Finn and I were holding onto each other as the ferry pitched side to side, the view out the window oscillating between: sky, water, sky, water. As inevitably happens in these types of situations, I immediately started planning our heroic escape from a possibly sinking ship – I would abandon my laptop and our clothes to use our backpack to somehow strap Finn to my body and swim safely to shore in the freezing waters. Passengers screamed around us, a man sitting beside us filmed the chaos on his phone, and I shrieked silently inside as I stroked Finn’s head and told her we’d be fine.
We were fine. We made it to the other side. We celebrated my dad’s 72nd birthday. We got to stay an extra day on Vancouver Island and miss school & work because the seas were too rocky. We were okay.
It was the beginning of December and I was already on my descent into a deep burnout even worse than when I was doing my Master’s degree with a newborn, a toddler, and working full-time. I was so tired. I was cancelling plans left and right. I was putting off work that kept piling up. I decided my colouring book I was hustling to finish in time for the holidays had to be put on the back burner. I was paring down all extraneous activities to conserve as much fleeting energy as I possibly could and I was still running around ragged.
When we arrived at my parents that day of the scary ferry ride, my mom welcomed us as usual with a beautiful, delicious warm meal. My mom is from Italy (so food is love) and also filled to the brim with kindness. Finn, usually the pickiest of eaters, always gobbles down her cooking. I spooned the first mouthful of slow-roasted beef and infused rosemary potatoes into my mouth, unconsciously murmuring “mmmmmmmm” as the flavours danced around on my tongue.
And then I started to cry.
Now, I am not a crier. It’s not something I do at the drop of a hat. I will “tear up” at a shocking news story, a heartbreaking commercial, or a sad movie; but rarely does an all-out tear-fest happen like the one I was desperately trying to keep unnoticed at the table that night.
It was the food. It had made me sob. And I realized that it was because that simple, delicious dish represented everything that I wanted at that moment in my life. Time.
The slow-roasted beef and the carefully infused potatoes represented time. Time to make a meal for a loved one. Time to learn to make such a dish. Time to put together food that I could eat with all my ridiculous allergies. Time to sit down at home, talk and be present.
I was not eating well. Late gymnastics sessions had me eating a bag of chips for supper, and pizza for the kids, because there were rarely places I could quickly get food I wasn’t allergic to. I didn’t have the time to pre-make dinners and snacks. I was foregoing my own nutrition in order to make something simple and quick to that feed the kids after getting home from work at 6pm, knowing that I had limited time to make food, do homework with the kids, and get them to bed – never mind even trying to spend quality time with them! What was that? A dream at that point. It had gotten rough, and I felt like I hadn’t had a proper meal in ages.
And so I cried over my mom’s food that day.
So what do I take away from that experience? Well, I wanted more time. I wanted good food. I wanted to be near my family. And those things make me happy. It was one of those moments that I needed to track, like my post here on asking yourself questions about the times in your life that have impacted you, and have shown you what you love to do you, and what you don’t need to do anymore.
I left the island with my dad’s old SLR camera that I had used 15 years ago when I was doing darkroom photography, and a determination to make the time to create real meals and be more present with my family. I’m still working on it, and it takes reminding, but the intention is there and I think I’m doing pretty good so far.
I would love to start my first Instagram hashtag called: #tracking_happiness and I would be thrilled if you participated with images that represent moments of happiness that you’ve found. Is it remembering how much you loved to play the guitar as a teen? Did you realize that your passion for painting needs to be your full-time gig? Have you admitted to yourself that hiking actually just isn’t your thing and you’re ecstatic to now be weaving beautiful creations in your spare time? Maybe, like me, you find a moment of peace going through the carwash – I would love to see it all. xo