Nova Scotia, in the small cabin, with the dog and cats. It was during these months ahead, alone in an isolated area of Nova Scotia, that I slowly started to implode. I had gained weight since June – I was stress eating. As well, with my return to Canada in June, I started drinking again.

Before repatriating back to Canada, I had 10 months under my belt of living alcohol free. But with our return to Canada and alcohol steeped in its culture with advertisements and outdoor patios; paired with the stress of having to make major life decisions so quickly, so many unknowns, and so much instability, I caved in and started to drink again.

Now that I was alone in this cabin, I was free to drink as much as I wanted – unaccountable to anyone.

I slowly came undone.

I struggled adapting with working back in public schools after working 4 years at an international, private school in the Middle East. I struggled with adapting to the transition from an easy life in Qatar, flush with money and travel; to a life without domestic help, much less money and no travel. I struggled with being alone, having to face myself and be with my grieving process of having to leave Qatar because expat life is a transient one and all contracts come to an end.

The cabin was rustic at best, but cosy. Power outages happened with wind and snow storms. I learned to crawl under it to reset the water pump when power returned! Everything was work – from garbage removal to laundry to getting groceries.

I was so grateful for my Jeep and the investment of quality winter tires. Snow storms made driving up and down the low mountain challenging.

December – January – 2019/2020

Before Michael left for British Columbia, he brought a few items from our shipping container that arrived from Qatar, to the cabin. Our elliptical was one of them. I started a morning routine of an elliptical workout – eventually making my way up to an hour! Monday – Friday – before work, I worked out on the elliptical for an hour.

I had the cabin decorated for Christmas, I started to revisit my Reiki studies, I received regular energy treatments, and started talking about my drinking to other energy workers, who also struggled with alcohol.

I was still drinking a bottle of wine a night, but now had something to look forward to because I was meeting Michael in Huatulco, Mexico for Christas Break!

Huatulco, Mexico

To keep up with my elliptical exercise, while in Mexico, I started running in the mornings. Little did I know I was starting a habit the would become a passion…

Michael and I had fun in Mexico. However, my daily drinking practice here added an undercurrent of stress between Michael and I. A stress that wasn’t new in our marriage, because of my drinking.

January – Start of 2020

After Mexico, Michael returned to British Columbia to continue house repairs. I returned to Nova Scotia. I settled more into my life there. At work, I spoke to the Grade 7 English classes, who were learning to blog, about my blog. I started snowboarding lessons. And I started to run!

Our elliptical broke, and instead of buying another one…I replaced my morning hour elliptical workout with an hour of running! I decided I was going to aim for running a half-marathon in October!

I was still drinking a bottle of wine a night.

February – 2020

February 18th

I really started to notice how much alcohol wasn’t working for me. As my running increased my self-confidence, the more I noticed how drinking a bottle of wine a night made me sluggish during my morning run. On February, 18th I bought the One Year No Beer 28 Day challenge. This was a major turning point in starting to feel like I was getting control back in my life. I started to feel, for the first time since we repatriated back to Canada, that I was coming back to myself.

I had the goal of running a half-marathon. I was learning to snowboard. I was settling more and more into my job. I was eating healthy. Sleeping well. I spent time with nearby friends. I attended a mini woman’s retreat, and received regular energy work treatments.

I started to enjoy my time in the little cabin, up in the low mountain. I realized just how healing this time alone was for me. And my marriage. Michael and I’s time apart gave us space to see where we worked and where we didn’t work. It gave us space to realize how much we love each other and how much we value our marriage.

I developed plantar fasciitis in my left foot, halting my running. So I bought a bike!

I felt in control of my life. I felt healthy and happy. I felt an inner peace, an inner freedom from the once prison of my mind held hostage by so many “what-ifs”, unknowns and instability.

March – 2020

March Break – Visit Michael in British Columbia

COVID-19 was just becoming a thing. I arrived in Campbell River, on Vancouver Island to stay one week. The entire week was not what I intended it to be – because of COVID-19. Slowly, stress started to creep back into my life with the return of “unknowns”. I had just come through enough of those nasty things. I wasn’t ready for more.

There were some fun moments this week! Snowboarding, walks and being together!

April – 2020

With schools closing in Nova Scotia because of COVID-19, I was able stay with Michael through March and into April. But, this brought a unique set of stressor to me that I was unprepared for.

I was unprepared to be living in the house that Michael had once shared with his partner, who died of ALS, in the house. While most of the belongings Michael had unpacked that were stored in the crawl space, were his. There was still some of her personal belongings mixed within. I felt like I was living someone else’s life, because this was not my history, this was not home, this had nothing of me here.

As well, during the last week of March, and because of COVID-19, Michael’s estranged son who was staying in Victoria, came to live with us. He not only was a stranger to me, he was a stranger to his father. The energy in the house was palpable.

What if my family or friends in Nova Scotia contracted COVID-19? What would I do?

When would I return to Nova Scotia and be back to work?

With my canceled return flight credit, when would Air Canada flights be available to bring me back to Nova Scotia?

How long would my Jeep be allowed to be parked at my parents condo parking lot?

How long would I be here in BC? How long would we be here in BC?

What about our cats, Bob and Georgie, back in Nova Scotia?

There was so much work to do on the house, I felt overwhelmed.

When would the house be ready to sell?

Would COVID-19 effect the real estate market?

When would we start building our own home?

When would our life in Nova Scotia begin?

I didn’t have my new bike, couldn’t run. Couldn’t go to a gym.

COVID-19 started changing everything.

I gained control where I could. I started exercising to a low-impact, high cardio video on YouTube. I focused on one task at a time with the house – the front yard. I cooked and cleaned. Made a daily routine. The wonderful couple taking care of the cats agreed to care for them as long as needed. We drove to Tofino and bought a secondhand bike for both of us to use. I paid condominium parking rental fees to keep my Jeep parked in the parking lot.

But each day, in the house, my anxiety level seemed to grow. There was adjusting to Michael’s son and finding my place in the house. I couldn’t gain perspective. I couldn’t get grounded. I was locked in my head and very far away from my heart. Typical errands like groceries were no longer typical. I had to practice social distancing and follow arrows on the floor telling me what direction to walk.

Then the developer called me and asked if a friend of his from New Brunswick, coming to work for him in Nova Scotia, could self-quarantine in the cabin I was staying in. The cabin was empty because I was in British Columbia, and he needed a place for his friend to remain in isolation for two weeks. A stranger would be living in my space, with all my things. Of course it was the right thing to do, but the act itself felt like a violation to my personal space.

This seemed to push me over the edge. My heart started to have random moments of feeling weird. These episodes weren’t new to me. I had them over the years. Not very often, and never with concern. A heart arrhythmia.

But never like this.

The episodes escalated quickly, to an astonishing level, both in duration and intensity.

I went to the hospital. I was having aggressive, stress induced arrhythmia episodes.

I was healthy, so was my heart. The doctor instructed I see the Crisis Nurse the next morning.

I did.

My stress was a result of my thoughts of so many “what-ifs”, “unknowns”, and I felt like my life was out of control again. I was completely overwhelmed, I didn’t have my own home base and felt as if I wasn’t living my own life, I was living someone else’s.

I had just come through so much since June, and had finally started getting my life under control, I just couldn’t handle any more instability, more unknowns.

I had nothing left. I felt absolutely overwhelmed with emotions and fears too difficult to manage.

A support plan was in place that included counseling, meditation using the Calm app, and a prescription of lorazepam to ease my swirling, fear-based thoughts. I would continue focusing on what I could control and keep exercising!

Michael and I bought a large white board to organize everything that needed to be done today, and tomorrow and to plan for the future.

Michael’s son decided to stay with his girlfriend in Nanaimo. Michael is still in contact with him, still trying to build a bridge.

God bless Lorazepam.

I wake up in the morning, have coffee and blog. Michael and I exercise together, then have breakfast. I take my lorazepam mid-afternoon, and always tell Michael I am doing so, because it is addictive so we watch it carefully. The afternoons seem to be when my thinking becomes the most challenging to control.

The effect of this tiny, 1mg pill is astonishing. Life changing. It calms me. Completely. I don’t react. I can emotionally regulate with the greatest of ease. I can focus. I feel so peaceful. Not stoned or high. I feel calm. Relaxed. I feel the whatever life throws at me, I can handle – because I have the inner calm to gain perspective and act rationally. When negative, punishing self-talk appears, I can dismiss it with the wave of a hand, and it disappears!!! This is a miracle!!!

I do notice the drowsiness side effect – but I still work outside, and go for walks.

It makes my afternoons more enjoyable because I am relaxed while working on the house or buying groceries or cooking. The evenings roll into a relaxed routine of feeding the ducks at the duck pond, then a half hour of learning how to play the guitar (Michael and I jam together!), ending in a before bed Reiki treatment for Michael while we listen to 20 minutes of meditation on Calm.

Sleep comes easily….

April 25th, 2020

And here we are – one full year later.

I am 69 days in of alcohol free living, since I started the OYNB 28 Day Challenge back on February 18th, 2020!!

I totally relaxed into this special day, with the help of lots of love from my husband and a little added help of lorazepam in the afternoon. I have one more gift on the way – a Fitbit Iconic – a smartwatch! It’s in the mail, should be here soon!

I want to send love and gratitude to my family and friends who have supported me this past year: my parents Shirley & Vern, my cousin Shannon, my friends Liz and Erin, my Windsor energy worker, wild women friends, my OYNB Bestie CarolAnn, my WordPress friends Margie, Maggie and Mr. Alchemist.

I didn’t see my new family very much this past year, especially my grandchildren. I think of them often and look forward to the day when grandpa and I are settled in Nova Scotia and we can go kayaking or ride the horses. I think of my step-daughter too…how loving and heart-centered she is. I look forward to the settled days ahead and you can teach me about feminism. I look forward to spending time with you, Andrew and the kids in your new house, and the day when we can all exhale together because we’ve all settled into our new lives.

Michael. You are my heart. You are my everything. You are the reasons I believe in love. I cherish each day we have, as we step together, creating our future ahead… ❤️❤️❤️

There are still so many unknowns ahead. But just for today, I know I am doing my best and every little thing is gonna be alright..

S, ❤️

28 Comments Add yours

  1. Margie says:

    Dear beautiful Birthday girl, just saw this post and I have dinner cooking so I will be back later to read it,
    But before I go I must send you a birthday greeting ~
    Happy Birthday Stephanie ~
    May you have a song in your heart
    A smile on your lips
    and nothing
    but joy
    at your
    fingertips!

    Sending much love
    I can’t believe you are 51.
    ❤ ❤ ❤

    Be back later ~

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Margie!!!! Love my birthday song!!!!❤️❤️🌟🌟🎶🎵❤️❤️❤️

      Like

  2. projectzachor says:

    Wishing my new Bestie the best of everything! You are such a love and I feel so blessed to call you my friend. I loved reading this post reviewing the last year. You’ve done a lot of living and experienced so many changes. Wishing you peace and some overdue stillness as you keep striving towards meeting your many goals. Love you, Bestie! So happy you had a lovely birthday. No one deserves it more. ♥️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. BESTIE!!!!!!!!!!! You’re on WordPress!!!! 😃😃😃 Overdue stillness….Love it!!!!!! Love you CarolAnn!!! I’m so grateful for your friendship and your unwavering support!!! ❤️❤️❤️🥰

      Like

  3. dtreez says:

    Happy Birthday! You are a light!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!!!! I believe we are a light to each other… Struggle is real…and knowing we are not alone in it as we try to find our way through, makes me feel more human… ❤️❤️❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ullas says:

    Happy birthday dear.

    Ullas

    On Sun, 26 Apr 2020, 11:52 pm Travels and Adventures of Joyful Stephanie, wrote:

    > joyfulstephanie posted: ” 51 It is just a number. To me, 51 represents the > distance in this journey of my life. Reflections Emotions are messy. > Regulating them is challenging at best. Sitting with uncomfortable emotions > without reaction takes practice.Meditation t” >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Ullas!!!! 🙏🏻🌟🌼

      Liked by 1 person

  5. More grace CONGRATULATIONS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Raymond!!! 🌻🌟🙏🏻

      Like

    1. Thank you!!!! ❤️🙏🏻🌟

      Like

  6. Happy Healthy Birthday Stephanie! I loved reading your post as you had quite the year! May 51 be even better for you!

    Like

    1. Sorry for the delay in replying!! Your comment went to my spam folder!! Thank you SO much Yvonne for your birthday wishes!!!! ❤️❤️❤️
      I wish for you a WONDERFUL day!!!! 😘🌟

      Like

      1. Thank you so much! Hope your birthday was wonderful! 🙂 ♥♥♥

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It was a wonderful, peaceful day!!! ❤️🌹🌸🥰

        Like

      3. I’m SOOO happy for you! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Happy Birthday Friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Brothers Campfire!!!!!! ❤️🙏🏻🎉🌼🔥

      Like

  8. Firstly, a very, very belated Happy Birthday to you!!! So sorry these wishes come so late! Secondly, what a post!! So very honest, thank you for sharing all of this with us. What a year you have had, it’s no wonder things unravelled for you, you have had to deal with so much. But deal with it you have by the sounds of it and you should be so proud of yourself for doing so. And what a wonderful husband you have, when you find someone who loves and supports you and helps you to be you, they are a keeper aren’t they! I’m so happy that you are finding a path forward. You are very strong lady and an inspiration that’s for sure 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for this! ❤️

      Blogging my journey with life helps put it into perspective – to see a bigger picture. Seeing it there – on a blog -helps me review my history – to see my growth and my setbacks and repeated patterns. Sharing my story helps me to heal, and hopefully helps another person along the way….

      I truly do have a wonderful husband… ❤️ We’ve come through a lot together and it has brought us closer… ❤️

      Strong and an inspiration…. wow, thank you so much! Some days I don’t feel strong – I feel vulnerable… and perhaps that is where the strength lies…is in the courage to be vulnerable?

      I’m listening to Tara Brach’s Radical Self-Compassion series on the app Calm, and she speaks to being vulnerable, and how this opens our heart and allows us connect with another.

      Anyway… I’m rambling! Your words are beautiful to me, and I’m so grateful for your supportive comment!!

      I hope you have a wonderful day, filled with lots of laughter, love and joy!! 🌻💛🌻

      Like

      1. I absolutely agree, there is definitely strength in being vulnerable and allowing yourself to be so. Also, in looking inward and picking yourself up when you fall over. These things take grit and courage, it’s definitely not easy. It does sound like one hell of a year for you and I admire you so much for how you have/are dealing with the trials it has presented to you. You are strong and I wish you only good things for the coming year! xxx

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you so much!! 💛🌻🌼 I too, wish you only good things for the coming year!! 🎉🤸🏼‍♀️

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Margie says:

    I am such a dope!
    How could I have forgotten this post, Stephanie?
    It was so amazing, all the milestones, all the wonderful pictures!
    Happy Birthday to you all over again!
    ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Margie!!!! ❤️❤️❤️

      Liked by 1 person

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