Another trip around the sun comes to a close

And so here we are again, at the end of another year, contemplating all that has transpired in the past 365 days, and imagining all that lies ahead in the next.

I’ve been off work since last Thursday, and it’s been absolutely wonderful to have a stretch of unplanned, and unstructured days. I have slept long and hard and rolled lazily into each morning.

To be honest, had I not scheduled time off from work, (which I only did because I recently realized that I had more PTO in my account than I was allowed to carry over,) the first couple of days would have been sick days anyway. My entire upper body was slammed by a cold virus the day after Christmas. I spent most of Thursday and Friday laying on the couch, coughing, sniffling, aching and drifting in and out of sleep. By Saturday, it wasn’t so hard to resist the daily urge to make and tackle a to-do list. And as miserable as the cold has been, I’m not even all that upset about it. It has given me a much-needed chance to unwind and to free my brain from the tangles of worry and stress that so easily take up residence there lately.

For at least the past year, I seem to be on some sort of self-inflicted race with no chance of ever gaining ground. And particularly for the past three months, since I started my new position at work, my thoughts are frequently held hostage by my job. I don’t know what it is all of a sudden, this belief that I’m falling short and sure to fail, but it’s not like me. True, I’ve always had a lack of self-confidence in varying degrees but in recent years and until just a few months ago, its been only what I’d call a healthy level of insecurity. Just enough to keep me from getting an inflated ego. 🙂

I’m sure this all-encompassing frantic feeling is due to a combination of the events of this past year. There have been some big changes and big struggles, and I’ve let it all take me hostage. There have been times I’ve stepped back, looked at myself on the whole, and wondered where the real me has gone. I’ve felt like a tightly wound spring, hopelessly fighting the inevitable snap. And too often, the only thing I’ve felt is a sense of sheer weariness. Too many days and too many events have only been boxes to be checked so that I can move on to the next required thing. I realize that I’ve often not been living in the moment, but going through the motions of each thing while my brain focuses on what lies ahead, never fully existing in or appreciating any single thing. And that’s just not who or what I want to be.

The past few days have been a reprieve, a chance to untie all the knots inside me, and appropriately, an opportunity to contemplate where I’ve been and how I want to move forward in the coming year. I realize, not for the first time in my life, that falling into the trap I’ve been in is so easy if I’m not paying attention. I tell myself I’m making the right sacrifices, being the best wife, family member, friend, or coworker only if I take care of everyone else first. And only when I’m ready to break do I remember that I can’t be the best anything for anyone if I don’t carve out some time to take care of myself as well.

IMG_7401[724]Too often lately, I do all the things that I think just have to be done, and then collapse, exhausted on the couch for maybe an hour of t.v. before bed, during which I most often fall asleep anyway. The past few days, I’ve remembered how much I love to read, how much I love to write, to do something … anything creative. And I’ve realized how much I have let those things go this past year. I do like to work. I thrive on routine. I’m happy when I manage to keep a clean house, cook a good meal, and take care of those around me. And I love the sense of accomplishment I feel as a result. But I’ve done those things lately at the expense of myself. I need to remember to recharge, refuel, and rejuvenate now and then.

My goals for the coming year include reading more books, writing more words here, more singing along to the music, more silliness and laughter, more dancing in the kitchen … and maybe a belief that the dust cloth doesn’t have to be used every single week. 🙂

I’m grateful for the lessons learned in 2018. May they make me stronger, wiser and more compassionate in the coming year.

Reflections on the year 2018

This year has just about finished itself up. All year long, I’ve heard myself fretting at how quickly time is passing by. Then again, this certainly isn’t the first year I can remember feeling this way. Memories and experiences continue to stack up. The number of lessons learned grows. Pick a cliché. Time marches on. Or … Life passes in the blink of an eye. Or … Time flies when you’re having fun. Or … You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. 2018 has been a mixture of them all.

When the future me looks back across the timeline of my life, this year will likely stand out as one of the more challenging ones. My mom’s passing in February had a profound and difficult impact. And as I write these words, it occurs to me that almost everything I’ve written in the past couple of years ties back to death and grief. It feels like there’s been too much loss in my life over the past four years. It’s a sobering reminder that the years ahead of me are certainly fewer than the number behind me. And I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever write anything again that doesn’t point to the fragility of life. But then again, death is a fact of life, more so the higher one’s age climbs, and I’d worry if it didn’t significantly alter my thought patterns and behaviors. So I think I’m pretty comfortable that overall, I’m travelling in the generally right direction on the path of life, even if I’m not always on the quickest, smoothest route.

Anyway, years down the road when I look back on this one, I think it’s going shine. That’s not to say that I wasn’t deeply saddened at losing my mom. Many days since have been harder than others, and the sadness is surely something I’ll feel in varying degrees for years to come. There’s a certain darkness to knowing that every day going forward will be absent the presence of both of my parents as well as many family members that had come before me. And even though from a very early age, I understood the comings and goings of people from this life, it took until recently to really grasp the hole each loss leaves in the heart. Still, it was this particular year, and this particular loss that really opened my eyes to so much.

The passing of time and the decline of our parents’ health, like it does for so many others, caused a huge divide in my family. Prior to Mom’s passing, I thought the reasons and the potential cure were so obvious. The person I was then thought that it was all very black and white. The person I used to be was ready to simply walk away once Mom was no longer here to bind us together. I will always regret that it took losing her for me to realize how wrong I was. If I could turn back time, I would work harder to pull it together while she was still here. There will always be an ache in my heart when I remember that her last Christmas was divided because her children couldn’t rise above their differences.

But I hope that from where they are now, our parents can see how our family has healed since then. For me, this is the single most significant occurrence of the past year. My siblings and I have forgiven each other and remembered how to love one another. There’s no need to dwell on why things were the way they were before. No need to judge. I have come to accept that it simply was what it was. I thought I had it all figured out, but it was something different for each of us. For me, it was the development of a deep and mutually loving bond with my mother, something I had not felt during the early years of my life. To have the chance to find it near the end of her life was the best gift I could ever receive.

My relationships with my siblings are healing, and growing stronger, and it pains me that I once thought I might toss some of them to the wayside. Sure, we can still get on each other’s nerves now and then. But I’ve learned to stop taking everything so personally. This Christmas, in spite of the absence that was so obvious to us all, was infinitely more than I could have hoped for. It was full of love and laughter, and many tears were shed both from sadness and from joy. We’ll all go forward from here, facing whatever life throws our way … and we’ll do it together.