Cheryl's Blog

A new version of the year of firsts

“You’re entering the year of firsts,” my friend Ileen explained as we talked on the phone the week after my dad passed. The first Thanksgiving. The first Christmas. The first birthday – both yours and his.

As I navigated the holidays after my dad died, I’d soon discover there were other types of firsts. The first time I’d publish a new book without him being alive to read it. Or when I reached for my manicure kit and realized I’d never get to care for his nails the way I used to during our visits.

One week after I completed the year of firsts for my dad, we lost another soulmate, Poupon, a rescue cat who lived with us for more than ten years. With this loss, a new year of firsts began.

This time would be different. The firsts were everywhere and they were relentless. The first time I’d make a cup of tea without him meowing for almond milk. The first bath without him sitting on the windowsill next to the tub. Or the first time we’d come home without his nose pressed against the front door, plotting his escape.

Is this our life now, I said to Michael one night as we talked about how painful the loss of Poupon was turning out to be. “I suspect it is,” he replied, “we’re entering that time of life, after all.”

That time of life. Midlife. The stage beyond the kids and the hustle and the perpetual pursuit of success.

It’s true that dealing with loss is a part of midlife, but this last year has taught me something else: You can choose to temper the pain of loss with the joy of aliveness.


As I become an experienced griever, I find my thirst for living has increased. Life is uncertain and I want to do more things that make me feel fully alive. Not necessarily big things like jumping out of an airplane (something I have no interest in doing), or climbing Mt. Everest (way too cold). But new things that feel challenging or just plain fun.

This morning, I realize I’m creating a new version of the year of firsts.

Like last night. Michael and I had dinner with two friends who have an air hockey table in their basement. Now I haven’t played air hockey in years, but when I saw the table I thought, why not do something different? Within minutes of slashing the puck around, Michael and I were yelling and laughing like two competitive teenagers.

Unfortunately, he won.

At my book launch I was invited to join a local group of women who have a book club to talk about Waking Up in Winter. I said yes – something I’ve not done before. Last night I tried an inversion machine and loved hanging upside down. How’s that for turning things around?

The decision to learn salsa, join a Crossfit gym, take singing lessons for the fun of it, or get involved in business ventures that excite me, are all new firsts inspired by the old and the inevitable losses that come with age.

My dad would be happy. Of that I’m sure. It’s a beautiful way to honor the loved ones we’ve lost. By living. Really living.

~*~ To learn more about my midlife journey, check out my newest book (a memoir in journal form) called: Waking Up in Winter: In Search of What Really Matters at Midlife. You can learn more about it, here.



P.S. – This week’s Facebook Live Session will be held on Tuesday, January 23rd at 6pm EST/3pm PST. You can join me on my Facebook Page here. And you can watch previous sessions on my YouTube channel at CherylRichardsonTV here.

P.S.S. – Please check out my schedule page for events and book talks in Portland, ME, Phoenix, AZ, Newburyport, MA and more, here.

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