Jill Of Some Trades

And Master Of At Least One


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Mid-Life Crisis

Photo by Harry Cunningham on Unsplash

Someone that I know had their 50th birthday this year. I asked, in a not-so-serious way if he had a mid-life crisis to go with said special birthday. His answer – daily. While I don’t believe that is the case, I do know that it made me think about why some people have them, and some people don’t. It’s not a good or a bad thing – just something that I always find interesting.

We all know the clichés when it comes to men and women and their respective mid-life crises. Men trade in their SUV’s for sportscars that they can barely get into or out of. Depending on their budgets, the cars range from orange Corvettes on the low-end to lime green Lamborghinis on the high end. The obnoxious colours a mystery. Usually, in addition to their cars, they have done a trade in of another kind. I live in an area where I often see men with canes with their 27 year-old girlfriends. Sometimes, on a rare occasion, and I have seen this, it really is a love match, but that’s 2% of the time.

On the other hand, women who have hit that very same crisis have traded in their button-downs for leopard prints. Hey, I’ve been a fan since my 20s, I peaked early, I get it. They also officially enter cougardom, using cringe-y phrases like “let’s go dancin'” – apparently, in middle-age, you lose the “g” at the end of words. Sometimes, it’s “I gotta be me” – again, grammar goes out the window – words are lost, and the English language suffers. Said woman then goes on the prowl at places like STK and other assorted places where the boys are.

Still others moan about the best years of their lives being over and wonder, what the meaning of life is. Existential crisis, mid-life crisis, it’s all the same. I asked some of my friends about their own mid-life feelings. One said “I just don’t care” (a good friend of mine said this, and I believe her). A guy friend of mine who is of that special age just said to me, I still think of myself as a kid. Happily married, he isn’t into shall we say douche-y cars and women less than half his age. Yet another friend told me it was because he didn’t fear death and he thinks that things go downhill at 70 – although that isn’t always the case – so he wants to enjoy his best years.

I’ve thought about why I won’t have a mid-life crisis of my own. Part of it is because of my experiences. My sister, for example, died at 55. That means her mid-life was 27.5 years of age. My mother lived to be 78 which makes her mid-life 39. My Uncle Max, our reluctant family patriarch lived to be the ripe old age of 102 (give or take a few years). He played 9 holes of golf a day until he was 97.

In a convoluted way, what I am trying to say is that none of us know what or when our mid-life will be. We don’t have that mirror into the future. I don’t know if I’ve passed my middle age in my 20’s or if this is my mid-life. When I mused to a friend who thinks more deeply about things than I do, he said that the reason that I’m not having one is that for the last few years, my life has been so much about other people, that it was never my own and that now is a time to start it.

I think about aging, of course. I look in the mirror and sometimes, I stick my tongue out at myself because I don’t like what I see. I hope that I just age gracefully, and more than one person told me to get botox or fillers or other procedures. I’m just not into that – but if that’s your thing, go for it. One of the bonuses is that you also don’t care as much about what other people think of you – there are some benefits for sure.

Really, the crisis is that we fear is that our lives will end and that we won’t have ticked all of the boxes that we think that we should have and that perhaps, our lives won’t have meaning. But, I also think that we need to realize how much we have done before we hit that special age that we all think of as mid-life and how much there is to come after. Mid-life means that you have life, not that life is over. There are still things to discover and those boxes left to tick and sometimes you will find what you are looking for right under your nose.

I’ve mentioned this before, but there was a day, a very difficult day, when I allowed myself to cry in front of my mother for the one and only time during her illness. It was the day we told her that my sister had cancer. I knew just how bad my sister’s prognosis was, but kept it from my mother and told her that Michele would live. But the question that I asked in that moment was an all-encompassing “What am I going to do?” Her answer was simply that “You’ll live your life.” I knew then, that she knew more than she was letting on, but I carry those words with me every single day. Not just the words but how she said them. The way she looked at me so emphatically. And that is the best advice that anyone ever gave me.


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A Day, A Year, A Decade

My mother...
My wonderful little Mommy.

I’ve watched many people post their feelings about the last decade on social media. For some, it was a delight – the best time of their lives. For others, lives were changed, in a somewhat devastating way. Others saw the best and worst in people. I would say that my life over the last ten years was a combination of the three.

I had some amazing experiences, both through travel and through relationships with people and just life in general. I had lows that were devastating in ways that I likely will never recover from. My faith in people was both rewarded and tested. People often don’t see the good, only the bad, but there were people in my life that came through for me in ways that I’ve never, ever imagined.

Grief has been the over-riding theme of the last 5 years. My father died on June 9, 2015. Grieving the loss of a parent you were estranged from is a different kind of awful. I remember feeling so alone. People thought estrangement meant that I didn’t care. If I had a dime for every time someone said, “Oh, I thought you didn’t like your father”….Estrangement and like are not comparable. I cared about my father, and estrangement was a last resort, not a first. This is the way it should always be, by the way. In a way, it is like losing your parent twice. First, when you have to say good-bye to them for yourself, and then when you have to say good-bye to them, losing forever the hope that things will ever be repaired.

My relationship with my mother wasn’t perfection, but it was close. There was no one that I more deeply admired. When she died on March 3, 2018, one year and nine months ago, I lost my anchor and purpose in life. Being her care-giver was the greatest thing that I will ever do and the greatest honour that I have ever had. Speaking for this woman, who didn’t have the energy to speak for herself, and being her voice was the most important thing that I will ever do. I don’t have any regrets, except that I wish that I could have done more.

She was the person that made me go and visit my father the last time. When he said something to me that was completely horrible, I remember telling her what a waste it was. I’ll never forget what she said to me, “Jill, I know you, you are my baby. What he said to you was awful, but you can also go to sleep at night knowing that you made the right decision. If you didn’t go, you never would have known and you always would have wondered.” All I could do was say, “Mummy, you are right.” And she was.

She was right about so many things. I miss having her as my advocate. As much as I spoke for her, she often spoke for me. She was smart, feisty and funny and nobody’s fool. She spoke her mind, and if you didn’t like it, too bad for you. She was right about that too – she was never afraid to speak up for herself and I’ve inherited that from her. I am, and will always be proud to be Judy Zelikovitz’s daughter. I often have people tell me how to grieve or that I’ve grieved for long enough, that my mother wouldn’t want this for me. I know, from her, that grief lasts a lifetime. I also know my mother would be proud that I have never let sadness prevent me from living. She told me to live my life and I have. I’ve never let the fear and despair over her loss keep me from doing anything that I have to do from work, to socializing, to anything else. I understand what is important in life, but I also know how to honour someone’s memory on my own timeline. More on that in a later post.

I was with my sister when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and as devastating as that was, I’ve tried to be there for her through her treatment, appointments, everything that I did for my mother. She is well cared for, and I don’t have to be on high-alert at all times, like I was with our mother. Michele has her attitude and her determination to live. We each have a part of our mother’s personality. Mine is in the planning and details and general Type A that made up my mother’s DNA. Michele has her grit and her ability to roll with things. She never lets her disease prevent her from living. A lot of people hear the “C” word and don’t know how to approach her. I always say that a person with cancer is just a person. We all have something, don’t we?

I’ve been shocked by people’s kindness and wounded by people’s malice. I remember when I was going through everything with my mother and sister, my dearest friend said this is the time in your life when you get a pass. I’ll also never forget the good. The joyful moments that I wrote about this time last year, what I called the beautiful awful. I’ll never forget people just being there, around my family during the worst time in our lives.

I see things very differently than I did ten years ago. I believe in keeping my word. If I make a promise, I keep it. If I say that I’m going to do something, I will do it. I’ve learned that words matter, but actions speak louder than words. I’ve learned that in life, and in business there are choices that you can make. You can take your profession and your life seriously, or you can treat it like a game of chess. Either path will get you some degree of success, and maybe even happiness, but only one will get you any type of fulfillment. Living life in the way that I was brought up to, by the person that I respected the most has made me realize there is only one choice. Do the right thing, and although in the short term, it may not pay off or work to your advantage, in the long term, if you stay the course, you will be rewarded. It was an important lesson to learn, and probably the most important thing that I learned this decade.

I hope that the next decade brings my loved ones all of the health and happiness that they deserve. I hope that there will be more joy after the sadness of the last few years. I hope that I have have told my friends and family how much their love and support has meant. I hope that I will always be able to live up to the expectations that my mother set for me. I hope that wherever she is, that she is watching, smiling, her big beautiful smile with the good, and giving her finger, as only she could, to the bad.


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“I Know This Much Is True”

Halifax-20150223-00265

Halifax Harbour

Yes, I “borrowed” the title of my blog today from a Wally Lamb book, but after the month that I had, I thought I deserved to take a loaner on such a great title.  If nothing else, I probably learned more life lessons in one month than I have in the last decade.  Lucky you, you get to read some of my deep thoughts…and here they are:

  • Approval from the morally bankrupt is meaningless, at least to me
  • If you aren’t seeking someone’s approval, then you can’t be disappointed
  • We cannot direct the winds, but we can adjust our sails.  Profound, but I can’t take credit for it – I saw it painted on the wall of a hospital room – basically, we can’t change people or circumstances, but we can control how we react to them
  • A family can be better and stronger without certain people in it
  • If you wait long enough, anything can happen
  • People who are set in their ways cannot change even though I believe change is possible if you want to badly enough
  • Doing the right thing can be hard, but it’s easier when you have your sisters with you
  • Sometimes, knowing that you did the right thing has to be enough
  • Don’t put off until tomorrow, what you can do today – Moms are right about this
  • I’ll never be someone who misses an opportunity – it brings me some semblance of peace
  • Sometimes, you have to know your limitations.  I learned mine on Friday when I did the Zombie Room Escape – we didn’t escape and I am terrible at logic problems.  It was fun though and the Zombie was loud, but very nice
  • You can age gracefully
  • It’s ok to fall asleep at a play or a musical – but it is a little embarrassing when you are with a very geriatric crowd and they aren’t the ones taking the nap
  • West Jet is just more fun than Air Canada – not profound, but true

That’s all for today’s deep thoughts.  Today, I am grateful for my family, friends and frousins.  Nothing major, just that.  I do have to start doing some research into energy/fatigue – I’ve been completely exhausted this last month, and I need to do something about it.  I’ll be researching Dr. Oz’s solutions and more – if I can stay awake to do it.