In the Fall of 2018, I made the decision to make some meaningful changes in my life. I resolved to sell my house in Stratford, close my businesses (The MacMillan Music Studio and Century Charmer BnB) and focus on reinventing myself as a global citizen and full time artist. I was encouraged by the prospects that I saw on the horizon. I craved more freedom: to pursue my interests; to spend significant time with Craig (the man in my life from Chicago); and prioritize my relationship with my parents, Stratford residents, Jeanne and Gus.
Increasingly over the last five years, I have lived my version of workaholism. Running a busy music studio and an airbnb out of my home, writing and touring one person theatre shows and trying to perform my own music when I could find an opportunity. Whenever I foresaw a large expense coming at the house, I found work in restaurants as kitchen help or waitstaff. I don’t begrudge the years I have worked non-stop, it just wasn’t sustainable. I turned 50 with a tray in my hand, I doubted I would have the stamina (or opportunity) to do so at 60. And my house, lovely as it was, seemed never a place of calm and relaxation. There was constant traffic, in and out, and I was working all hours to maintain and support the place.
Sadly, I had not made much of my life socially over those years either. To be fair I hadn’t had the time. After my husband and I separated I, took every chance to chase motherhood. I was 46, with two miscarriages in my recent past, and knew it was now or never. Cue the parade of doctors, fertility specialists and councillors, a devastating near miss with an egg donor, an embryo clinic, and finally defeat. A private drama that only a few I shared it with could handle, or step up as friends for. The two years that followed were absolutely brutal. A self loathing I could not have imagined. Sure, I had been ashamed of myself before but had never HATED myself. Now I was ablaze with the kind of self-anger that was a wildfire, cruel and dangerous. I bought wine by the box to choke and drown it.
I always saw my future children in the faces of the ones I taught. In fact, I had only chosen to harness myself to a public education career in Toronto because I wanted to be a mother. Teaching was the perfect companion profession to my ambitions of motherhood and the creation of a family home. The career wasn't an easy choice, there were daily compromises I made to retain that employment. Each compromise and concession made with my unborn children in mind. After the hard limit of confirmed childlessness came down like a hammer, I became increasingly uncomfortable and depressed in my work. It was all of the sudden painful to have a career in support of the family culture. In fact, I realized, I didn’t want it anymore, at all. I wanted out of teaching. I no longer wanted to be the version of myself that was palatable to mothers of six-year-olds. I wanted a life squarely planted in the adult world.
So, as 2019 began I started working to wrap up my Stratford identity with an end-of-June target. I would put my house up for sale the last week of June and go from there.
I was on target for my June date until early April.
On the 16th, my ninety-year-old father, Gus, had a heart attack in the early hours of the morning and within hours had an angioplasty where a stent was inserted into the offending artery, saving his life. Then, in May, I had a runaway bacterial infection which created an abscess that required surgery to remove, and then another surgery four days later to get what remained of it. I dragged myself through May and most of June, postponing my projected sale date until late July.
Then, in early July, my father came down with an aggressive case of pneumonia that lasted a month. I was back and forth to doctors and hospital emergency rooms and to my parents’ apartment to help where I could. I pushed the date again - late August now, and tried to get what needed to be done, done. Throughout all this my Mom’s Rheumatoid Arthritis is getting worse and worse. My Dad develops a complicated edema, and my mother’s edema spikes. My father’s pre-heart attack weight of 145 dives to 127. I’m running hard and throwing myself at the final cleaning, repair and staging of the house.
My house finally goes on the market in mid-October and sells (thankfully) in 6 days.
I immediately put my parents each on a new diet regimen. Dad a high protein, Mom an anti-inflammation diet. He starts to gain, she to lose.
The sale of my house is set to close on Dec. 2nd - but the bacterial infection reoccurs in the last days of November and I’m back in emergency for a surgical procedure to remove it. I have to push the closing date to Dec. 10 (with the cooperation of my flexible and gracious buyers). Unfortunately, I end up with an adverse reaction to the antibiotics I am prescribed. I run on empty working long days to the end of the week of the sale to tidy the place up for its new owners. Just days before the sale closes, I develop swelling in many of my joints, which my doctor believes may be the beginning of arthritis flares.
That was 2019. And what a LONG year it has been....
Thankfully, there was some good stuff in there too.
There were friendships and family relationships that deepened, and love ruled at every turn.
Celebrated Dad’s 90th and Mom’s 82nd birthdays knowing how lucky I am that they are here physically and still such dependable friends.
Drove to Ohio to celebrate Craig’s mother’s 80th birthday, and later a New York State wedding of Craig’s friends on the way back stopping to marvel at the incredible Niagara Falls and take some time in Lake Erie, at Port Burwell. Went on weekend trips to Rockport, Maine and London, England with Craig and had backyard gatherings, including my 52nd birthday, with a new fire-pit and a myriad of friends, that rivalled cottage memories of the past.
Hosted Craig’s sister and mother in for Craig’s birthday, Stratford Style with delicious food at Revival House and two musicals at the Stratford Festival.
I had the most wonderful final year in my music studio. Despite challenges to my health, I was still able to deliver the 2018/19 studio year as I had in years past. We had great fun at the annual Hallowe’en Party, Christmas Recital, amazing showings at Stratford Star and The Kiwanis Festival (with students participating at the Provincial level) and finally a moving double recital in June with reception between the concerts where I served my homemade cookies and loaves to my Stratford students and families for the last time. Then, as an encore, three of my students gave terrific performances at The Stratford Blues-fest.
On May 3rd, just a week before my illness sent me to the hospital, I took the stage at Revival House in Stratford performing Lara Loves Leonard, Lennon, and Lightfoot, with a crack band. An incredible experience that surpassed my expectations and was an unqualified success.
In the last months of this year, I have been confirmed as a MainStage performer in Fringe Theatre Festivals in Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver for the 2020 summer season. I'm now planning a two-month Western-Canadian tour of my show, Grade 8. I can't wait.
Now that the house is sold I am officially beginning my creative sabbatical. I have rented a warehouse studio space in Stratford, as I plan to be there more than I had originally thought to help look after any needs my parents have.
I want to focus on my writing, music and art. I intend to learn so much. And to collaborate with others when I can.
I am looking forward to where the road will take me.
I begin here.