Last night, my husband and my eldest son went to Centennial Park to ride the go-carts one last time.
These go-carts, once a cherished part of my children’s memories, will soon be no more. The City of Toronto has plans to demolish this part of the park. No doubt, something new will be installed there, and perhaps it will be something we enjoy even more than the go-carts, but right now, it just feels very sad. It’s the end of an era. Like so many things in my life of late, the go-carts will soon be part of my past.
There was a large crowd of people there, my husband said. Everyone wanted to ride the go-carts one last time before they shut them down. While they were there, my son shared his first memories of the place, riding in the passenger seat with his too-large helmet on, my husband at the wheel, driving for the both of them. I was surprised and pleased that he remembered this. My husband was too. And joy was mixed up with the sadness.
I suppose that’s the way life always is. We never experience just one emotion at a time, but a mix of all of them at once. It part of what makes life so heartbreakingly beautiful – that we can see the beauty mixed in with the sadness, and the laughter mixed in with the pain.
The most important thing, as I’ve been realizing of late, is to recognize and feel all of it. The whole mixed bag. In the past, I think I’ve tried to protect myself from all the harder emotions – the sadness and the hurt and the anger and the jealousy. I’ve pushed them all away, thinking it would keep me more optimistic, that it would prevent me from falling into a depression. It never really worked.
Ironically, what seems to help is not running away, but actually leaning in to all those difficult emotions. And so, I’ve allowed myself to feel every nuance of the shock and bewilderment of my father-in-law’s recent, sudden death. I’ve been feeling into all the love and care that my mother showed me before she died, that in fact, she showed me throughout her entire life. Feelings that I’ve tried to hold at a distance from myself, to protect myself from hurt, I’m finally, unapologetically, allowing inside.
My life has recently encompassed a lot of endings. The go-carts in Centennial Park are just a small reminder of that. But when I reflect on things, it has been filled with a lot of tender, life-giving moments as well. Like when my husband told me how proud he was of my courage, or my brother-in-law showed empathy for my tears, or my kids helped out with chores without being asked.
Just before my father-in-law died, my youngest son visited him in the hospital. My son was trying to be cheerful, expressing optimism about my father-in-law’s condition, telling him that things could still get better. But my father-in-law would have none of it. I think he already knew the score. Instead of humouring my son, he said, bluntly, “Try not to be sad about my death. It’s OK. Just go and live your life!”
And so, that is what we shall do. Without avoiding the sadness of the ending, we will grasp hold of the memories that lift us and sustain us, and we shall move on towards a new beginning. The beginning of Rebecca’s Restful Yoga. The possibility of new adventures and new challenges. And perhaps, just perhaps, those go-carts at Centennial Park will be replaced with something even more beautiful and meaningful than what was there before. A place where even more memories can be made, both happy and sad.
About the Author: Rebecca Wong has a BA in English Literature from the University of Waterloo and has been working in the herbal business since 2000. She studied at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine under respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le, and graduated from the East West School of Planetary Herbology under Michael Tierra. She received training as a yoga teacher at The Branches in Kitchener/Waterloo, and therapeutic yoga teacher training from the School for Somatic Soulwork under Deniz Aydoslu. She now teaches yoga for anxiety, depression and burnout at Rebecca's Restful Yoga Studio in Toronto.