The Most(ly) Wonderful Time of the Year

The end of a year marks a period of reflection and planning for some. A pause to evaluate all that has occurred, a time for introspection to take stock of how the year has changed you, an inventory of the blessings and struggles faced over the past 365 days, usually capped off by ideas and promises made in secret or aloud about the ways that the next 52 weeks will be an improvement.

2014 sucked. I’ve spent the last week or so trying to come up with a message full of hope and positivity with only good things to say about 2014, but each time I sat down to write it the words wouldn’t come. That sort of fa-la-la-la-la wasn’t true, from my perspective, and it felt forced and inauthentic to extol the virtues of a year that brought joy, yes, but served next to a huge steaming pile of crap. So. How to write in such a way that it was honest and raw about the pain while still conveying the gratitude I felt each time I was presented with blessings that are still abundant…? The answer is in the question. Just. Write. Honestly.

When here for my last post I was at a low place and thought, incorrectly, that the fates would have pity and the tide would turn bringing joyful balance to the year. In the 8+ months prior I had lost two jobs; tried to come to terms with letting go of the dream of children; said goodbye, from many states away, to a grandfather I had not been able to spend any significant and meaningful time with in over a decade; attended several funerals within a couple of months, one of which was for one of my oldest and dearest friends (only 41 years old!) and the loss of which still reduces me to tears; watched helplessly as some family and loved ones endured heartbreaking circumstances and illness; and struggled to be supportive of my husband through exceedingly long hours and pain… all while dealing with my own physical limitations. The past couple of blog entries have even touched upon most of these issues, whether briefly or in much more intimate detail. The world is full of sorrow and strife, however, and untold numbers of people deal with pain and adversity much greater than mine, so I tried to quit my whining and march forward with new resolve. By the middle of October I was beginning to think that life, while certainly not without lows, had at least stabilized to a baseline average. I was so wrong…

At the beginning of November my husband was rear ended in a collision on his way to work one morning. The 8 weeks since have been some of the toughest we’ve ever faced. He has physically been unable to work, reducing our income to $0 (I’m two jobs down, remember?) and his pain has been quite fierce. We dumped everything from savings into our checking account, praying it would see us through until the doctors gave him consent to return to his job, and began to face our mailbox with trepidation rather than indifference. Each bill that came in was another hit to our finances and each week we incurred new debt with trips to doctors and specialists. The physical and emotional toll has been wearisome, but the psychological has exacted its own form of torture. In the midst of all of that, we discovered that I have a cardiac arrhythmia that likes to make itself felt throughout my chest, and that brought a new level of anxiety… Particularly since the friend lost in January might have passed away due to complications with an arrhythmia. *sigh* The holiday season was in full swing, but seemingly overnight we became Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch all rolled into one!

Christmas is usually, for me, one of the most wonderful times of the year. I love wandering around stores while Christmas music is playing, giving gifts that I’ve found or created, spending time with family, decorating and wrapping presents, finding ways to bless others as I’ve been blessed… This year had none of those things. Being surrounded by consumerism when I had no money to spend pushed me to tears more than once, neither of us felt the least bit “Christmas-y” at all, and dear hubby and I were afraid of wasting gas on unnecessary trips out making us hermits. It was the least holly jolly holiday we had spent together since we met, and that’s saying a lot considering some of the hardships we’ve faced… It is incredibly humbling and heartbreaking to find out my spirit is capable of shattering that easily!

When friends posted pictures on social media with their lovely trees, happy smiles and brightly colored packages, my chest would ache and a lump would form in my throat. The selfish creature inside would scream, “This isn’t fair!” Like life ever is… So, rather than be pessimistic party poopers throughout the season of joy, we hung around like a sequestered jury of two – separate from the world, in a tiny depressed bubble with a separate reality.  Our world shrunk considerably and a fun night out consisted of visiting the local discount grocery store to find a side dish for something fished out of our deep freezer. When you’re using powdered milk because you can’t justify buying fresh, you know money has gotten tight. It’s true that Christmas is not about any of the things I was missing – my heart knew that all along – but it was a constant struggle with my nature to adjust to the changes we faced. It took a little convincing, but my head finally got with the program realizing, as Dr. Seuss so cleverly pointed out, “Maybe Christmas … doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

So began the transformation of my thinking.
monkey bars

Had I not spent much of this year pushing back against negativity and darkness? Where was my positive attitude now? Did it disappear under the onslaught of circumstances we seemed destined to endure? No! Burdens might have followed us throughout 2014 – that side of crap I was referring to earlier – but I didn’t have to let them bury me alive. Even in the midst of a storm there is beauty to behold and gratefulness to be had. If anything, I was the one burying things. Burying my joy when the two of us had a good day with less pain, denying the small pleasures of the sun on my face and the abundance of time I had been given with my husband who had been working 60-70 hours each week. I was offered a job, that may not offer any real hours for several months, but will ultimately be wonderful and fulfilling… We still had heat, light and food, love enough to warm up the grinchiness that tried to overtake us, and riches that money never could’ve purchased anyway. It is only in darkness that we can fully see the light… and I didn’t have to close my eyes to the light.  It’s inevitable that each of us will fall, be knocked down and know strife, but how we choose to handle it is really what sets us each apart from the other. My life is already full to the brim with physical problems I have no way to control – that will never have to mean that I should choose to play the victim. This year has scarred and beaten me down, but isn’t the only real question whether or not to rise again?  How to do that when all of the past year had such a hold??  “Let it go, let it go!”  Maybe that movie Frozen had it right all along…

maya angelou quoteIf you had some tough times in 2014, let it go and move forward…  Face all of the hard times that come your way with grace. Be safe and start the year with joy and hope. Begin anew with love. Don’t lose sight of all the things you have, even when something is lost, and give thanks. Being grateful is a choice we make each day, and sometimes only by changing our grumbles into gratitude do we remember that the troubles we face are as transient as everything else. It sounds sappy and sweet like a Pinterest picture, but it’s true. Find the joy in every day, distance yourself from negativity – make the choice of gratitude. Time is not unlimited and there may never be another chance or do-over, so make 2015 the best you can!

So. Here we are at the end of one and the beginning of another.  My choice is to end AND begin the same as I wrapped up my last post – the same way Uncle Stevie (Stephen King) wrapped up the story story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption… With hope.

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

beach rainbow

xoxo & best wishes for the new year~