Last year at this time I made myself a list of reminders, tiny taps on the shoulder that I hoped would guide me into a year full of positive. Looking back, I kind of, sort of heeded those reminders, but my year was about so much more than reminding myself to do this and not that. It was a year of learning.
I learned to give in to black. Black leggings and jeans, black flowing sweaters, black t-shirts and high-heeled black boots. It’s what I wear and I will not fight it.
I learned that I gravitate to people in crisis because I’m good in a crisis; it makes me feel needed. When the crisis ends, though, I often feel empty and alone. So I also learned to pay attention to the friends who have not been in crisis and I rediscovered friendships that are lush and deep and hold good things. Even when there’s no crisis, I’m still wanted.
I learned, or maybe I should say, I accepted, that I parent my three girls each quite differently. This made me feel guilty for a long time, like I was somehow favoring one over the other. I’d try and try to make things equal which ended up being more like making them exactly the same. The truth is, I give each kid something different and that’s okay because it’s what she needs.
I learned that if I really commit to doing something, I will do it. If I tell you that I’ll write everyday for a month straight, then I’ll write everyday for a month straight.
I learned how to stand so that my weight is spread evenly over throughout both my feet. When you get it just right, it’s like floating. Thanks Dailey Method.
I learned that I still let other people’s success define my failures. As the year went on, I learned to be with that initial wave of envy and self-criticism, let it wash over me, then dry myself off, find a little happiness for the other person and redirect my jealousy into motivation. Because even when it’s not about me, it’s about me.
I learned that a man with red hair can, indeed, be very, very sexy. Especially if he wears tartan skirts and speaks Gaelic. #ILoveJamieFraser.
I learned that love is the best gift I can give my kids because when the days get long and I’m home alone with all three of them and dinner’s not ready and the three-year-old is naked dinking around on the iPad and who knows what the mysteriously quiet 12- and 10-year olds are doing and I’m swallowed up in my writing or puttering or bill paying, it gets borderline neglectful over here. That’s when I have to dig up the most basic thing I have to give and that’s love. I got it and I give it and there’s always cereal for dinner.
I learned that sometimes the most trusted bonds have to break apart, that life has to get bloody and down to the bone, before I can even begin to begin to think about stitching it back together. This is scary but necessary business.
I learned that my oldest daughter is not me. Her story is not mine. My crappy 7th grade year is not her crappy 7th grade year. In fact, she’s having a pretty okay year because she has her own story and really what I have to do is just let her write it and notice her own mistakes and make the rewrites herself.
I learned that I do, actually, know what I want to be when I grow up and that I have, actually, grown up and that I am, actually, doing and being that grown up thing: a writer writing.
I learned that my definition of Family Time needs to be revised and that all five of us may or may not be present during said Family Time because while there are five people in our family, there is meaning and connection in twos and threes. Also, watching a movie together sprawled out on the couch not talking counts as Family Time. So does snuggling in the bed with books. Also not talking.
I learned that no matter how much kale you eat, you can still get cancer. No one close to me died, thank God, but a good friend of mine lost her dad; people are sick and more are going to die. I know now, for sure, in my heart and in my head, that life is short. Even so, it’s still hard to know what to do with it.
I learned that I’m still moved by the awesome power of nature. Yosemite Valley with it’s soaring and rushing and deep quiet made me feel small and insignificant — in a good way.
At the very end of the year, I learned to give in to sadness and that a date on the calendar can’t force me into a new beginning. I have to get there in my own time.
And I will.