I’ve noticed over the past few days that lots of my friends on Facebook have been posting their “Year in Review” which consists of a series of photos that appeared on their FB wall, randomly selected to encapsulate their activities over the year. In the past, Facebook would similarly offer up a compilation of your written posts to take a snapshot of what your year was like. Looking at the images certainly evokes a sense of nostalgia, especially if they’re of close friends and you can remember the events where the photos were taken and partake in the reminiscence of the shared memories. Frankly, I think about my year a little bit differently. The photographs certainly remind me of the happy times with all the smiles and laughter that make me feel joyful but I also have to take a close look at the struggles of my year to gain an understanding of what I have learned and how I have grown. It is imperative to acknowledge and respect the challenges that I have confronted in order to ensure that the learning is etched in my brain and that I can grow and improve in the coming year.
I am currently sitting in my melancholy room – my first floor guest room with its dim lighting and tranquility that always centers me and is my favorite place to write. I came in here tonight because I was banished from the living room and surrounding rooms because my son has a bunch of friends over for a sleepover. My husband escaped to our bedroom upstairs with the dogs and I decided I would move to the guest room to lay down and perhaps read for a while. The moment I stepped into the room, however, I immediately felt nostalgic and thoughtful. It was so distracting that it rendered me incapable of concentrating on reading. I became overwhelmed with emotions and was compelled to try to capture the feelings in a meaningful way. Curiously, this room has taken on an energy of its own for me. It’s like sitting at the beach and smelling the salt and hearing the waves crash to the shore. You can feel the sun baking on your skin and all the tension leaves your body nearly instantly. It is almost impossible to feel tense at the ocean because of the calming and restorative powers of the sea. The intense feelings that pour over me when I step into this room are inescapable. I need not contemplate nor ruminate because the moment I open the door and move inside, I am flooded with warmth and calm and creativity takes over. I don’t exactly know what it is about this room but I have my suspicions as to its magical qualities.
Tonight, when I sat down in here, I decided to text my friend to share some of what I was feeling. I knew that a little texting was not going to cut it for me as I had a lot in my head and it was more than I could expect a friend to guide me through. When I settled down with my thoughts, the first thing that came to mind for me was change. Change is such a constant. In my job, when we work with our corporate clients, we always teach employees to be prepared for change because it is the one thing that is, ironically, absolutely predictable. Change is always going to happen. As long as you are open and willing to engage with the change, you’ll ultimately be fine. For me, change is certainly familiar. I am constantly renewing. Despite my inner desire for predictability and consistency, I have a very primal need for change. I get bored. I need to grow and learn. I need to have new experiences while constantly battling my resistance to trying new things. I want fresh faces, fresh ideas, yet I rely upon my old standards, the friends who know me for years and years and can help me reassemble my history when it all comes apart in my head. At the end of every year, I rarely feel sad for the ending and typically feel energized by the renewal and the anticipation of what another new year can bring. I am hopeful – eternally hopeful – of a better, more prosperous, more satisfying annum.
So, over the last few days when I was looking at everyone’s photos and smiling at some as I recalled the happy memories, I realized that photos could not encapsulate my year. They only told one small part of the story. My year was highlighted by things you can never capture in a photograph. They were small moments – some quiet and some quite loud – that catalyzed me to change, to advance, to propel forward. Some of the moments were tear-filled because I was sad or in pain. Some were tear-filled because my heart was so full it hurt. Some moments were solitary when I searched deep into my soul to find answers to questions that plagued me for a lifetime and still sat unanswered, patiently tapping its feet waiting for me to solve the riddle. For me, my year was one that brought continued awareness of who I am, where I am going and what is most important in my life. I suppose this blog is the best snapshot of my year but, of course, I only shared parts of it. There were still so many moments in between the photos and in between the posts that pushed me from day to day, urging me to shift into the next form that my life needed me to take.
I fell in love this year. I fell in love with my husband all over again. I remembered that I have a partner who, through the darkest of days, stands beside me and provides me with unconditional love. He makes me feel safe and secure even when there is no safety and no security when the wolf is threatening to huff and puff and blow our non-brick house down. He envelopes me and ensures that I am loved.
I also fell in love with myself this year. I found a part of me that either had gone missing or I had overlooked for a very long time. I was able to do that arm-in-arm with some very intimate and special friends who supported me and showed me what I am capable of. Not many words passed our lips but the power of friendship – really strong and significant friendship – propelled me to discover parts of me that I simply never felt safe enough to explore.
I revisited trust this year. As the year comes to a close, this idea continues to wash through my mind. A long, long time ago I stopped trusting. Probably it happened when I was very little and realized that I could not count on anyone to take care of me. I learned then to be tough and strong to make sure that I could survive. I didn’t believe anyone would protect me and I learned how to build a shield, a strong armor to protect myself from anyone trying to break down the fort that I had built. No one was going to penetrate my castle. I built a deep moat with a small bridge that only a carefully chosen set of individuals could cross. Rarely did I let anyone even approach the bridge but this year, not only did I let down the bridge more frequently, I actually gave a select few the passcode to lower it themselves. No picture can describe the power of that. No image can articulate the vulnerability I opened myself up to. And nothing can express the joy and relief that comes from moving out from the shadows and showing myself in full technicolor.
My mother passed this year and, I suspect, with her went floods of pain. Many locked doors began to swing open, asking to be entered and explored. It has been painful and powerful and complicated and sad. It has relocated me mentally and brought me to a new level of being, a new place of understanding. I feel things I have not felt for many years because I was so locked away, working tirelessly to protect myself from old demons and monsters that had long ago lost their fright. But, until my mother’s soul left the earth, I could not be freed from decades of pain and struggle. I am sad to not have been loved in the way a child should be but I am grateful to have developed a sense of enlightenment that, perhaps, would never have been afforded me without the struggle, without my particular journey. And, now, I have a clear lens to see what I need to see in order to do what I am meant to do in the world. My mother had her moments and I loved her so much as a young child but she suffered a lifetime of mental illness. While I try to forgive her for all the pain she caused, I still strive to understand the depths of the damage and am continually amazed by the unexpected eruptions.
Nearly 10 months ago, my very astute friend asked me some questions that catapulted me into a search deep within myself that I knew would lead me down a very windy, very narrow, very treacherous road. And, as this year comes to a close, I know for certain what I only suspected back then was true – this year’s journey was intentional, despite the pain, despite the problems, and its outcomes abundant. As I sit in my melancholy room, allowing all of my senses to take over, I can only smile a little internal smile knowing that all of the wonderment and all of the magic of my year can be captured only in my mind. I cannot post it on facebook nor can I even articulate it using my mad writing skills. It is preserved inside me, providing me with a bounty to catapult me into the next year, hopeful that even more of my unique riches and rewards will be forthcoming.
And, for that, I am quietly and overwhelmingly grateful.