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  • Writer's picturePaula Ciampini MacDonald

The Spark

This week has been a time of reflection, gratitude and sharing as October 12th was not only Canadian Thanksgiving, it was also my first wedding anniversary. As such, I thought it would be very fitting to share our beautiful journey together. I am not certain I can properly express how much my husband, Blair, means to me and how he has changed the trajectory of my life but I sure want to try. So here it goes…..


For years now Blair has encouraged me to share my story...our story, and now I am finally ready to do so. I was inspired by a blog I read early on in our relationship, “The Man That Came After” by Michelle Baumgard (give it a read, it is so worth it). Every word she wrote resonated with me. It was as if she hijacked my innermost thoughts and deepest feelings. I must have read it 10 times in a row. Then I sobbed in the shower (that was my spot for years so the kids wouldn’t hear me crying). Michelle’s story made me realize I was allowed to be happy and fall in love again. It was in that moment that I gave myself permission to let go of everyone else’s expectations and judgements of me. The second act of my life was taking stage. It was exhilarating and terrifying all at once. I did however have to remind myself of this lesson over and over during the last 4 years of my life. I was shocked to learn not everyone in my life was happy for my new found happiness. I was deeply hurt and hugely disappointed by this, I felt completely defeated. My Yoda (a.k.a our family therapist) wouldn’t hear of it as she spent months helping to build me up so she quickly put an end to my wallowing. She told me if I started listening to the “background noise” Blair and I would never survive. She was quite clear, those creating the noise & those believing the gossip could no longer be in my tribe. I knew enough to know that grief was at the root of the noise so I listened to my wise Yoda and agreed to rise above it. It was not an easy thing to do, but I did it for my kids, I did it for Blair and most importantly I did it for myself. I then chose to focus my energy and appreciation on the army of supporters who embraced and encouraged us.


J.S. Park wrote, “ Real love doesn’t meet you at your best. It meets you in your mess.” and boy oh boy did that apply to Blair and I. Our family lives both exploded around the same time and though our journeys were very different we began bonding over our shared loss. His from divorce and mine from death. We mourned the loss of our marriages, our family units and basically the futures we had individually planned. We had many deep conversations that would last into the wee hours of the morning. Many bottles of bourbon and scotch were consumed. Nothing was off limits, we exposed our pain and our insecurities. Blair was this extremely calming presence for me, he became my escape, my safe place and then ultimately, MY PERSON. With Blair, I was just Paula, not a mom, not a widow, not “poor her”, not “wow she is so strong”, I was just me. I loved who I was with Blair, he made me feel interesting, funny, carefree and beautiful. We connected so quickly and on so many levels. We had intellectual chemistry, sexual chemistry and emotional chemistry. All of them together created the most intense feelings I have ever felt. The spark between us was undeniable and unstoppable. And then I got scared….


I never imagined falling in love again. I mean, I figured I would want to have a partner at some point later in life but it seemed so unimaginable. My focus was to raise happy, healthy and “normal” children despite the grave loss in their lives. Creating the best life for my kids was my new mission, a life that would make their Dad proud of them and me. I had a 5 year plan for us and none of it had to do with meeting someone new. But John Lennon said it best, “Life happens when you are busy making other plans”. Blair happened. I was so happy, my kids were happy, Blair and his kids were happy….happy, happy, happy. Then all of sudden I was consumed with fear and it was like all that happiness melted into a heap of uncertainty. I started questioning myself, questioning Blair and our relationship as a whole. I found myself sitting on Yoda’s sofa explaining all the reasons I needed to pull away from Blair. His divorce was high conflict and dragging on. The idea of blending our households, our kids and our entire lives was overwhelming and my list went on. When my rant was over, Yoda smiled at me and simply asked, “have your feelings for Blair changed during all of this?” Puzzled, I immediately said “no.” Then she asked what was really going on. I explained things were just too hard, too complicated. I wanted “easy” in my life, I wanted calm and I wanted peace. She politely told me she wasn’t buying it and I was full of shit. Full stop. Yoda proceeded to tell me I was scared, scared that my happy new life would blow up in my face and, ultimately, I was scared of Blair dying on me too. She was right, that realization took my breath away and I cried like a baby. I will never forget that “drop the mic” moment we shared. I guess that's why they say grief is the price you pay for love. The idea of losing Blair was the true source of my fear. Once I admitted the existence of this fear, this emotional shrapnel of loss, I was able to release it and give my whole self to Blair.


In our first year of marriage, we have experienced so much joy and we have encountered challenges but life has never been so beautiful as it has been this past year with Blair by my side. I am grateful for every step we have taken together even for the times we have stumbled. The most important lesson I have learned on this journey is to choose happiness above all else. I chose Blair, I chose our life, I chose happiness……….


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