I’m Living in a Christmas Card

This morning I woke up to about 8 inches of fresh, gorgeous snow. It is Sunday, which means the neighbourhood is still sleeping and all that can be heard in the stillness is the chirping of a few birds and the amazing sound of silence.

Spring and summer are hiding under there somewhere!

Spring and summer are hiding under there somewhere!

In honour of the snow, I decided to share an essay I wrote in the middle of winter. Somehow it seems apropos.

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Every morning is the same, but we don’t remain unchanged …

Every morning is the same. Half awake and yet fully caffeinated, I bang my way through the turnstile, scan my card, grab a towel and wave to Danny.

Danny is overly happy. It is only 6:47 am.

Remnants of mascara cling to my eyelashes and a slept on ponytail is the exclamation point to my business suit, heels and overstuffed gym bag.

Fitness is not for the faint of heart. Early morning fitness requires mindless adherence to a regime that Tony Robbins would approve of.

Every morning my bleary eyes snap open just seconds before my iPhone starts to emit cricket noises.

Yes. It is 4:41 am.

Only two kinds of people are up at this time in the morning – the night owls who are coming down from their fourth wind and the crazies who believe the early bird catches the worm.

A few questions come to me before dawn starts to break.

  • Do I want to be a worm catcher when I grow up?
  • Does this mean I am grown up?

The heaviness of my down comforter calls to me, warmth lulls me into thinking it will be ok to not get up and get moving today. Just this once.

The conversation with myself about sleeping in and throwing discipline out the window doesn’t happen just once; it is a daily choice to have my feet hit the floor and search for the slippers that were deserted 7 hours earlier and to stumble through the dark to the coffee pot that is finishing up brewing dark, liquid courage.

When the kitchen light goes on, only one eye is brave enough to open. After a bit of time and a few sips of Rocket Fuel, both eyes open and blink.

Alive. I am alive.

Living is not for the faint of heart.

The winter months are the hardest, the morning sky is darker than the coffee in my mug and it will not wake up for hours. Living up north, the summer rarely turns out the lights and winter barely turns them on.

This particular morning I shiver, even though my house is warm and my woolly socks and slippers soften every footfall. The drifts of snow kindly lean up to the windows, asking to come in for an early morning cup of coffee. I slowly shake my head and breathe deeply before turning my back on their request.

The elements will have to be faced, but not quite yet.

Before the world wakes, I plan my day and read. Connection with myself and who I am becoming can easily get lost in the midst of leading meetings, avoiding the chocolate cake in the lunchroom, leading people in change, paying the bills, sliding through traffic lights on black ice and trying to make it back home before the slow cooker starts on fire. Client emails get responded to, notes are sent on social media, blog posts are written, a pot of coffee is consumed, gratefulness developed and journaling scratched out.

Before my arse completely molds itself to my office chair, I stretch and inadvertently mess up my slept on ponytail as a yawn threatens to take over my whole being.

The gym, which keeps me sane and my pants from cutting the circulation off at my waist, starts to call to me. It is dark and what feels like minus twelve thousand outside, yet the cellulite doesn’t lie and the caffeine is pulsating through my veins

It is time to embrace my inner Rocky Balboa and work hard.

A business suit is selected and put on my body. Tights, heels, jewellery, water bottle, food and laptop all find their way to their spots in my purse, gym bag and briefcase. Two pairs of wool socks, a short down coat, an ankle length down coat, boots whose label boasts of the ability to navigate -40 C weather, a scarf, toque, gloves and mittens later; I am ready to exit the house.

The tell-tale bead of sweat that indicates it is time to leave starts to slowly roll down my spine and finally pools at the top of my skirt.

With three bags in tow, I trudge through the snowdrifts and crack the car door open. Unplugging the block heater and trying to see through fogged up glasses turns into an Olympic level sport.

I am training to win gold.

Finally, after 18 minutes of defrosting, scraping and breathing into my mitten clad and gloved hands, I put the car in reverse.

Both the car and I are glad to ease into the heated parkade until the moment everything fogs up and immediately freezes. The ability to see where you are going is virtually impossible. Only experience teaches you to roll down all the windows of your car despite it being -32 C prior to entering the parkade. Instead of yelling, “Adrian!” a cold squeal emits out of my soul and scares a few pedestrians.

My vehicle turns into a bumper car as I slowly bumble into a parking stall while spraying windshield fluid everywhere; the noise of the defrost and wipers make listening to the radio impossible. The first spot that I can see and slowly roll into without incident is the one that earns the right to be the melting spot each morning.

Like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, I peel off my subarctic gear and put on my workout clothes.

My warm-up consists of moves that would make Jillian Michaels proud as I battle against the down coats and other subarctic gear to get my locker shut.

I emerge victorious and primed to prove the cellulite on my left thigh wrong.

As I warm up, I wonder what I am doing at the gym at 6:30 in the morning. What kind of woman attempts to press 100 pounds over her head a few times or runs 8.5 mph sprints on the treadmill while 93% of the world is sleeping?

I look around.

Women of distinction. Women of character. World changers.

At 7:52 am the conversation picks up where it left off the day before. Tweezers, mascara wands, blow dryers and nearly every beauty implement imaginable are scattered across the makeup counter. We jockey for plugins and mirror space while at all different stages of being dressed. In between eyebrow shaping, flat ironing and complaining about nylons, life is shared.

When you’ve spent three years next to a woman, half dressed while putting on mascara telling her about your fears, dreams, challenges and pain somehow seems obligatory. She has seen my cellulite and not judged; she can be trusted with my hopes, dreams and failures.

At the makeup counter, we share 23 minutes of life every day. Life that involves joy, pain, death, dreams, work and personal stress and the hilarity that comes with being a woman; some days there are tears, others extreme laughter all while the blow dryer attempts to drown them out.

Dreams, goals, fears, insecurities, sickness, travel, adventure, love and loss have all been shared at the early morning makeup counter.

Even death comes to the make-up counter. When Deb’s sister unexpectedly died, every single woman from the make-up counter was found sharing small sandwiches together after the memorial service. Women who tweeze together, mourn together.

I go to the gym to be healthy and fit, but it is more than just for the health of my body. It is for the health of my soul. Friendship develops over time and there is a blessing that comes from sharing life with other women who get up before God turns on the lights and it is -32 C outside.

There is community.

Where do you find community? Who journeys alongside you as you work to become who you were created to be?