Complete and total credit for this idea goes to my old friend and amazing author, Liza Palmer. Recently on Facebook, she pointed out that we’re always so hard on ourselves with the New Year looming, and we all try to make resolutions to correct whatever we’ve done wrong during the year. Instead, she suggests, why don’t we celebrate the things that we’ve accomplished during the year that’s about to end? Whoa…what a concept.
2011-THINGS I’VE DONE!
January 13, 2011, I began this blog. I’ve loved to write as far back as I can remember. As a matter of fact, I recently found a story I’d written for my father when I was about 8 or 9, titled, “The Cat Who Meowed Backwards”. This poor cat expressed itself by saying, “Woem.” I digress. I have journals that go back to age 10. I have a folder of little essays I wrote in college on my word processor. I’d never done anything with any of it. I was always too scared to let the personal information that is my writing out into the world. It felt risky to me, as some of the things that I have written about are pretty raw, and some of the people in my life may not fully appreciate it. However, after losing my father, I got the guts to just try it. I don’t know if anything will come of it, but people are reading what I write now. Just a handful, perhaps, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to no longer be afraid to put myself out there, and I’m not anymore. This has been huge step for me. I also submitted something for the first time, an essay contest for a major magazine. I won’t know until January if I even got an honorable mention. Sure, it’d be amazing to win, but I do not think that my life is THAT charmed. It was more a bravery thing for me, sending a very personal bit of myself out into the stratosphere, to have total strangers read. We shall see.
- This year, I’ve learned to authentically set up much-needed boundaries with people in my life. Pedestals have been toppled, and they were very much overdue. I went through some very painful, hurtful stuff this year, but have come out better for it on the other side. It’s interesting to me how pain affects different people. Everyone experiences heartache and loss. I’ve seen some people internalize it and shut people out completely, or turn to self-destruction, or lash out horribly at people they care for. Conversely, I’ve seen other people experience horrible pain, and turn it into something good. Strength, confidence, generosity, and gratitude…these are all things that can come out of pain. I can’t say that I’m one of these perfect self-actualized people who have gained nothing but positive things out of painful experiences, a lot of it sucked! There were some months in 2011 that I don’t ever want to re-live, but now I can accept how completely essential and necessary it was that I experienced it. I do feel stronger, and I am most definitely more grateful for the life I have than I had been before my conflicts happened.
- This could easily be tagged onto what I’ve written above, but I want to separate it. I learned to let crap GO. No one has done everything perfectly, there is no flawless parent or childhood. I’d be lying if I said I’ve learned to never go back and dwell on the past, but I’m getting a lot better at not going there. Forward. Let’s go forward.
- Spring was rough, and two souls left this earth way too soon. One was a very close family childhood friend, and his service was brutal. I feel as though I’m still processing it. He was 40, and he shouldn’t be gone. Another was also way too young, and the circumstances were tragic. What I learned from both of these losses was both substantial and meaningful. The most important thing I learned is that being there for people when they need you is a no-brainer. There is no meeting more important, they can be rescheduled. There is no plane ticket that’s “too expensive”, that’s what credit cards are for. When people you love need you, you GO. I’m so very glad that I did, in both cases. Through this loss, I reconnected with one of my oldest and closest friends. We hadn’t lost touch, per se, but our lives are just so different that months would go by without us talking. We didn’t know as much about each other’s day to day lives. Now we’re in touch nearly every day, and it’s been a total Godsend, for both of us. We’ve both gotten stronger, and learned a ton from each other. I’m proud of that. Tell people how much you love them, and do it TODAY.
- This summer, I finally passed my exam for my LEP license. This stands for Licensed Educational Psychologist. I’d taken the exam the year before, and FAILED IT. That somewhat leveled me at the time, as it didn’t even occur to me that I could fail it. It’s not as though I hadn’t studied, and I consider myself to be very good in my profession. In any case…some humility was undoubtedly good for me. I studied again this summer, pretty damn hard, and passed my exam. Whoo hoo! More silly letters to put behind my name!
- Also this summer, I had the longest vacation I'd had in 7 years. I had six whole weeks off, three of which I had to myself, as my kids were back in school. This was unprecedented. We didn’t take any major vacations, or travel anywhere. I spent a lot of time out by the pool, listening to music and reading. I wish I could pinpoint the day, but there was a DAY this summer that I was just hit with all of the blessings I have in my life. It was like a ton of bricks. Several song lyrics played a part in this realization, as did the time I had to reflect on the people we’d lost. All of the sudden it just occurred to me…I not only love, but I really like my husband. My children are healthy and smart, and are lovely people. We live in a nice house in a safe neighborhood. I’m healthy. I have a meaningful, albeit stressful job in which I know I'm helping people. I have amazing, loyal, wonderful friends. This is HEAVEN. I feel like I regained my ability to enjoy myself. I learned how to laugh again, and not just a chuckle. This year I’ve had more stomach aching, tears streaming, not breathing laughter fits than I can count. It’d been quite awhile. I truly feel as though God and my father's spirit flipped a switch in me, and everything became more vivid.
- This year, I was able to rediscover how much I love going to concerts, and not just Justin Bieber this time! I saw Sade in
in August with my dear friend from college, and enjoyed myself more than I had in a very long time. We’re going to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers in February, a band I’ve loved since I was 19 years old. I am more than happy to curtail the shopping for clothes in favor of going to see amazing artists play. It’s just totally worth it. Experiences are more valuable than stuff Oakland
- This year, I got three tattoos. Holy smokes, were all of these this year? It appears that this was indeed the case. I got an West African symbol that means "God is King" with the word "love" beneath it in my dad's handwriting, an angel on my back/shoulder, and a quote from a play/movie on my ribs. This will dismay many. Sorry, y'all. It was something I wanted to do...so I did. Am I having a mid-life crisis? Maybe a little one. I'm having fun though, so I don't really care.
- Last month, I celebrated 15 years of marriage. Yes, this is a great milestone, but what makes it even cooler is the fact that I genuinely enjoy my husband’s company. Yes, he’s an amazing dad and incredible cook, but he also makes me laugh my ass off. We have so much fun doing ordinary, stupid things, like going to Costco. We find humor everywhere. He’s gotten my crazy, crabby self through the last two years of my life, no doubt about it. We took a cruise to the
Caribbeanfor our anniversary several weeks back and we had an absolute blast. We snorkeled at all three islands we went to, and saw the most amazing fish ever, it was like being in Finding Nemo. However, the highlight for me were the adolescent sea turtles we got to swim with in . The turtles are old enough to be away from their mothers, but are still in a protected cove and aren’t full grown yet or ready to venture out into the open ocean. They calmly graze on the sea grass that grows on the bottom like tiny cows, and then surface every once and awhile to take a breath. They’re used to people, and they aren’t really scared. More than once, a little turtle head would pop up a couple of yards away from me, and I'd want to greet them, “What’s up, homie?” They’d look around and then swim back down, as gracefully as angels. I’m proud to say that I’ve had the opportunity to swim with sea turtles twice in my life now. It’s one of the coolest things I have ever done, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is able. St. Thomas
- I continue to be in total awe of my children. I have no idea what we’ve done to deserve them, but we are lucky as hell. I don’t consider either of them to be accomplishments of mine. Regardless, they continue to be ridiculously brilliant jewels in my life that fill me with a level of joy and love I never knew was possible.
Over the past few days, when I’ve been thinking about 2011 as a whole, it’s seemed pretty rough. It’s a year that I was thinking that I wouldn’t be that sad to see end. However, when inspired to look at it through this lens, my perspective has changed. This year was really important in my life. I got to do some incredible things, and accomplished some major things, both internal and tangible. Everything is a lesson, and I’m incredibly lucky.
Happy New Year’s to all, and God bless. 2012, bring it on!