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I chose early on not to mark the anniversary of my brother’s death. I instead wanted to have my private little ritual on a day celebrating his life: his birthday on April 8. It’s a ritual that involves cake and not much else.

I’m not big on ritual. I am big on cake.

I want to remember how lucky I was to have him in my life more than how hard it was to lose the person who knew me longest and understood me best. But I guess it’s time to admit that in my efforts to not mark the anniversary of his death, I have accidentally created a ritual around not marking it.

The impending dread seeps into my subconscious weeks before I realize it’s coming up, and the eventual connection between feelings and calendar makes me want to look purposefully, positively at the future. I want to make myself dwell on the opportunity to shape my life instead of on difficult memories. So today marks three years of post-Steve me, and the third anniversary of me posting about my not-a-bucket list.

The list exists only in my head and is subject to change on a whim. This new habit of regular re-examination helped me realize that what was important to me when I bought my last condo – a Vancouver address, a second bedroom – was no longer important to me. And what is important – a connection to nature, a room with a view, a sense of community – could be a couple of painful real estate transactions away. Now I’m happily exploring my new home of Port Moody and sampling the trails, arts classes, theatre, kayaking and ice cream in the neighbourhood.

I thought it would be harder to give up Vancouver, but living in a smaller community has been a good way to focus and spur myself to get more involved in finding activities to join and places to explore. Living so close to the trails around Burrard Inlet gives me that instant connection to nature I crave, and living in Suter Brook Village gives me that instant access to urban life to escape from nature. Living across the street from a great grocery store has been a good way to be motivated to bring lunch to work regularly (let’s not talk about the Cobbs Bread, Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt and liquor store next to it). Living in a building with access to a well-appointed gym is a good way to avoid the gym … but to have good intentions of making it more of a habit. Oh and I really like my condo too.

When I wanted to paint the new place, I didn’t have faith in my ability to pick shades that wouldn’t look like a colour-blind monkey helped me, so I got a colour consultation from a paint company. I knew I wanted blue for the long unbroken wall in the living room, but what shade? What neutral would complement it? I showed the interior designer the 539 blue paint samples I’d collected, a blue rug, and a painting with blues in it. I told her I wanted the bedroom to be a green that would complement the blue. She wandered off to do her colour whispering with her swatch book and came back with the pronouncement: “I tried to find a way to bring a blue into the colour scheme but it wouldn’t work.”

She also advised me not to paint the bedroom green but to leave it white so it wouldn’t look smaller. But … it’s tiny. The condo sells itself as loft-style, so the bedroom is a small room carved off from the one giant room of the living room/kitchen. The bedroom couldn’t possibly look smaller because of paint. It could only look smaller if it entered a black hole.

The illusion of spaciousness wasn’t my goal. My goal was a shade of green to complement the frigging blue I asked her to help me select. My goal was to feel cozy in my bedroom, to feel good in my home, to feel it was mine, to feel the colours reflect my taste.

And of course there was only one way to do that. I took the sheet she gave me with the colours she’d selected – lovely shades of grey and greenish-white – and threw them out. I promptly selected my own blue and green, and I love the new paint job.

It’s my home. My life. And the lesson of death is that life is short. So I’ll keep trying to be more the person I want to be, and less the person who cares if others think I’m a colour-blind monkey.