I threw myself a birthday party. I knew the first part of this month might not be easy for me, so I planned ways to intentionally take care of myself. I wanted to feel surrounded by loved ones and welcome in a new year, and a birthday is a perfectly normal reason to have a party. (Unfortunately a I-survived-the-depths-of-hell party is a little less socially acceptable.) And since I didn't have someone to throw me a party, I decided to throw one for myself. This probably broke some etiquette rules, especially because I made it a potluck party, but I don't even care. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.
People came despite my flawed etiquette, bearing plenty of delicious food. I had made my own cupcakes, but then I was surprised by another cake with candles and even my name on it. It was moving to look around the room over a glowing unexpected, personalized cake—and two other tasty desserts too, all with strawberries—to see people who care about me from this place I now call home. They stood by me through this last year and saw me through the worst, and they stuck around. I was about to burst into tears, but, instead, I took a deep breath, held it while I made a wish and then blew out every candle.
Events that mark the passing of time tend to be bittersweet for me. Decorating and undecorating the Christmas tree and New Year's Eve are also that way for me. I end up reflecting on life and where I am, where I thought I would be at that particular point, and where I dream of going.
This is not where I thought I would be, and my future is a wide-open horizon.
I miss having a life partner. The simple pleasure and beauty of sharing day-to-day life with someone is something I hope to have again one day. But that falls into the category of things I have little control over, so I try to redirect my focus to things I have more control over.
Last fall I made a list of goals for between then and the end of June—things I could focus on during the rest of the year following the explosion. I knew that I needed to do some positive activities and have some goals to make it through the long winter. I didn't get everything done, but I did a number of things and have been working on a new list for the rest of 2014.
One of the most significant things I did was to submit my citizenship application. This ended up being a pretty emotional process since I originally came here to be with my ex. The paperwork brought back so many difficult memories that it was hard to keep at it to finish. All the hours working on that application, alone, to ask to be a citizen of this country where I am (re)building my life...well, it was hard. Preparing the application is a lengthy, extremely detail-oriented process (though nowhere near as extensive as the permanent-residency application), and it involved re-evaluating "home" for myself and formalizing the decision to build my life here even though my reasons for staying have nothing to do with my original reason for coming.
As I later paid the postage to mail the thick envelope, the kind Staples employee took my teariness in stride. The last time I mailed an application to Immigration Canada, I had a partner beside me. This time, I did it alone. I took a deep breath and swiped my credit card. Then I walked out, lighter. I got in my car and drove myself towards my future, enjoying the warm summer evening and the sense of freedom at having completed a challenging long-term task.