I wish a new year really meant a reset. A putting away of the the past and a new embrace of the future. A hard line drawn in the sand where the old doesn’t start seeping into the new. But that isn’t the way it works. It’s February of a new year, and it doesn’t feel new. I know it’s my fault. Last year had some tough moments. Really tough. And some of those moments have lingered.
There is a budget crisis at work that makes my job feel unstable. Well, in Illinois pretty much all colleges are in a budget crisis. I survived one round of lay-offs already. But I’m close to finishing my Master’s degree, so hopefully I’ll be in a good position to find something different if the need arises.
My daughter totaled my newly paid off car which means I now have a car payment added to the strained household budget. But she wasn’t hurt and we got a new car so we don’t have to worry about something breaking down and adding to the bills.
And the doctor told me I have about a 1% chance of having a baby at my age. Even though I got pregnant last year, the miscarriage wasn’t an anomaly. That was the norm. But… This one is harder. This one challenges a lot of what I believed. Mostly that age doesn’t matter. Because now it does and for more than one reason. It means that because of my age, I must let go of the desire I have for another child, of experiencing parenthood with the man I love. It also means that I’m robbing him of fatherhood and trusting that he can live with that. All of a sudden, my age has become a life changer. I wasn’t ready for that. For the past six months I’ve been hopeful. Every month, hopeful that we could be part of the 1%. But my faith has also been challenged, and I realize that I can’t will it to happen. I can’t just work harder at it either. And I can’t change my age, as much as I may defy it. If it happens, it will be a gift.
There’s a quote that frequently makes the rounds and is usually attributed to the philosopher Socrates, although he didn’t say it. A character named Socrates said it in the book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman. The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. This is a new year. And today is Groundhog day. I love the movie, but I don’t want to live with my life on repeat. I need to let some things remain last year’s issues and work even harder on acceptance this year. Of my age. My limitations. Once again, gratitude will be my comfort. For the best way to accept loss is to balance it with the blessings. I still have a job. My kids are safe. I’m almost done with my degree. I’m able to afford to replace my car. I have a 1% chance which is better than 0% and my guy insists he loves me no matter what. That’s what I’m thankful for today.
This time a year ago I started this blog about the things I was grateful for. It started as a way to look at the positives in my life, instead of the negatives, which are so much easier to let become the focus. I made a commitment to write daily for a year. It wasn’t always easy and a few days I was late getting my post in, but I’m proud of myself for doing it. Every. Single. Day. I plan to keep the blog a little longer but will write less frequently. It’s been a good exercise. A friend asked me recently if it’s made me happier–all this focus on gratitude. My honest answer? Not really. At least I don’t think so. For me, happiness is something that comes and goes. What it has done is made me more conscious of my life. There’s something about purposely reflecting on the positive things at the end of the day that’s been good for me. I dare you to try it. Maybe not in blog form, but buy a journal and write stuff down. Make a Sunday list of the things that stand out to you at the end of the day. Maybe you’ll find, like I did, that it’s the small things that stand out. The big moments in our lives seem to change our trajectory, but it’s the little things that keep us moving. For me, it was stuff like laughing with my kids, dinner with friends, hugs, cat snuggles and good puppy behavior, crossing items off my to-do list, and just hanging out with my boyfriend. Find what makes your life full.
Of course, there have been some pretty big moments in my past year as well. Things I didn’t expect. Times that were really hard. Times that were really good. I started out last year in what seemed like a new chapter of my life. Just me and my cat and my two kids in a new house that still needed some work. I spent last New Year’s Eve alone, watching tv, singing karaoke in the dark, heading to bed just about midnight. I wouldn’t have imagined then that this New Year’s I’d be in Texas, spending the evening with my boyfriend, a guy who’s been an unexpected blessing. I didn’t know I’d lose my dad this year; it’s still a bit unbelievable. A year ago I hadn’t planned on getting a puppy or to be 6 credits into a graduate program with a 4.0 GPA (did I mention that? Yay me!). But here I am, 365 days later in the same, more-updated house with my still awesome kids in what seems like a different life. However, isn’t that the way things work? We may think we know what our life is about and think that we have things under control, but we don’t know. That’s why we can’t give up and we can’t take things for granted. Each day is it. Each day is all we can worry about. So each day we should look for the good stuff. I’m glad I decided to write about the positives every day for the last year, and I’m grateful you took the journey with me. I hope I somehow inspired you to look for your own simple moments. I won’t be blogging every day, but I’ll continue to look daily and I’ll write occasionally. Stay tuned in. I hope you have a fantastic New Year’s Eve and a coming year filled with much to be thankful for…