Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Back

Around this time last year I was sitting in my living room, sick as a dog, writing about the significance of the season.  First there were the special dates and the ways I was unable to commemorate them.  Though illnesses and injuries often hindered my plans, I chose to focus on the meaning of the moments, celebrating in my heart when I couldn't go out.  Then there were the new year's resolutions that I resolved not to make.  I was on a journey of self-improvement (still am), but it didn't begin or end with the date on the calendar.  

Today, I sit in my living room (once again, sick as a dog), thinking about both of those posts, and the year that has passed since then.  It's only now that I see the irony:  in one post so focused on the meaning of specific dates, and then specifically refusing to be defined by the date in the next.  I suppose the reality is that it all depends on us ... and on whether we choose to give meaning to a particular day.

There are so many opportunities (or excuses, depending on how you look at it) to reflect on time past: birthdays, anniversaries, new years (school year, fiscal year, Chinese or Jewish new years, etc.) ... or really just any time we're feeling particularly nostalgic.  So maybe it's because today marks the end of 2011, or maybe it's ... just because.  Whatever the reason, I find myself reflecting upon the past year ... so of course, I'm sharing those thoughts with you.

Aristotle once said "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."  When I think about the past year, that certainly applies, but not really for the greater good.  Adding trial to tragedy, stress to sickness, and girth to grief, this past year has been the most difficult I've ever known.  This was the year I wanted to run away from my life, to disappear ... to crawl back into my cocoon.

But I'm still here.  And despite all the sadness, there were a few really great things that happened this year, too.  
  • I got a new job working for an amazing organization.  Nearly every day something at work shows me what a difference we make in people's lives - helping them live, helping them grieve, and helping them take action.  There is no greater satisfaction than being able to make that connection.
  • Through the new job, I've met so many truly wonderful people who have left a permanent mark on my heart.  Some have touched me with their stories, others with their support ... I am grateful for the relationships we've formed, and continue to be inspired by them. 
  • Through the magic of technology, I've been able to stay in touch (or get back in touch) with some great people who might otherwise be lost to time, distance, and hectic schedules.  
  • Every time I've fallen (and I've fallen a lot this year), I've gotten back up again ... eventually.
  • Every time I've fallen, there have been caring and supportive people there to help me get back up again.
  • I have learned what is truly important in my life: that includes distinguishing what is not worth fighting over from what is worth fighting for.
  • I learned how to forgive.  This is a big one for me.  In the past, I have always tried to let things go.  While that may sound like the same thing, it's really very different.  Letting go, for me, was living in denial.  I didn't want to hold on to hurt, anger, or negative feelings, so I convinced myself they didn't exist.  But that wasn't real, and only left me open to get hurt again.  This year, I learned to acknowledge the hurt, and to say "it's not ok."  Only after that was I able to take the deliberate action of forgiving whoever I felt had wronged me (which often included myself). 

So ... while I definitely wouldn't say that this was a good year, and certainly not one I'd want to repeat, there is strength that comes from having gone through it.  I'm not sure if the buttahfly has emerged yet or if I'm still in the cocoon.  Either way, the point is, I'm working on it.  More accurately, I'm working on me.  Physically, emotionally, personally ... there's still so much going on that I don't know where to start ... but I'm starting anyway.  

So whether it's New Year's Eve as I write this, or any other day that you may read it, let us reflect on the past with a fresh eye - looking not at the hurts and sorrows, but at the healing that has come from it. Let us focus not on the loss but on the memories that remain and the loved ones still around to comfort us.  And no matter what day it is, I wish us all a tomorrow filled with love, peace, and most of all ... hope.

** If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If you don't ... well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!