I've been mentally writing this year-end wrap up for weeks now, planning witty turns of phrase to describe a year that, in layman's terms, sucked pretty hard. I've turned the details of this year over and over in my mind and for the most part, wished just about everything had gone down differently. But in recent days, I've softened to the truth of 2014. I don't know that I can say I am happy that it happened, but, as in all difficult things, I can see the lessons in it, and appreciate my own growth and change as a result of it.
That doesn't stop me from hating it though. Just FYI.
It's difficult when things don't go the way you think or desperately hope they will. The details of this year are ones I'd rather not relive, and certainly not ones I'll share online. Suffice it to say that 2014 was rough, both circumstantially and personally. I'm no stranger to sadness, but the kind I experienced this year shocked me, threw me for a loop, and left me gasping for breath. If I'm honest, the sadness had been around for quite some time, and I just got used to running, ignoring and staving it off. But when I finally surrendered, that sadness crushed me in a way that still renders me speechless. As I've reflected on this year, there are moments when I feel surprised that I'm here at all to see it end. This year taught me the importance of knowing when to say you've had enough, and when to ask for help.
For the past few years I've lamented what I've described as losing the confidence I had as a kid. When I say confidence, I don't mean the loud, braggy kind of confidence, but rather the assurance that no matter what occurred, I could figure out a way to be okay -- that I had the ability to conquer anything. I spent so much time wondering what events had stolen it from me, and why I no longer felt as if I had the power and ability to deal with life the way I did as a young girl who was pretty sure that with enough practice she could conquer the toughest clarinet solo or make new friends or do whatever it is I wanted to pursue.
As challenging as this year was, the best gift it gave me was a quiet, unfettered belief in my own strength. I wrote a series of posts this year about not knowing, about being unsure, about my tendency to say, "I don't know." I went through an awful phase of asking friends for advice on the most inane tasks (sorry, friends). But bit by bit, I've gained back that lost confidence in my own strength and ability. It doesn't look like the carefree swagger of a 10-year-old girl; instead, it is a silent softness, and the knowledge that even in my darkest moments, I can take care of myself, and that I will be okay. The struggles of this year taught me to trust myself again, and to believe in my own unfailing moral, emotional and spiritual compass. I am not arrogant enough to think I have all the answers to life figured out; however, I know myself, and I trust myself more than I have, maybe ever.
One of the benefits of a difficult year is that it softens the edges. Where I was once proud of my wit and ability to be quick with a joke (regardless of whether or not it was nice), I find myself quieter and kinder --- both to others and myself. I've come to respect gentleness and compassion as virtues that go beyond the sort of breathy, floaty nonsense mentioned in yoga that cause me to roll my eyes, and become the foundation on which I want to build my relationships with myself and others.
This year taught me about love. I've always thought that love looked one certain way: romance and constant togetherness and never-ending joy. This year, I've realized that when you love someone, their needs might look different than yours, and loving in a way that works for you might not feel like love to them. I've learned that love can mean space and time, and unconditional support, even when it's hard to give. Especially then. I've learned that it's better to love with everything you've got than to hold back and resist. I've learned that love is always worth it.
I've learned more about unconditional love than I ever dreamed, because this year, I've been the recipient of it, on so many occasions from so many people. My family has stepped in to love me, despite difficult conversations and disappointments and talks I know we all struggled to have; and yet, I understood fully what it means to be loved, no matter what. This revelation alone was the shiniest star in this year -- it showed up in a time I needed it most.
I learned about how to be a friend this year. I learned how much it matters to be a friend who sticks around. I could (and SHOULD) write an entire blog post dedicated solely to my friend Leslie, who single-handedly taught me the meaning of what it is to be a best friend. From emergency wine nights to taking every crying phone call to helping me sort out my feelings to making me amazing dinners and coordinating plans to see Beyonce to tolerating my butt on her couch every week to watch Pretty Little Liars, I can honestly say I don't think I'd have survived the year without her. Beyond that friendship many of my friends stepped up in ways both tangible and intangible this year --- with taco nights and Valentine's Day pie and long walks and endless text conversations and weekly "happy hours" with chubby, adorable babies. I learned what it means to be a friend who stays --- who sticks around for the ugly cries and the difficult feelings -- because so many of my friends stayed, even when I was a less pleasant version of myself. I am forever grateful for those friends.
I also learned what it means to see people stay away when things are painful. I learned what it can feel like to lose relationships, or to at least see them shift. This year made me commit to being the sort of friend who stays, even when -- especially when -- it's tough.
Truth be told, the year wasn't a total bust. I fell more in love with my job. I ran a half marathon after having it on my list of resolutions for five years (!!!!!). I broke my vomit streak, which was oddly not the worst moment of my year, but definitely in the top five. I spent a lot of time outdoors. I took some fun trips. I've gotten to be auntie to some adorable babies of my friends, and found out I will be an auntie for real to my first nephew. Despite the tears, I laughed a lot.
Ultimately, this year taught me that life happens, no matter how I may feel about it. As a self-described "anxious bunny" who enjoys control (understatement of the year), this is a tough truth to swallow. But the reality is this: let go, or be dragged. The more I relax into what's going on, and enjoy (or at least tolerate) circumstances I can't control, the more joy there is to be found. And I always, always, always want to be someone who can find the joy.
And most of all, despite the fact that there are still bad days sprinkled in with the good, I'm ending this year a lot happier than I'd imagined I'd be if you'd asked me this spring or this summer. And even after a year I'm glad to see go, I have the highest hopes for 2015. Not in terms of overly ambitious resolutions or grand goals and plans, but simply that every thing is going to be just fine. Because if 2014 taught me anything, it's that everything always is, even if "just fine" doesn't look the way you'd dreamed.
Cheers to a new year, friends. Wishing you the best 2015.