This morning I thought I would be clever and use the Leap Day as a metaphor for a post about moving forward in our lives. Somehow, I thought I was the only one who would have such a remarkable idea and, before I could even formulate the opening words in my head, I stumbled across a plethora of posts using the same concept. My favorite, without a doubt, belongs to an old friend (and great blogger) who summed up perfectly, in my mind, how to embrace this extra day of the year.
I am not about to let my lack of originality hold me back because I still believe there are important messages to be shared today. I mean, how can we not recognize something that comes around only once every 4 years? What I love about Leap Year is that this extra day is intended to help the universe catch up. It is the extra day that allows us to balance out the calendar and ensure that we do not get too far ahead of ourselves. I am also choosing to use Leap Year as a course correction day for myself and honoring it as such. Like most of us, my life has its highs and lows and I try to be conscious of when I am experiencing each. I try to appreciate the highs and ride them like beautiful and strong white caps and I try to ease into the lows, nurturing and comforting myself as the tide pulls back and I am sitting quietly on the sand. My goal, always, is to keep some type of balance and appreciate that with every high there will be a low and vice versa.
I heard someone say recently that reflection is one of the most powerful tools of change. If we can allow ourselves to spend some time in healthy reflection, holding the mirror close enough to see things clearly but not too close that we lose perspective, we can ensure ongoing learning, change, and growth. I am choosing this bonus day – as my friend has referred to it – to reflect and, hopefully leap forward.
We are already 60 days into 2012 and it feels as if the year just began. I am still getting adjusted to writing 2012 on checks and I can almost still smell the pine needles from the Christmas tree. Yet, at the same time, these 60 days have propelled me forward and provided a sense of peace and calm that I had not expected. During this short 60 day timespan, my mother passed away. It is a very matter-of-fact statement because, sadly, there was no heartbreak in the loss itself. My mother and I had been estranged for many years due to a lifetime of conflict and abuse. When I made a decision so many years ago to separate myself from her in order to begin my healing process, I began a journey of mourning for the mother I never had rather than the loss of a loving mother. Several weeks ago when I learned of my mother’s death, I reached deep within my soul to search for pain and loss that simply did not exist. I challenged myself. I judged myself because I did not understand – despite having processed these feelings for so many years – how I could be so calm and unemotional about what would otherwise be a tragic loss. There were and continue to be no clear answers because of the complexities that surround my relationship with my mother. Regardless, I needed to conduct the exercise to test my feelings and endure whatever came my way.
I try to look at every situation in my life as a learning opportunity. I cannot always appreciate when I am in the midst of a crisis or in pain but, usually, upon reflection, I am able to capture aspects of the situation that have pushed me forward in my journey. While I certainly can be accused of over-analyzing stuff in my life, I am confident that my analysis generally leads to knowledge and growth. In the weeks leading up to my mother’s death, I feared that I was not being truthful with myself about my feelings and that I would be unpredictably emotional when she finally died. I explored and processed these fears, continually challenging my thinking and ultimately realizing that I had to trust myself and that only time would reveal my true feelings because there was simply no way to rehearse such an event. Despite the overall sadness about the loss of a life and the additional sadness about a life wasted courtesy of mental illness and severe narcissism, I was uplifted by my own fortitude and the fact that I actually had clarity about my feelings. For the first time – perhaps ever – I had complete confidence in my ability to know myself and trust myself. That was an extraordinary outcome and a silver lining to an otherwise unpleasant and tragic occurrence.
Since there was no mourning period after my mother’s death and because it was difficult to share with others this complicated passing, I decided to take some solitary time to reflect and gain strength. While I would never have chosen to have the mother I did or the relationship I did, I accept that this was my destiny in this lifetime and, if I did not learn and grow from it, it would be a wasted opportunity. I have often said that I would actually not change anything in my life because it has helped me to be the person I am. It is the same philosophy I use when thinking about my husband. I love him deeply but anytime we are facing hard times and I question or doubt our relationship, I think about my children and recognize that, without him, they would not be who they are and I would not want to choose another option. This is the life I am meant to have, those are the children I am meant to have so I need to accept everything that goes along with that.
Today, as I reflect on the last 60 days and try to leap forward, I must focus on what will catapult me ahead. It is the people who share the journey that propel me. Some I have chosen and some have chosen me. Family has a different meaning to me than most and I find love and comfort in those around me who can appreciate my unconventional circumstances. I enjoy the process of understanding how people come into your life and exploring why some are such perfect fits and others are jammed in because you want to squeeze them in. And, of course, there are others that simply take up space that you could really use to free up. As I often do, I want to honor those who are along for the ride. Despite the fact that I might have always been a motherless daughter, I am not alone in the world and I am grateful to those who give me the strength and courage to grow and test my limits. I only hope I am and continue to successfully pay it forward.