What a year. Here’s an update on random things:
Today is Owen’s birthday – he would have been 22. If he’d survived COVID-19. I see how fraught these times are for families with school-aged children. Double – no, triple – that for families with kids with respiratory conditions or compromised immune systems. A million times that for families with kids (or parents) living in residential facilities or long term care. I feel worlds away from the trauma of living that reality, which is a relief. And not without complicated feelings.
We moved out of Toronto last year to a much smaller town (Guelph) about an hour and a half away, very close to the town where I grew up (Kitchener-Waterloo). It’s the perfect place to wait out a pandemic and live out my latent fantasies of gardening and walking to the river early in the morning and building a home gym in the garage. And I get to do it all with my favourite person.
My dad died in January. He was 80. I knew his death was coming and I just couldn’t think about it, which is probably just as well. I also can’t talk about it still, which I suppose is also fine. But because it’s relevant to this blog I will say this – it’s because of him that I’m the writer I am. As a historian, an editor, a writer himself, he showed me that everything we write, no matter how ‘true’, is invented. Or constructed. Made up. We’re revisionists, trying to make an impression. Sounds cynical but it’s not – it’s freed me up in ways I can’t even express.
We were supposed to have a family gathering in March – a party of sorts, at one of his favourite restaurants. The Danish Place, where he and Penny got married and where we often met for brunch. My brothers live in England, California and Poland – by the time we were supposed to get together the pandemic was in full swing and travel wasn’t possible. It feels like unfinished business, but I think Dad would have been okay with that.
I started a podcast. Matters of Engagement. It’s an all-encompassing project and I’m so glad to be working with Emily on it. We’re making something great but more important, I’m very much enjoying what has become a rather unconventional, often hilarious, and highly productive collaboration.
I lost a bunch of weight last year – about 50 pounds – and no longer have type-2 diabetes (in case you’re about to ask, the answer is: diet and exercise).
And this year I’ve been focused on various aspects of fitness and function. I lift weights 5-6 days a week. I’m always in some phase of a workout program. I still track all my food and switched recently to a more sophisticated macro coaching app. We joke at home about my ‘side projects’: I did an 8-week “6-pack abs” program on top of my regular workouts; I bought a power tower so I could work on my pull-ups; I walk about 5km every morning. I think about nutrition, exercise and body recomposition a lot. I want to look and feel a certain way and that takes work.
And it all seems weirdly out of sync with modern ad and social media campaigns to embrace yourself as you are. Self-improvement is great but only if it looks a certain way I guess.
What else…? I’m watching Angus grow into a fine young man, figuring things out on his own terms. No age is easy but 20 has unique challenges – plus all the inherited crap this young generation has to contend with. Oh right, plus the pandemic. Readers of No Ordinary Boy often ask about Angus. His story isn’t mine to tell. But I think he’s great, and I think he’ll be fine.
I’ll be 50 this year and I feel like I’m only just getting started. I guess it’s time to do all the things.
Inspiration. Thank you. And congrats on so many levels. And condolences. Sending peace & strength on your recent loss. Can’t wait to check out Matters of Engagement.
Love you and your writing Jen.
Love to see you blogging, and I’m so excited for your podcast! Happy birthday to Owen, and I’m so sorry about your father. What a time. I always knew Angus would do well. I’m so glad to see you doing so well too. :)
Thank you!! Really appreciate the kind words. xo