Taking a Breath

Last year was the best year of my life.  It was also the worst.

A lot of amazing things happened.  The launch of my debut record made me the most nominated female artist at the Canadian Country Music Awards, taking me through a whirlwind of media interviews, video shoots, a two-month cross-Canada radio tour, and sharing a series of concerts with some of the biggest acts in country music.  In the meantime, I was a songwriter on 12 radio singles on the airwaves over the last 12 months and was holding down a full time job in Nashville as a staff songwriter for Sony Publishing, which required me to co-write with other artists 5 days a week when I wasn’t on the road.

It was all very surreal and exciting, and I’m truly grateful for every moment of it!

But last year was also the year that my Mom got sick.  It was 5 months that I cried a river of tears on countless long distance phone calls with my family, trying to make decisions about her health when she wasn’t fit to make them herself.  It was a few stolen hours between video shoots and radio interviews to visit her in the hospital and wrap my arms around her.  It was the moment that I got the phone call that took my breath away on the day that, when she felt she no longer had any control over her life, she took her death into her own hands. It was the terrible hours I spent in numb shock before boarding a flight to Canada that afternoon, packing the clothes I would wear to her funeral along with six weeks’ worth of concert and TV clothes for the cross-Canada tour I was about to embark on. It was walking onto an arena stage a few nights later without a clue how I was going to keep myself from breaking down.  It was writing her eulogy on a flight homebound from Vancouver after headlining a concert for charity and sharing the stage with terminal cancer patients the night before.

Last year was everything, turned up to a thousand.  I was filled with joy and broken to pieces at the same time.  I did a lot of smiling when I wanted to cry, and I did a lot of holding it together when all I wanted to do was fall apart.  And by Christmas I felt like I couldn’t possibly do that for a moment longer.

So for the past month, I’ve been taking a breath.  This workaholic girl forced herself to stop running, stop writing songs, and just sit still.  I’ve cooked a lot.  I’ve read books.  I’ve cried.  I’ve listened to music. I’ve taken my dog for walks.  I’ve written in my journal.  I’ve remembered who I am and the real reasons why I do what I do.  My heart feels a little more healed and my creative well feels a little more replenished.  And now I think I’m ready to step back out into the world again.

My birthday is coming up on Monday and a brand new year is stretching out in front of me.  I guess the biggest lessons I’ve learned from the past year are these:  No matter how things may appear on the outside, we are all human and fallible on the inside.  Life is short, and it can shower us in spotlights or cover us in scars, but what really matters is that we walk through it authentically…that we love with all our hearts, meet each day with grace and gratitude, and have faith that everything – no matter how wonderful or terrible it seems – happens for a reason.

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