My final quarter century!
On this morning of May 27, 2021 (my birthday), with the sun shining down with blinding brilliance and the winds stirring the world, I begin my last quarter century and my 70th letter.
Who would have thought that I would live so long? I have survived all my forefathers, grandparents and parents. And here I am, still as sturdy as an oak, strong as an ox, with a head full of things to say. Living through the pandemic lockdown has given me plenty of time to realize that I am FINALLY enjoying my new life as a retiree, with a passion for writing, reading and experimenting in my spacious kitchen. I am no longer overwhelmed with work like I once was or worried about the future; even wounds from past misfortunes have healed.
My heart is fine. I eat well, I sleep well and I walk a few kilometers almost daily. I admire nature, I talk to the birds and I ask the tall trees for advice. I don't have a pet yet, but I am thinking of adopting one that would fit my lifestyle. I’m hesitating between a cat and a dog. I read a lot, I watch classics on DVD and I do wonderful puzzles of 500 or 1,000 pieces. Every evening I give my brain a workout by completing a few Sudoku squares. When my head finally hits the pillow, I savour the poetry of the great masters. Often I wake up at dawn with my glasses on my nose and the book of poetry resting on my heart. I like coffee and I probably drink too much of it for a woman of my age, even though I’m in sound health and vaccinated, with an optimistic attitude and far-sighted mind.
I have noticed lately that my memory seems to be getting younger instead of poorer. I’ve always imagined memory as a vast warehouse where all one’s memories are organized on shelves or in boxes by subject, person or a particular circumstance. And if I want to remember an event, I just have to send the order to the warehouse where a dozen little workers scurry to retrieve the answer. Before I took to writing these weekly letters, I had started to complain about how slow the warehouse crew was. Whereas now I’d describe them as a bunch of lively youngsters.
I dream about something and voilà! I remember more, more often. I try to recall a past event and boom! It’s brought to me on a platter. It seems that by writing almost every day, my ability to reminisce seems to be getting younger instead of older.
This pleases me because I really want to live to 100. You see, I simply love life. I am curious about the future and I want to witness a new era. Yes, yes, I am sure that once this nasty virus has been beaten, our daily lives will look completely different. In fact, the word “daily” may become obsolete. I suspect that there will be a clear break between the pre-pandemic world, what we simply call "life," and the yet nameless post-pandemic version.
History shows us that humanity as a whole is stronger than any plague. Nobody remembers the Black Death in the Middle Ages that decimated the global population, with some 35 million deaths; yellow fever remained a menace for three centuries in a row; cholera appeared in India in 1826 and then spread to Europe; the Spanish flu eventually ravaged the entire world; the scourge of AIDS, and so many others.
And yet, the planet’s heart continued to beat. And it still does today. We belong to this heart brimming with hope. I feel called, and I want to take part in our world’s brave recovery. For I am almost certain that there will be a planetary revival; a certain resurgence in our minds, in our hearts and in our ways of living. All of us who were spared will witness this metamorphosis. We survivors have an incredible opportunity: with our arms, our voices and our resourcefulness, each one of us can rebuild a future.
Twenty-five years go by so fast, dear reader. Just like in the old days when I boarded the 6 a.m. flight from Montreal to Toronto. I barely had time to drink two cups of coffee while leafing through the Toronto Star and paff! The plane was already unloading at the city’s centre. A few meetings, a business lunch, three franchise visits and up! The 6 p.m. flight would whisk us back to the office in no time.
That was my good life before. I loved it, because every night it allowed me to check off the word “ACCOMPLISHED” in my agenda. I was piling up these accomplishments – signed contracts, positive results columns and articles about us in newspapers. My work occupied my whole life. My head was always tackling a dozen objectives simultaneously that were both challenging and agonizing. And my poor heart relished the success. I could have lived an entire life like that.
When people urged me to take a two-week vacation, a week’s rest or a few days off to enjoy myself, I’d snap back every time:
- “Leave me alone!”
- “You’ll take me out of this office in a box, period.”
I was as stubborn as a mule back then. My business, my big yellow Sun, my crackerjack team and the world to conquer – that’s what got me out of bed every morning. At sunrise, an insatiable tiger in my belly roared with hunger.
It took a long time for me to be able to trade in my expensive businesswoman suits for various colourful clothing. It was my heart and my young son’s love that saved me. For him, I would have stolen the stars from the sky if he had asked me. What he wanted, however, was simply my job as President. At that point, I woke up from a long sleep. The child had grown up and was now approaching 40. He had worked for the company since the beginning, in every position, without keeping track of his hours. The man was ready, and I stepped aside. My inner tiger wanted to slay me. It took a very long time for him to finally leave. I spent so many nights with my eyes wide open with sadness and nowhere to run, with my own name plastered over 100 restaurant fronts across the country.
I had to go as far as China to dry up the ocean of tears that threatened to drown me. Walking along the country roads and in the villages, I saw misery and kindness in equal parts. People thought I was so tall and healthy that it made me smile for the first time. Then a few days later, in an open-air market, I saw an old woman pouring a white mixture on a very hot metal plate. A pancake appeared as quickly as my second smile. And, as if by magic, my entire cooking career was reborn in my mind; the young President had insisted that I continue to oversee and approve the food served in restaurants as well as the company’s marketing. I was no longer going to run the company, but I could still continue to do some things that I really enjoyed. All was not lost. During the 28 days I spent in China, my heart opened its wings again, and I was able to cut the iron cable that tethered me to the management of the Company. We are never really safe from calamity; it is therefore essential to learn how to rebuild.
Whether it’s a broken heart, the sudden death of a loved one, the loss of a job or some other misfortune, the task of rebuilding is often proportional to the suffering. Let’s embrace the planet’s resilient heart, human happiness and kindness, so together, we can not only beat this virus, but begin to create a better way of life.