Grief in Stages

During the earlier half of this past week, I realized I had been really struggling emotionally for a while. And it wasn’t just because the January skies have been so gray and the air so cold, or the fact that daylight takes so long to arrive and darkness falls again so quickly this time of year. I couldn’t seem to shake that same old, same old feeling. And worse, I was constantly battling off feelings of anger and resentment, and not doing a very good job, I might add. As someone who feels she’s made great strides over the past few years to keep a positive mindset, it was almost scary to realize how deeply dark I was feeling inside. I wasn’t liking myself very much, and I was certain others were seeing a side of me I’d prefer they didn’t, though my closest friends kindly assured me that wasn’t so.

Logically, I know the reasons behind my feelings. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my mom. And that in itself is not the problem. I’m not complaining about the amount of time we spend together. In fact, I supremely enjoy it. Since my dad passed away seven weeks ago, my relationship with Mom has deepened and evolved in beautiful ways. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But I’m fully aware that there’s not a great amount of balance in this area of my life.

I often find myself dropping everything for Mom’s needs, even when I know she would understand if I said, “Yes, I can do this but not until I take care of that.”  She would be perfectly willing to compromise if I said, “I can’t do it today, but how about tomorrow?” She’s not demanding or selfish. She’s aware that her needs are greater since Dad has been gone, but she doesn’t expect me to be at her beck and call. I guess I’m doing what I do because most of the time I know that if Mom has a need and I don’t take care of it, no one else might. But I might also admit that deep down, I get a great sense of satisfaction in being the person on whom Mom can really depend.

So it’s really just me creating my own problems.

To be fair, my sister is in this with me. But she still has kids at home, with busy lives and activities, and the problems that accompany that stage of life. It’s harder for her to be there for Mom than it is for me, the person with an empty nest. It’s my two brothers with whom I’m so frustrated. After Dad passed away, I thought things would change. There was a lot of love and togetherness in the days following Dad’s death. But in the past few weeks, we’ve gone back to the old normal. My brothers’ lives are apparently just too busy for them to commit to seeing or helping Mom on any regular kind of basis, or even call regularly. I don’t expect them to be able to be there as often as I am able. But it bothers me that Mom sits all alone in her house all day long, with little company but the dog, and my brothers can’t seem to carve out a bit of time for her. Worse is that she openly admitted that she doesn’t hear from or see them as often as she’d like. She told me she misses them, and it hurts to hear her admit that she feels neglected by some of her kids.

Mom can manage hanging around the house on her own, but her health prevents her from getting out without assistance most of the time. She doesn’t have the stamina to do regular cleaning, grocery shopping or any real cooking. Someone has to do those things for her. My sister and I are doing a juggling act in managing the upkeep, as well as making sure Mom has a decent meal every night of the week. I’m grateful for my niece who goes almost every Tuesday to make dinner and eat with Mom. Still, I’m at Mom’s or having her over to my house a minimum of four days a week. Meanwhile, my to-do list continues to grow and be neglected.

I’m trying desperately to remember my resolve not to be so unforgiving, and to know that not everyone sees this situation in the same light. I keep reminding myself that I can’t hold everyone else to my standards, and that I don’t truly know what it’s like to walk in my brothers’ shoes. I guess it’s just that once in awhile, when Mom needs someone, it would be nice if I thought I could lean on someone else to step in. Oh, I can ask. But experience tells me that such a request is likely to be met with a sort of disdainful disbelief that I would even ask. The sense is that their lives are just so much more overwhelming than mine.

And to top it all off, the most disconcerting thing happened when I woke up one morning last week feeling angry at my dad. Who gets angry at a dead person? Well, apparently it’s a very common and normal stage of the grieving process, but that doesn’t make it any easier to admit I was having those feelings.

I think it stemmed from the fact that my parents were scheduled to move into an assisted living facility in December. The move was planned because after Dad broke his hip last year, his health and care needs upon returning home were greater than Mom or the rest of us could accommodate without professional help. My dad was adamantly opposed to the move, insisting he and Mom could manage fine on their own, even though it was obvious to the rest of us that he was fooling himself. And when he passed away one day prior to moving day, everyone sort of joked about how Dad had made sure he didn’t have to go to that damn apartment.

Mom immediately decided she just couldn’t make the move in the aftermath of Dad’s death. She wanted to stay in their town house. She said she only wanted to move in the first place because she needed to be where she could have help caring for Dad’s needs. In the midst of my fresh and raw grief, I agreed that this was the right decision for Mom. But as we’ve settled into our new normal, I find myself wishing she’d had a chance to move before Dad passed away. If things were different, she’d have had the opportunity to get settled and familiar, and make new friends before Dad left us. And these cold, dark days might not be so lonely if she were in a community where she could be with others her age, with daily social activities, and where three square meals a day are guaranteed when one of us couldn’t be with her.

I guess I was blaming Dad for taking away those opportunities that might have made all of this a bit easier.

I spent a day carrying around that confusing anger at my dad. I was angry even though I knew that my feelings had to do with Dad’s human nature, and that since he passed away, I believe he’s shed all of the ugly facets so common to our humanity.

The next morning, when I couldn’t take being down any longer, I had a good cry and asked God what I was supposed to do with all of this darkness. I soon realized that’s all I needed to do. I needed to give it up. It wasn’t something for which there was a black and white answer, and it wasn’t in my power to fix it.

It’s amazing how quickly my heart and mind settled after that. Nothing externally had changed, but I was reminded to just take each day as it comes, to stop worrying about tomorrow, and the next day and next month. I remembered to stop obsessing about what others were doing, or not doing, or what I assumed they were thinking or not thinking.

It occurred to me how long religion and spirituality were such a question mark in my life. And I realized what a gift it has been that my desire to have a greater understanding of God has resulted in a serious deepening of my faith in the past few years. This is what is carrying me through right now.

FullSizeRender

A day after letting go, I was invited to go out for happy hour after work with a bunch of coworkers. It just so happened that this particular day left me free of responsibilities to Mom. My sister had it covered. But I left home that morning thinking I’d pass on going out after work. I had a lot of things to do, and though happy hour might be more fun, I really needed to catch my breath at home.

When I shared these thoughts with my closest coworkers, the ones who know my life inside and out, I was sternly and playfully informed, “Not acceptable. You need this and you’re going with us.”

That’s all it took. I was in and haven’t regretted it for a minute. I got to spend some down-time with good friends and coworkers. We laughed and had really great, deep conversations. There was no worry or resentment hovering around me and I remembered how good it is to lean on those around me sometimes to create a better balance.

And it helps to have done a little research on the stages of grief. It seems I’m experiencing a mix of several of them all at once, but knowing it’s all normal and part of the process, and that I’m growing in positive ways as a result makes it easier to keep moving forward.

Advertisements

Pals

For the past few years, I’ve felt the pull to volunteer in some capacity. But I just haven’t found the right fit. And quite honestly, every time I think about making a serious commitment to some cause, I end up questioning where I think I’ll find the time between working, taking care of my mom and managing the household.

And then one day, my employer announced an opportunity that would allow me to contribute in a small way and do so on company time. Two birds. One stone. I was in like Flynn.

It’s a pen-pal program and we exchange letters with kids at a local elementary school. We’ll write to each other throughout the school year, and the program culminates this spring when we’ll get to meet in person at the pen-pal picnic! Our corporate office piloted the program last year and it was such a success, the opportunity was opened to all of our offices around the country this year. As soon as I volunteered, I anxiously waited to find out who my pal would be.

As it turns out, there weren’t enough volunteers at my office’s location. While volunteers at the other offices were already getting to know their pen-pals, it took an extra couple of weeks to figure things out for us. We finally learned that everyone who volunteered was assigned two kids. Easy enough. These are young students, probably with short attention spans. We’re asked to write a couple of simple paragraphs to each child, once every other week. We were instructed to print all of our letters as kids today aren’t learning cursive! That was so hard to imagine for those of us who spent our grade school years learning to perfectly form our letters between the precisely defined lines of school-issued writing paper.

Each volunteer shares one notebook with both of their kids. The notebooks travel back and forth each week between the office and the school.IMG_3918a The adults writers kicked things off. I began writing to Darius and Theo knowing nothing but their first names and that they were probably in the third grade. I wrote an initial single letter to both boys, telling them a bit about myself, my family and my dog. I asked simple questions about their ages and families, as well as school and other interests.

IMG_3919What fun it was to receive the boys’ responses! I was amazed at how their personalities began to shine through right from the start. Darius told me he was nine years old, and I could see he was a bit reserved. He mainly answered the questions I’d asked in my first letter. But he also let me know that he loves to watch Star Wars Rebels. I have no idea what that is, but I am determined to become familiar in the interest of solidifying our friendship and drawing him out of his shell as we get to know each other. Darius also wanted to know Lucy’s age.

 

IMG_3920Theo, who is ten, was more open in his letter to me. And while it was immediately obvious that he’s not yet a big fan of punctuation, I was happy to find that we shared a connection as dog lovers. I learned that Theo’s dog, Hades is still a puppy and likes to eat “squrils.” I actually thought he was trying to tell me that eating the squirrel gave Hades the sh*ts, but I quickly realized I’d just misread his little boy writing. Thankfully, while Hades may have had the sh*ts, Theo only wanted to share that his dog had received shots. And he’s all better now.

 

On my second turn with the notebook, I wrote separate letters to each of the boys. We’re not allowed to send anything that could be construed as a gift, but photos, postcards, and things such as stickers are allowed. I decorated their pages with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and Transformers stickers. I answered their questions, telling them a bit more about Lucy, and asked for more details about their families and pets. In their first letters, each had shared that they have a number of brothers and sisters. This time, I asked more questions about their siblings… how old they were, and whether they shared bedrooms, and if they got along well, or sometimes fought, as my kids did while growing up.

The boys’ responses were cute, both including little doodles around the margins. Theo framed his response in penciled, criss-cross formed stars. And with their replies, I was reminded of another detail that was given when I’d first attended the  pen pal program’s informational session. It’s part of the reason we have a healthy snack drive going on for these same kids. Sixty percent of the children who attend our adopted school are from families living at or below the poverty line. As I read their letters, my mind made the leap to single-parent and broken-family situations. My heart broke a little when both boys answered my questions about their siblings. Darius’ note was both funny  – when he told me about his cats, named Bug, Mush and Eva, and slightly sad when he answered my questions about his siblings. He told me that he does fight sometimes with one brother, “Nate, as I call him,” but that he hasn’t seen his other brothers in a long time. “And I miss them.” 

IMG_3921

Theo told me that he doesn’t live with his three brothers and sister, “but I see them sometimes.” He included an illustration of a time when he was with one brother. His brother is obviously older, and slightly bossy. Theo described how he was sitting on the couch and his brother told him, “Come on.” It was time to go to bed. Theo asked, “Why?” Apparently, the instruction given by his brother “confuesed” Theo.

But Theo made me smile too when he talked more about his puppy. I had told Theo that Lucy is a mixed breed, but it seems there is a lot of Boxer in her. Theo told me that Hades is “a full piple.” (You know. PIP-le. Or, Pitt Bull, as I like to call them.) Like Lucy, Hades apparently can’t resist breaking all of his toys. Theo included a p.s. in his letter, telling me that Hades is currently sixty pounds, with the potential to reach a hundred and ten! (Very precise is this boy!)

IMG_3923

There’s already a soft-spot forming in my heart for these little guys, and I’m really hoping that our letters continue not only to encourage and improve their writing skills, but also to foster great friendships.

Adultness and Babyness

Contrary to the first full week of the year, this past one seemed interminable. The pace at work was intense, (albeit positive,) and outside of work, there was a constant list of things to be done and places to go. And it was cold outside. Really cold. But in keeping with my goal of exhibiting gratefulness rather than complaining, I am thankful that my family all has plenty of warm outerwear, reliable vehicles and a comfortable, safe home with a solidly working furnace.

We had a scary circumstance late in the week. I was driving my mom back home from a doctor appointment Thursday afternoon when Jack called and said he was taking his mom to the emergency room. Jack’s sister had stopped by their mom’s house on a whim before going to work that morning. When she arrived, she found her mother lying on the living room floor. She’d been there all night, unable to reach the phone or get herself up.  Being a widow, there was no one else in the house to come to my mother-in-law’s aid until her daughter came and found her there. My sister-in-law was not expected to stop by that day. But fortunately, something prompted her to do so before going to work. Jack called it “freaky.” I called it “divine intervention.”

The doctors’ initial theories were that Jack’s mom had suffered a mini stroke, or maybe a blood clot. Those things have now been ruled out, and she seems much improved from that first day, but we’re still waiting to hear what exactly is going on. Her children, of course, want to “get her out of the house”  as soon as humanly possible. And while she’s not one to openly argue, my mother-in-law hasn’t exactly expressed her willingness to make that change. Additionally, her doctors are suggesting she may have to spend some time in transitional care before going back to any sort of independent living. Both suggestions make me feel sad for my mother-in-law. I’m fortunate in that I have always had a great relationship with her. I adore her and want her to be happy and well. And I guess the similar experiences with my one of my own parents in the past few months are still so fresh in my mind and heart that the whole thing has me feeling a bit of trepidation about her situation. I’ve said a hundred times lately that it’s a road most of us will have to travel. It’s just so hard to see our parents in decline.

Anyway, she’s in good hands for the time being as she’s still in the hospital. And the little perk that came out of all of this is that my sister-in-law needed time this weekend to be with her mother, and so she needed someone to relieve her of her Saturday babysitting duties. I gladly volunteered to take the job for the day, and so got to spend my Saturday morning with the happiest baby I’ve ever known. Our niece brought him into the house early yesterday morning. She was carrying him in his little car seat, and to protect his delicate skin from the dangerous cold during the short walk from car to house, he was covered from head to toe in a blanket. Once inside the house, I took the baby carrier from my niece and pulled back the blanket. I was then greeted with an enormous ear-to-ear baby grin! Baby L and I spent the next several hours snuggling, googling at each other, reading stories and playing. When he took a nap for a couple of hours, I baked some banana bread while I waited for him to wake up again. All in all, a great way to unwind from the stress of a rather intense week!

p.s. As far as I can tell, this video is going to come across in gigantic fashion. You’ll have to forgive me for that. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how to reduce it!

“The” Cookies

Last weekend, I had a goal of making “the” cookies. My nephew had been asking for them since Thanksgiving, yet Christmas came and went without me finding a chance to bake. I didn’t want to let the boy down, and decided that I would not let the New Year’s weekend pass by without me delivering on my promise to make them. I decided that my Christmas cookies could just as easily be New Year cookies.

On Sunday morning, I went in search of the container of cookie cutters that’s tucked away on a high kitchen cupboard shelf. (They get used but once a year. No sense in taking up valuable and useful space with them!) Once I’d found the container, I rummaged through it. There are a lot of cookie cutters in there for someone who rarely uses them! Can’t help it. Some were inherited from elderly relatives who have passed on and I just can’t bring myself to part with them.

I pushed aside the cutters shaped like Santa Claus, the Christmas tree and stocking, and the star. Finally, I found what I was looking for … a snowflake!

Sunday was a quiet day at our house, so I spent the morning alone in the kitchen, radio on and singing along as I mixed up Jack’s grandmother’s famous recipe. I rolled out the dough and began cutting shapes and placing them on cookie sheets. Soon I had a rotation of pans going in and out of the oven as the doughy cutouts were baked into yummy cookies. Two batches later, I had stacks of cookies, and I was wishing Chesney was home to do her usual job of mixing and coloring the frosting. When she’s home at Christmastime, the cookie decorating is usually her job. I probably wasn’t as creative as my daughter would have been, but the end result wasn’t bad. And upon delivering a dozen of them to the boy, I was met with great happiness!

2016-01-03

Everyone seems to love these cookies. I may have to consider making some for Valentine’s Day!

Sugar Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Mix together the butter, sugar and egg. In a separate bowl, mix salt, flour and baking soda. Then combine all. Roll out, cut into shapes, and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 minutes or so.

Chesney’s Cookie Frosting

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

Melt butter. Combine and beat all ingredients until smooth. Mix in a few drops of the food coloring of your choice.

Just so you know, one batch of cookies is NOT going to be enough. I always make at least two. And we usually need several batches of frosting to cover all of our cookies. It takes some effort, but the end result is SO worth it!

Enjoy!

Cold but not complaining

The real Minnesota winter reportedly arrives tonight. We’ve been spoiled so far. There’s a small amount of snow on the ground, but for the most part, temperatures have been pretty bearable ever since summer ended. That all ends today and it’s all they’ve talked about on the news these past few days. Especially as this weather relates to a pretty important football game which takes place here tomorrow. In an outdoor stadium. Where the high might reach 4. I’m glad I’m not a football fan but there are plenty of die-hards who are braving the weather to support the Vikings this weekend!

20150110d2

The first post-holiday week of 2016 has gone by already. Can you believe that? I was worried it would seem interminable, considering I probably haven’t worked a full week since the beginning of December and having long weekend at home felt so nice the last two weeks. But it was a really great week. There is forward movement in my job and in my department, and it’s all very positive, team-oriented and exciting. More important than the inner workings and perks of my job though, I was reminded several times why I love not just what I do, but where I do it. And it has so much to do with the people who surround me.

I’ve been employed in this job long enough to have made some deep connections, and I thank God everyday for this. One of these connections is with C. On a professional level, she alternately either drives me crazy with the way her mind and priorities race from one thing to another, or feels like my closest ally. But no matter how annoyed I might sometimes feel, I admire her passion, drive and perseverance, and I often aspire to be more like her. In the past year, our common life circumstances drew us closer on a more personal level. C’s mom suffered and survived a massive stroke early last year and will never make a full recovery. You can imagine the repercussions.

Yesterday, I stopped in to C’s office to get some background on a particular project. After confirming the necessary details, I asked, “How’s your mom?”

C told me her mom was holding steady and that their holidays were enjoyable. She then shared that she came into the new year with a new perspective. Gratefulness. She said that all last year, she faced each day with an attitude of getting past certain circumstances  so that she could get back to a more comfortable and normal life. She told me that before the stroke, her mom was her best friend. C called her every day to talk about what was good, what was challenging, and what was ahead. After the stroke, those deep conversations with her mom were no longer possible. This was such a huge loss, and so devastating for C. But since then, she has developed a stronger relationship with her dad. It’s Dad with whom she talks every day. And they never hang up the phone without saying “I love you.”

I knew exactly what she meant. This stuff changes you. Now that my dad is gone, I can’t leave my mom without hugging her and telling her “I love you.” In recent years, that’s not been uncommon, but these days, our I love yous aren’t trite like they may have been in the past. Both the hugs and the words these days are deep and sincere. I often feel a tug on my heart at having to leave Mom’s side, even though I know I’ll probably see her again the next day.

C said that starting this year, she will try to embrace each day, not just try to get through it and on to something that feels easier. She said she has realized that such devastating circumstances have provided unexpected grace and blessings. She was crying by this time and telling me what a blessing I have been to her in the time we’ve shared such similar circumstances. What was meant to be a quick, professional visit to her office ended with tears and hugging. I said to her, “Don’t cry,” and she replied, “No, it’s okay. This is a good cry.”

She showed me a little journal that has become a part of her new goals. It’s a gratitude journal, and every day, she writes down three things for which she is grateful. She said she would be writing about me in her journal that evening.

I am inspired by C’s attitude of gratitude. For the past few years, I myself have worked towards recognizing and being more appreciative of all that is good in my life. But I have been inconsistent in actually documenting it. I like the idea and am going to try to do so on a more frequent … dare I say daily? …basis.

Well … I’ve got to start somewhere, sometime. Therefore …

  1. C – This one’s a little obvious, but I am grateful to have C in my world. Instead of feeling as if I’d hit the doldrums and dreariness typical of this time of year, she inspired me to rise above them and look forward to each day. She reminded me that even work doesn’t need to make us feel as if we’re going through the motions. There might be a gift inside each and every moment. But we have to look.
  2. Jack’s work schedule – While I’m often annoyed at how my husband’s job often keeps him away on nights and weekends, it allows me guilt-free time to be with my mom. This week, on a night I might otherwise have been eating frozen pizza alone at home, I instead cooked a walleye dinner and shared it with my mom. It was a nice change of pace.
  3. Heated seats – A genius invention. They make me feel spoiled, but I love the fact that even on the coldest day, I can get into my car and feel instant warmth!

Writer’s Cramp

The appeal of my self-proclaimed quiet New Year’s weekend is starting to wear off. I could use some fun! Hopefully that will happen before Monday comes around again and life goes back to the usual routine.

I went into this weekend with plans to catch up and catch my breath at home after a whirlwind past few weeks. Having Dad’s funeral on December 14th, and then Christmas less than two weeks later made life feel even more crazed than it usually already is during the holiday season. Add to that, frequently checking in on Mom’s well-being, and helping finalize all the little details and paperwork that follow a person’s death, and I needed some down time.

Besides, Jack had to work right through the holiday, so our lack of celebratory plans was less of a choice than a necessity in accommodating his work schedule. And anyway, I asked around and it seems most everyone we know was planning a quiet night at home. We weren’t missing out on anything. We must be reaching that age.

There were a lot of things I planned to accomplish this quiet weekend, including putting Christmas decorations away. I wasn’t really feeling Christmas-y when they were brought out. Mostly, the decorating was done out of a sense of obligation, since it was my turn to host the family Christmas Eve celebration. Maybe next December we’ll be able to decorate with a bit more enthusiasm.

Another weekend goal is yet to bake THE cookies. My fifteen year-old nephew has been asking since Thanksgiving if I would be baking the cookies. It took a bit to figure out he’d decided the sugar cookie cut-outs that I make at Christmas time were the cookies. These are made from Jack’s grandmother’s recipe. They have a lot of butter, and I have to admit, they are good! I add the extra touch of frosting them. Actually, Chesney usually does that part. And hence was born the cookie.

Unfortunately for my nephew, cookie baking fell off the priority list at Christmas time. But I thought I might still make some and surprise him with a batch this weekend. If I manage to accomplish any baking, I’ll skip the Santa and stocking cookie cutters and just use the snowflake one. We’ll call them New Year’s cookies!

The number-one priority though, was thank-you notes. With Christmas happening so soon after Dad’s funeral, the thank you notes for all of the donations and flowers given were still waiting to be written. There was an evening last week when I might have gotten started, and dang it if I didn’t fall asleep in a living room chair that night! (I’ll blame this sinus cold I’m currently fighting.)

I took responsibility for writing about forty notes to all of those connected to me who gave something in honor of Dad’s passing. This included Jack’s and my neighbors, friends, coworkers and my in-laws. The notes we ordered have a pre-printed message in them, but I thought it was appropriate to add a personal note as well. I spent all late-morning and afternoon yesterday writing those, and when I ran out of notes, I took myself over to Mom’s to get some more and finish up my list. Then I started in on the portion of notes that were Mom’s responsibility. There were a lot more. Dad, having been a deacon for twenty-one years, participating in marriage, baptismal and funeral celebrations, touched a lot of lives.

One of Mom’s many afflictions caused by her health conditions is circulatory problems in her digits. Mom’s fingers are often inflamed, infected and usually painful. She managed to write three notes before she had to call it quits. I took the rest. And can I just say that it’s been a long time since I’ve done so much writing the old-fashioned way? The callous has returned to the side of my right middle finger, the one that was always there during my school days. I have a bad habit of squeezing the pen really hard when I write.

I finished up about eleven o’clock last night, and except for a few stragglers which need addresses researched, the job is pretty much done!

2016-01-02

If Christmas gets put away, if cookies get baked, if the spare bedroom gets cleaned … that will be a bonus! At least those thank you notes are done, and just barely inside the timeframe that funeral etiquette says is appropriate.

It feels like life is taking a turn back towards normal again, and I’m grateful.

Welcoming 2016

I encountered a FaceB0ok post a few days ago in which the author figuratively flipped the bird at the year 2015. All of the comments were in support of this flipping. 2015 was assigned blame for illness, job loss, and a plethora of other struggles. All were looking for better stories in the coming 365 days. The collective sentiment was goodbye and good riddance to 2015.

I could sympathize with their bitterness. 2015 was no picnic for me either. When I look back over the past twelve months, the most prominent memories revolve around the care of my parents as their aging process began to take a really serious toll. I can’t say I wouldn’t change a thing. It was one of the hardest days of my life when my dad passed away three weeks ago.

2016-01-01But there is a feeling … something along the lines of gratefulness for the experiences in 2015, even the really difficult ones, that helped me grow as a person.  Just about a year and a half ago, I began to feel a personal shift. The path of my life had felt pretty stagnant for a long time, and this shift was so welcome. It involved a spiritual awakening, a feeling of strength to handle whatever life would throw our way. It brought an understanding that problems don’t exist to beat us down, but to make us stronger. I began to see that all of us here in this world are more alike than we are different. It brought acceptance and a sense of relief for the inner struggle I’d been battling for so long. Over the past year, this shift has continued to open my eyes exponentially to the reason we are all here, bumping into each other and doing this thing we call living. I have rarely, if ever, wished that I could go back to a certain time in my life and if this is what growing older is all about, I’ll continue to believe that forward is the only way to go.

My younger years always seemed to find me looking ahead in search of the day when there would finally be enough time, money, stuff and happiness. I was constantly on the lookout for the point when all problems would be resolved and life would be free and easy. But lately I have the sense that this is where “it” is at; right here, right now. And with that, I more quickly appreciate every experience for the opportunity it brings to grow as a person, to accept differences in others, to love more deeply, to be thankful for all that is good in my life.

2015 was a tough one. But it was also sprinkled with joy and fun and love. I guess I wouldn’t give it back if offered the chance. And I won’t lie. I hope 2016 goes a little easier on us. I won’t be making any of the typical kind of New Year’s resolutions. I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing. It seems to be working. Whatever lies ahead in the next year, I feel ready and capable of facing it. Bring it on!