“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, Whispering ‘it will be happier’…” ― Alfred Lord Tennyson

Quite honestly, 2015 has been the most difficult and hectic year of my life. Change came at me from every direction simultaneously slapping me in the face and rubbing my back. Below are my most “liked” Instagram moments of the year and although I wrote about many more of them in my diary, I can understand why these were most-liked. These nine moments captured by various filters represent the biggest changes I faced, both happy and sad.
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  1. The day we got engaged; a surprise to say the least
  2. My birthday tattoo; a reminder to keep writing, fighting, and trying
  3. Outfit from my birthday weekend in the city; the most confident I’ve felt in a while
  4. The birth of my niece; my heart grew 6 sizes that day
  5. My last day working at Caruso Gourmet Pizza; the start of a new office job
  6. Our seven-year anniversary; and several wishes for the future
  7. Christmas Eve with my siblings; we like each other sometimes
  8. Walking to the hospital food court with my niece; where most of my October was spent
  9. The day I found my wedding dress; I felt like a Princess

In 2014 I wished for 2015 to be a year of clarity and man did I get what I asked for. It became painstakingly clear that nothing is more important than family. That life is fragile and nothing is permanent, so to what makes you happy is the only way to make a life worth living. It became clear that plans are wonderful but flexibility is the key to sanity.

Because of this I am not making resolutions for 2016 – I don’t know what the year will bring but I am hoping for happiness, health, and adventure.

Xoxo,

Vanessa 

 

Turn Up the Good – Weekend Bliss

 
Instead of writing non-stop this weekend, I walked. I explored, drove, ate, and laughed. I went to Toronto and to Hamilton. I bustled around a Christmas Market and nearly peed myself at a comedy show (Jim Jefferies is one gifted storyteller). I took selfies and talked about politics. I visited my old bosses and reminisced my heart out. 

I felt blissfully light and optimistic while I dreamed about the future. I’ve been trying to picture, as well as, plan my next step. A tiny piece of me wants to go back to school – I miss learning and expanding my brain creatively.  Some days being twenty-six makes me feel old and stuck, other days  I feel young and my gut knows that change is imminent.

“Change is the end result of all true learning.”  – Leo Buscaglia

  
  
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Xoxo,

Vanessa

It Saved Me

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I’ve been dealing with anxiety for as long as I can remember. In high school I would lose sleep over exams, homework, and friendships. In University I lost ten pounds over an exam. My heart was constantly in my throat, my head ached, and I felt nauseous beyond recognition. I went to the doctor and she recommended anti-anxiety medication to help get me through. I was firmly against it; I shouldn’t have to take pills to get through my day or my life. My doctor wrote me a prescription but I never filled it. I was able to self-talk and get through it on my own.

Fast forward seven years, the anxiety still loomed its ugly head but never to the extent it had during university. I could control it, handle it, and even forget about it from time to time. Writing helped, falling in love helped, talking to my family helped; I was on the right path. Until my life completely changed; I went from two part time jobs and writing to a full-fledge office job, purchasing a condo, and getting engaged in less than five months.

To most people these would be considered good things, in fact, that should have been the best time of my life. Those five months were the hardest months of my life. I struggled immensely at my new job. Training was simple: dive in with the sink or swim mentality, which I see now is necessary for the line of work I’m in. It weighed me down though; every single day I failed. I became anxious every time the phone rang, I made so many mistakes, I received lectures that would eventually teach me something, and I spent the better part of two months crying. I’d sob in the bathroom or on the way to work, I’d tear up on the way home or even in my boss’s office. I felt like a failure. I was broken.

I was upset that the job I had wasn’t in my field of study, that I didn’t have time to write, that the job itself was demanding and stressful. I would wake up every morning with a pain in my chest and bouts of nausea. I’d come home from work with a headache and a poor attitude.

After I got engaged I thought I would be better, allow myself to be happy, make the most of my job. But I didn’t. I began to stress about wedding plans, finances, and who would be offended by what. My family became worried, my fiancé didn’t know what to do. He got frustrated and offended. I didn’t feel like kissing let alone having sex, I was upset, anxious, and depressed. We got into many heated arguments over it. I am not spending the rest of my life like this. This is supposed to be the happiest time in our lives, he said to me. I agreed but couldn’t get the darkness out of my soul. Every morning was a battle, every evening a war-zone.

It was around the time of my third week at the new job that my mom suggested I go see the doctor. She wanted me to start taking anxiety medication. Both my mother and father had been on anxiety medication and swore by it. I, however, needed a little bit more convincing. After work one Thursday evening I went to see my family doctor. It was dark, dreary, and pouring; a reflection of my heart. After melting down in front of my doctor, she prescribed a pill that I could take when I felt the anxiety coming. It was a bandaid that could help get me through the morning.

Three weeks later I was out of pills and more anxious than ever. This pill didn’t heal or help, it just made me feel like a partial-zombie for an hour. The next time I saw her she prescribed something a little different. It would be a six-month stint, where I would take one pill a day, upping my dosage in increments, then weaning myself off it in six months.

In spite of the side effects – nausea and dizziness – I felt like a completely different person. I was more calm and less irritable, my anxiety a mere whisper as oppose to a deafening roar, I felt happier more often, and I got tonnes of uninterrupted sleep. I had simply become myself again; my fiancé and I were back to having fun and being in love, I could sit outside with my family without itching for a fight or longing to be alone, I hadn’t cried at work or to work since I started taking my medication, and I found the work load more manageable.

Just to be clear, I’m not a pill-pusher. I’m not telling you that you need medication to be happy or that it’s the only way. What I’m trying to say is that it’s worked for me. Pride can kill you in more ways than asking for help can. My help came in the form of a yellow and white pill; yours might be therapy or jogging or self-talking or reading or screaming or a simple conversation with a friend. Anxiety is awful and we all experience it on some level but we can fight it together. Asking for help saved my relationship, my family life, and my job.

I stopped taking my medication before the six months were up. I stopped taking them before Alex’s surgery and my dad’s but the amazing thing is that I handled the anxiety better than ever. Everything that has happened put life into perspective. Instead of needing the pills I take every day one at a time, I don’t take on more than I can handle, and I remind myself that I have one life, and it’s up to ME to make it great.

 

Xoxo,

Vanessa

remember?

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I remember a time when I felt invincible. I was in the twelfth grade (maybe even first year of university). I finally had my first kiss, been to some great parties, taken some risks by being honest with my friends, and really felt like I could do anything. I remember skipping my first class, it was English and it felt sacrilegious to do, but necessary all the same. I remember going for long drives on my lunch or spare with one of my friends; we’d blare Michael Jackson songs and sing until we couldn’t breathe.

I remember getting my heart-broken so deeply I didn’t think I would survive. I remember standing up for myself and being so unapologetic about it that I felt like a rebel (when did that stop?). I remember getting my first tattoo with my best friend by my side, simply because we could. I remember sneaking out of the house to meet a boy. I remember feeling so young that I wasn’t sure I would know what it would feel like to grow up.

I remember MSN, diaries full of scribbled emotions, and digital cameras. I remember conversations over coffee and plotting the path of our lives. I remember how real it all was; before screens were attached to our hands.

I remember all of those moments with fondness and pride. It was all so innocent that the pain didn’t actually penetrate the innermost layers near my heart. Most days I still feel glimmers of who that girl was, that happy and hopeful wallflower ready to take on the world, I’m just not quite sure what to do about it or how far she’s gone.

Maybe it’s time to send out a search party…

Xoxo,

Vanessa

Tea Please [from HealthSnap.ca]

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Nothing tastes better than a cup of coffee in the morning, except perhaps a warm cuppa tea at eight in the evening paired with a great book and freshly baked cookies. A few weeks ago, my friend Victoria over at HealthSnap.ca sent over a box full of teas for me to try out.

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me ― C.S. Lewis

HealthSnap is a Canadian online retailer based in Toronto. They sell numerous products in various categories (Baby & Mom, Beauty & Skin Care, Diet & Fitness, Household, Medicine, Personal Care, Sexual Wellness, and Vitamins & Supplements). They have even partnered with several pharmacies for their users to order through them for Home Delivery or Pharmacy Pick Up. Since Victoria sent me the teas directly I haven’t actually purchased from the site. They do have some pretty wonderful reviews, free shipping over $50, and great pricing though so I may give them a try.

The Celestial Tea box came with 5 different teas; Chamomile, Lemon Zinger, Peppermint, Honey Vanilla Chamomile, and Sleepytime. I’ve tried them all and wasn’t a huge fan of the Lemon Linger but the Honey Vanilla is the equivalent to having an evening of solitude in the library of your choice (a.k.a HEAVEN). The Sleepytime tea was earthy and minty and worked like a charm! The best part about this brand of tea: no matter how long I steeped it for, the flavour didn’t become too bold or strong. Each tea stayed true to its mild, relaxing, delicious flavour.

I tried the Refreshing Mint the other day at work and was happy when it didn’t taste as though I was drinking a pack of gum. It is calming yet exhilarating (yes, tea can be that too!) and it woke me up enough to get through the rest of my afternoon.

I have yet to try the Detox teas – I’m waiting for a weekend that I know I’ll be at home (just in case) or the Cold & Cough tea since I don’t have a cold or cough! I’m sure I’ll try them another time and I’ll let you know how they were.

Have you tried HealthSnap? What did you think?

Xoxo,

Vanessa

P.S. I was sent these teas in exchange for an honest review, as per my DISCLOSURE, I only write about products I use and things I like.

Blue October

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More often than not, she writes in the third person; it makes her feel anonymous yet powerful. When the word I  becomes she, honesty grows wings. 

She thought that seeing her sister drenched in her own blood and her future husband in a hospital bed crying in pain would be enough turmoil for one month. Unfortunately everything comes in threes.

As she walked into yet another hospital room she held her breath. Her eyes focussed on her father, who lay asleep in a blue gown. The tube in his mouth sat quietly, steadily, allowing him to breathe. He looked like a different version of her father, his toes weren’t twitching and he was far too still. From the corner of her eye she glimpsed the rest of her family wading tears. This would be the trillionth time she cried this month. Instead of allowing them to take over she pressed them back into her head. She could be strong.

Over the next few days she’d come to understand that the saddest sound she’d ever hear would be her mother crying. She’d realize that it would take a long time for her own heart to stop hurting.

She went through the motions and did her best to help out wherever she was needed. She did her best to keep it together. She went to work, she focussed, she repeated.

Yes, she crumbled.

Yes, she felt agitated, angry, and guilty (for what she didn’t know).

Yes, she cried streams that turned into rivers that bled into oceans.

But she was humbled and aware of the fragility of life. Spending the better part of a month in and out of hospitals will do that.

The best way out is always through.

She went through it all but with luck and silver linings around every corner. Her  father’s quintuple bypass saved his life. Because of her fiancé’s liver donation, his mother would live. And her sister, who hemrroaged for hours, at this very moment, is chasing around her toddler with an infant in her arms.

xoxo,

Vanessa

Giving Thanks 

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On October 5th, my fiancé became an organ donor. 70% of his liver was cut out and placed inside his mother so that she could live. In the world of live donors it is very difficult to find a match; everything has to be absolutely perfect in order for the recipient’s body to accept this new organ. By some miracle my future husband, his mother’s only son, was that match.

As such, I spent the second week of October in Toronto General Hospital. Although the day of the surgery was emotionally draining; the aftermath is the most taxing. My body, mind, soul, and senses were ahnialted by various sounds, smells, and sights in the days following the procedure. Seeing the love of your life weak, uncomfortable, and in pain is difficult but I had no idea the strength that I would find the moment he was at his weakest.

Words cannot express how profoundly proud I am of my fiancé; my love for him has deepened and multiplied. Yes I am immensely thankful for the success of the procedure but I am also thankful for all that I’ve learned, experienced, and have taught myself over the last week or so. I am thankful for the family and friends I have beside me, for the strength I found within myself, and for love. Now more than ever I cannot wait to walk down the aisle with my best friend, to celebrate our love with his healthy mother by our side.

I’ve never cared much for things and now more than ever I have to admit that everything is nothing unless you’re surrounded by great people.

xoxo,

Vanessa