I had a rough start to 2016. In fact, it is fair to say that 2016 was a very difficult year, for the most part. But it hasn’t all been bad, and the end of the year has been markedly better than the rest of it.
2016 started with some hope, as I really thought that my marriage could still be fixed. That wasn’t to be. I found out that my wife wasn’t interested in fixing it anymore when she told me that she had started dating someone else. Until that point, I had no idea that we weren’t still planning on fixing things. Finding that out was, as Douglas Adams might say, similar to the effect of drinking a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster – it was like having my head smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick.
Humour aside, it devastated me. I’d been a separated parent before and it was something I never wanted to go through again, and I think the problems in the marriage and communication with my wife had me dreading that outcome and that led to the extreme stress that, in turn, led to my severe anxiety and depression. I still loved my wife, immensely, and would have done anything to fix things. I always thought that one day something would click and we would be able to get back to the couple we were at the start – the happy, loving couple I knew we could be. She was the love of my life, and hearing that she had decided that our marriage was no longer worth the effort was like having my heart ripped out of my chest.
With the end of the marriage came the stress of court and lawyers, and my inability to afford legal representation. It brought the disagreements about custody and “visitation” (I hate that word – I am not having my kids “visit” me. My home is their home just as much as their mother’s is). The stress of everything didn’t lead to a breakdown as it had the year before, but it led to several illnesses, including Shingles, which provided me with the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life.
To top that off, I was suddenly also without my own vehicle and having to borrow one to be able to pick up the kids. Living in the suburbs where transit is, quite simply, not good enough to allow you to do everything you need to do, the loss of a vehicle is just another added stress. Add to that the fact that my children’s mother lives in a different suburb of Toronto and it means that just picking up the kids can be problematic unless you can always borrow a car, which I couldn’t.
Then, in October, I was laid off from my job. Without a proper income and daycare and other costs mounting up, the stress just continued to grow. (Employment Insurance is not substantial, and certainly not enough for a parent paying for even half of daycare). Job searching is stressful at any time of your life, and I already felt that I had enough stress.
But, despite all that, 2016 was still able to be turned around. I was cast in a musical, something I had stayed away from for three and a half years. At the beginning of the year, I had decided that I would be auditioning for a show, but when I was not cast in that show, I decided to audition for “Anything Goes”. I ended up with an ensemble role, which was probably exactly the right role for me after all this time. I worked with a cast who were mostly unknown to me and, with the fact that my anxiety still seemed to be heightened around the people I had known and not seen for so long, this ended up being what I needed. I performed in a fun and funny show with great people and just enjoy myself. It was almost like a re-introduction to the theatre. A sort of re-birth, if you will.
Then, my family and friends showed me how lucky I really am. They turned the end of 2016 into a time to be celebrated. First, my best friend’s wife gave me a free ticket to fly to California to visit them. I had never been to California before, but, most importantly, I hadn’t seen my friend for a long time. Marc has always been someone who has been able to help me de-stress at important times. He was with me when I attended court for custody proceedings for my eldest daughter, and I knew that seeing him and spending time with him would help me relax before a custody settlement conference that was scheduled for shortly after I returned to Toronto. The warm weather was amazing, the views were incredible, and there is a definite energy you encounter as you tour places like Hollywood. The absolute best part of the trip, however, was the time spent just chatting with Marc over breakfast, or while watching TV on a lazy Sunday. Tanya’s generosity will never be forgotten.
Another friend had helped me out after finding out that I had been laid off. He took my resume and made sure it got into the right hands at the company he works at, and it wasn’t long before the ball started rolling. I had made it through the initial phone interviews and was scheduled to have an in-person interview the day after returning to Toronto from California. It was perfect timing, as I was relaxed and happy and confident after my vacation. It wasn’t long after that interview that I received an offer to start with the company in the new year. A layer of stress cracked and slid off me.
Still, Christmas was not looking very “Christmas-sy”. Without a job, I was left shopping for Christmas gifts at Value Village, and still unable to afford much more than the smallest of things. Rent was a stretch and my daughter’s income wasn’t enough to make things much easier. My family stepped up to help me by doing some shopping for me, enabling me to afford to give my two little ones a memorable Christmas.
I had friends offer to help out as well, which reminded me of the many good people in the world. Five friends went so far as to shock and stun me with an incredibly gracious and generous gift that allowed me to relax just a little bit more. Too often, we are embarrassed to admit we need help, but there is no shame in it when events have conspired against you, and there is no shame in speaking up.
Suddenly, 2016 had been turned around – in just one fabulous, memorable month – and 2017 was undoubtedly about to start off in a very positive fashion. One month turned a year full of stress and sadness, devastation and struggle, into a year of hope. 2017 is due to be a year of new beginnings and it’s all because I have wonderful friends and family. I am one very lucky man.