July 1st used to be a day of celebration for me. More often than not, it was the very first day of my summer off as a teacher. After ten months of work much harder than I ever bargained for, it was that first moment to relax and recharge. It was filled with the excitement and possibility of what the coming weeks could hold. Some years there were vacation plans, or boxes piling up as I prepared to move to a new home. July 1st was a great day.
As a proud Canadian, July 1st was also a chance to celebrate my country. I loved making plans with friends to take in whatever Canada Day festivities might be going on - concerts in the park, BBQs, fireworks. It was a day filled with everything summer should be.
Two years ago this day took on a very different meaning for me. July 1st, 2019 was the day that my dear Ben was taken from this earth. A dark shadow covers this day as I remember him and think of the pain his family and friends have experienced since he died. This year is especially significant, as I spent the last year making music to honour him. He has been on my mind every day. Now that the songs are out in the world, I hear myself telling the story, sharing Ben with others.
It is the first day of my official summer off as a teacher. That has not changed. But this year the relief of the school year ending is intensified. This school year was like no other. Teaching has never been easy, but this year teachers carried burdens much heavier than a typical year. We navigated crippling restrictions, head-spinning changes, unreasonable expectations. Personally, I spent the last ten months pushing a cart into fourteen different classrooms to teach, exposing myself to every single person in the building, trying to run a music program in an elementary school with a longer list of things I was not allowed to do than what I was allowed to do. I have never been teacher tired quite like this.
Today I have no energy for celebrations. Even as Covid restrictions ease and we are allowed to gather and be together in a way we have not for many months. Today I choose to stay home, alone with my thoughts and memories and tears. I might sit at my piano and let the music soothe my heart. I might sleep. I might do nothing. I am just holding space...for my own grief and exhaustion. For the grief of so many in this country right now.
It is still "Canada Day". Today is the anniversary of Canadian Confederation. While I love this land and consider myself fortunate to have been born here and live my life here, I recognize that this day is not a happy occasion for all. There is a dark history in this place that has been ignored by the majority for far too long. As more and more children are found in unmarked graves all over the country, I pray that steps would be taken by all of us to accept this shameful truth of what our country was founded upon and to move toward actual reconciliation. It is not enough to say "it's in the past" or "I didn't do this personally" and shrug it off. We must recognize the legacy of racism and work together to dismantle it. White Canadians like myself must take a hard look in the mirror and shine a light on the prejudice living in our own hearts, as well as the way our privilege allows us to turn away and stay silent. We must honour the voices of survivors and let them speak. We must be willing to hear the hard things.
So my heart is heavy today. And that is ok. I know that it is healthy and good for me to take time and make space for these hard things. I am choosing kindness and compassion for myself. I am looking at my messy house and my dirty dishes and saying "it's ok". I have no plans. My to-do list will wait. I have lots of plans and hopes for the summer. But not today.