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April 8, 2022

Time to stop and reflect!

I have finally had time to think, cooped up in my big house with six sofas. For the last 30 years, I have been travelling all over this vast country, setting up beautiful big breakfast tables from coast to coast. I pretty much needed to be prescribed time-off in order to calm my hormones. The pandemic and its long confinement have finally done that.

At first, like everyone else, I raged against this terrible calamity that no one had seen coming. I mourned the early death of far too many elderly people. Masked from ear to ear, I feared for my own life, for those of my children and grandchildren. I prayed for our loved ones, our franchisees, our employees, our customers and for the entire planet. Every morning I walked a few kilometres in nature to calm my mind and clung to the unfailing wisdom of the trees.

During this compulsory isolation, I had all the time in the world to reflect on my life, my foolishness, my excesses and my stubbornness to succeed at all costs. As if my life depended on it, as if the number of restaurants was the only yardstick I could measure myself by. And then the dreaded virus arrived, upsetting our habits, our beliefs and my firm conviction to live to a hundred. I still want to, but with a little more detachment, like I feel when I send out a wish to see the sun tomorrow.

It’s a fact: I am no longer at the helm of anything important. And I am surviving, happy to still be alive, with faith in the future. Wishing to keep in touch with our valued customers, I started writing a letter every week at the beginning of the pandemic, and I am now approaching my 150th letter. I have reconnected with my former passion! Writing, I confess, has been the most effective therapy. It has cleared my head of a heavy past. My best and worst memories are now lost in a jumble of paragraphs, most of them swallowed up by oblivion.

I used to get so upset about not being able to accomplish everything I wanted to. Sometimes hope abandoned me completely, but I stayed upright, holding tight to the wing of a crow or, even better, a wolf’s paw. Today I am much stronger. I have lost feathers, but I have won the battle. Hardships scarred my life, but these inflicted marks were also the blueprint for my success. I understand this now, and I am taking the time to appreciate my resilience, count my blessings and scatter most of my small hardened sorrows in the forest. It’s true, I hardly hear my heart bellow anymore.

Lying on the red couch in the living room or on the kiwi green one in the solarium, I’ve had plenty of time to revisit my past, my achievements, my trials and tribulations, and I’ve concluded that it was all necessary. Inaction has forced me to recognize and acknowledge inner strengths that have helped me succeed: creativity, audacity, perseverance and courage. Confinement for me was a long emotional convalescence that yielded a new vital energy. The sense of suffering has fled and my appetite for life could devour a volcano. I’ve learned to reflect, to own my strength and fragility. I’ve learned to see clearly and look beyond the tip of my nose.

Having had very little to overwhelm me, I’ve been much calmer, less enterprising, deeper and more in tune with nature and my real needs. Disappointing friendships have dried up and dizzying magpies have left my vicinity. I have also made peace with the two bullies, Retirement and Old Age (letter published on March 13), and instead of running away from them, I have accepted to be part of their club. At almost 75, it’s not a moment too soon!

As normal life returns, the joy and pleasure of socializing resurface. A good lunch at a restaurant, a children's party, a visit to a bookstore, coffee with friends…the music is soon playing in our heads once again. It seems these days a crown of possibilities encircles my head. My first road trip will certainly be to my native Gaspé once again to breathe the sea air, eat fresh fish and capture stunning landscapes with my mind’s eye or the click of a camera. Don’t you also have the impression that you’ve come back to life, lighter, more curious and even more in love with the world? I will also be returning to my honorary role as founder, eager to visit our indomitable franchisees across Canada. And, at the beginning of the summer, I will have the great pleasure of presenting to you a little masterpiece produced by the company’s creative team: an all-new breakfast menu.