It’s not Red Deer, it’s you.

I don’t know how long it takes to master a life skill. I’m still learning.

I’m learning how to shift my emotions by understanding my thoughts that create these emotions and in doing so, I’m changing my outcomes. I acknowledge those thoughts and this enables me to reshape them in a more self-serving and positive direction, which simply feels better. This realization was a big wow for me. One such awakening that punctuates this learning was provided courtesy of the great city of Red Deer.

In the early days after Jon’s death, I made many trips to Red Deer to deal with Jon’s affairs. It is the ‘business of death.’ This business is a forced normalcy that contradicts the surreality of one’s new existence. I had many decisions to make, while running on emotional confusion. I didn’t necessarily have the experience either, so the newness of this ‘job’ was tiring both intellectually and emotionally.

Coincidentally, that winter was colder and snowier than the average. We drove through many storms, going back and forth to Red Deer. The roads were often icy and challenging. It seemed as though nothing was easy after Jon died.

Fast forward a few years. David and I were driving to Edmonton. As we approached Red Deer, we both remarked that we still experience feelings of anxiety around that place. To be blunt, I hated Red Deer.

As David and I talked, I knew it didn’t feel right but, it was out there. A negative stream of what felt like justified disdain for what is, in the bigger sense, a lovely city. But who could blame us for hating that place, right?

Later on a thought hit me. It lambasted me actually. “It’s not Red Deer. It’s me.” You see, I blamed that place for Jon’s death and the subsequent ‘business’ of it. I felt it was Red Deer’s fault. It was this terrible place where really good people are killed. Good grief! It was me, projecting my emotions, and I would relive those awful feelings every time I thought about Red Deer.

Life is a mirror and when we start to see ourselves in the mirror, we find personal growth, which translates into more happiness, more awareness, and more appreciation. Once I got past the idea / shock that I was the problem, not Red Deer, I quietly let go of the self-imposed anxiety, the ill will, and the subsequent ‘stuckness.’

So Red Deer, not only do I owe you an apology, I thank you. It’s not you, it’s me.

Illustration by Byron Eggenschwiler