I think most people I know are sharing the same sentiment today – “Where did this year go?” How, possibly, could it be the last day of 2014? It is remarkable how quickly the year slips by once we say goodbye to summer. It is like the first half of the year marches along at regular speed and then, the moment the kids return to school and the temperatures begins to drop, the calendar pages turn at a more rapid clip and the days begin to dwindle down. And then it is December 31.
As with most years, I am not making resolutions. Instead, I am reflecting and learning and continuing to set intentions for my life. This year is noticeably different for me because I am saying goodbye to the year without regrets, without disdain for the burdens that challenged me along the way and without any signs of dismay. I am pleasantly looking back and optimistically looking forward. It is ironic because this year presented many more dramatic challenges than any year prior and I had to confront some of my most perilous demons. And I did this with grace and wisdom. Calmly and wisely. I recognized that, at this point in my life, nothing will really break me and everything is simply another speed bump that will only injure me if I drive too fast. If I slow down and focus on the bump, ensuring that I am careful and measured, I will move over it and continue on my way without damage.
This was the year that my children evolved into fully formed people. My older son turned 14, towered over me significantly and gave me a sign that, perhaps, we did something right. Our relationship became more three-dimensional and no longer simply focused on me parenting him but shifted to him beginning to teach me about the world he lives in. It is a magical experience to see your child through this new lens and to be able to exist in this new, mature state. While the teenage years can test your resolve and make you sometimes question your decision to become a parent in the first place, it is also a transitional period where you begin to form this adult relationship with your children. While we are not friends, per se, we have a camaraderie and rapport that is unlike any other in my life. I cherish it and am thankful that we have transitioned to this place. It is one of the best gifts this year has brought and has helped me immeasurably. Knowing that my son understands more of the complexities of life forces me to process my own experiences differently and causes me to behave more thoughtfully. As parents, we always know our children are watching but we also recognize that their innocence often blinds them from the more serious matters that we address. As they get older, our children develop a sophistication that forces us to protect them while respecting their maturity and understanding. And, again, my children help me in ways they will never understand and in ways I never imagined. I don’t burden them with my challenges but they quietly and unknowingly make them so much easier to bear.
My younger son also provided me with a perspective that took me by surprise. At 11, he is so unlike my older boy. He has a sensitivity that is deep and penetrating and he empathizes and finds compassion for even the most hopeless souls. While he, too, is maturing rapidly and evolving into a more sophisticated being, he’s still my baby boy and still reveals to me the innocence and neediness for love and comfort that has been a trademark since infancy. He will still cuddle or tackle me with hugs when I return from trips, embracing me with a grip so tight and powerful that I am certain he can hug away all the pain and suffering I have endured in my life. His squeeze is like a panacea for every discomfort and an aloe for my wounds. He is pure healing and teaches me, continually, how to be a better parent and a more loving and evolved human.
This year also marked the 20th anniversary of my marriage. It hardly seems like two decades have evaporated and it is remarkable to me, given my history, that I could manage to maintain a loving relationship for so long. I am always quick to point out that my marriage (like everyone’s, frankly) is flawed and complicated but I have a new respect for the dynamics that make my marriage work and have employed new tools to ensure that I do my best to navigate this relationship intentionally and meaningfully. A switch went off in my head this year, without warning and without provocation, reminding me that, with its imperfections, my marriage is, without question, the most substantial and important relationship in my life and one that provides me with comfort and security in between all the discomfort and insecurity. When the final assessment comes to bear, it is a source of strength and empowerment and my husband and I, together, create a multiplier much greater than we do as individuals.
I continue to learn so much about myself through all the incredible relationships in my life. I have, over the past many years, become much more selective about who I share my life with and how I include others in my life. I have always felt a sense of obligation to provide my friends and loved ones with more of myself than perhaps I should be willing to offer up. My tendency has been to over-deliver and not reserve a portion of myself for me, resulting in an emptiness inside of myself that those on the outside could never fill because I had given up so many parts of me without tending to or nurturing my own needs. Perhaps it was one too many betrayals or disappointments or maybe I have just reached a level of maturity in my life, understanding what my boundaries need to be, but I have arrived at a very comfortable place where I have lowered the expectations on myself and, by association, on others. I still have incredibly powerful relationships that reverberate in my life, providing wisdom, insight, comfort, pleasure, connection, validation, joy and love. And, I have a clear sense of my needs from my relationships and what I can offer to them. My friends have taught me how to be a better friend. My very best friend has provided a mirror in which I can see myself so differently than I ever did before and his influence has seeped into every aspect of my life, providing me with a deeper level of understanding of myself and a framework to operate more purposefully and reflectively. With the foundation that was established by my family, I have often feared that I would never be capable of dropping my guard or shedding the thin layer of protection that I have wrapped myself in for so many years to ensure that no one could penetrate or violate my vulnerabilities. Through lots of hard work, thoughtfulness and the good fortune of surrounding myself with an incredible set of people, I have managed to emerge from my past and live a life filed with love. I am able to walk through life without my shield and have learned – sometimes in difficult ways – how to trust and who is deemed trustworthy. I have learned to respect my own instincts and believe in what I know to be true. I feel confident and resolved.
As I get older, I experience what many others before me have which includes a deepening sense of the impermanence of our lives. I recognize that I likely have less time left than I have already spent living this life. I have fewer and fewer opportunities to impact those around me and create the indentation I want to leave on the world. It becomes so much more obvious to me how critical it is to choose wisely and be thoughtful about the life that I continue to create for myself. There is no end to the learning and the need for growth and change, despite how much of my life is behind me. And, my ability to adapt and enlarge my field of vision is directly correlated with my level of happiness and contentment.
So, once again, I will make the transition from one year to the next, resolving not to make resolutions but, instead to make the journey with wisdom and reflection and appreciation for the interconnectivity of all that touch our lives and all of our actions and behaviors. I will continue to be overly grateful, no matter how trite it may seem, because I am confident that gratitude trumps discontent every single time. No clever quotes are necessary to recognize that if I can focus on all that is hopeful and joyful in my life while respecting the challenges and disappointments, I will continue to find gratitude in each and every facet of my being. And I will have the strength and courage to take on any challenge I am presented with. Yes, nothing has the power to break me – only I do.
It will be a happy new year and I wish that to all of those who share this life with me, in any form. There are many who I have never met who provide quiet comfort and compassion and solidarity. There are those who are so ever-present in my life who fill my heart with so much love that I often feel like I don’t have the capacity to contain it. No matter where we intersect, I offer the blessing of good health, happiness and peace in 2015. We all have the opportunity to shine.