Good-bye, 2013 and Hello, 2014. I was tempted to type "and Good Riddance" in reference to 2013, but that wouldn't really be accurate. I owe a great deal to 2013. In Dickensian terms, I owe him, just as I owe his older brothers, for the lessons they have taught me, when I was willing to learn.
The sudden death of my mother in 2004 set in motion years of chaos for my family and me. There are major private events and revelations I can't speak of because they aren't just my stories and I am still processing and dealing with them. Such is life, though, isn't it? From 2005 to 2010, my life revolved getting care for my father, becoming his legal guardian, managing his affairs, including properties, in two states, all while mothering children from newborns to grade schoolers. At the age of 33, I stood in a buffet restaurant, frozen in place, as my eyes frantically darted about for my father (beginning the last phase of dementia) and my two-and-a-half-year-old who were both lost in the crowd. I couldn't budge from my place because of a sleeping two-month-old in a car seat. That and the seemingly endless stacks and piles of clutter in closets, garages, storage sheds at my parents' last home --always a "To Do" weighing heavy in my mind--are the two images that represent that time in my life.
When everything was settled legally after my father's death and we moved into our new home in 2011, it was as if my husband and I had been spit from a tornado. I feel as if we've just been stumbling around, dumbstruck, slowly taking stock of all the damage. And there has been a great deal of damage. Stress put strain upon my already oddly functioning immune system and it weakened my judgment. I left our family open to situations I would have normally viewed more clearly. I turned inward instead of outward. I've had to forgive myself though, because of the circumstances. One of the main things I gained from 2013 was more empathy for people who aren't at their best. By that, I mean that I have a more personal understanding of how things can fall, including our own efforts in the different areas of our lives, when we are dealing with illness, death, major life changes, etc... It has helped me to forgive others for things done in the past and given me a bit more insight into the questions of "How could anyone...?"
Resolved: To pray for empathy for others and to withhold quick judgments. To realize more quickly that things should not be taken personally. To practice a nightly Examination of Conscience. To learn my lessons and move on, without beating myself up for past mistakes, just as I try to show the same forgiveness to others. To de-clutter the physical things in my life I am holding to so I can move ahead, with freedom.
2013 forced me, literally forced me to my knees or to my bed, to stop and take stock of what is truly important. I'm still learning and I know it will be a continual life lesson. In November, I saw a tweet on a comedian's Twitter feed which has been posted several months before. It was a piece by classical pianist, James Rhodes, called "Find What You Love and Let It Kill You." It is one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever read and I have shared it with many since. I read it often, sometimes once a day, as a reminder that I am called to live fully, abundantly. That means opening myself up to life and those whom God has placed in it.
This is that inspirational piece and please, take time to listen to some of Rhodes's beautiful performances:
Resolved: To view time as a gift, not to be wasted and to understand that true leisure that refreshes body/mind/spirit is not a waste, but has its proper place in our schedules. To fully engage in the present. Relegate Facebook and other social media to their appropriate very tiny corners of my life. Put away the mobile phone. Make our family's spiritual schedule and health a priority again. Write, really write, in answer to the desire within me, in a dedicated, structured way. Love my husband and children, in a dedicated way. Open myself up to the task at hand: writing, praying, cleaning up spills, reading, listening to my children when they talk to me, whatever...just fully open to it, instead of fighting it or rushing through, always rushing. To get into photos with my family instead of always being behind the camera, even if that means not taking a photo in order to really experience an event/activity.
In 2013, I valued health, which is so easy to take for granted.
Resolved: To remember the difference I've experienced through healthy eating and physical therapy. To continue those steps, for well-being, not cosmetic goals.
Finally, by the end of 2013, I was seeing a light at the end of an area of my life that has been a dark tunnel for a few years. The revelation came when I opened my heart, just the tiniest bit of it, to gratitude. A priest led me to this in the sacrament of Reconciliation with a brilliant penance.
Resolved: To add gratitude for people, events, and other blessings in my life to a nightly Examination of Conscience. To accept that I am a low maintenance person when it comes to relationships and not compare myself to those of higher maintenance. To remember that the squeaky wheels do get the grease, but I have always been happiest when I am realistic and content, without selling myself short or making excuses for others.