I've struggled this past year. Oh, it has not always been visible on the surface. I keep smiling and going on, but underneath that thin smile there has been unrest, deep sadness, stress, turmoil. It was a hard year with big decisions, loss, guilt, uncertainty. I thought I was doing well, soldiering on, keeping a smile on my face, but by December I realized the toll this year had taken on me.
In 2015, we found out our second son is dyslexic, just as his older brother is. That same son ended up in hospital with an appendicitis – the first surgery for the four of us. A friend of my nine-year old son suddenly and heartbreakingly died. We made the tough decision that I would homeschool the boys. Our beloved dog had a very serious infection and almost died, but thankfully - after a VERY expensive surgery - she has fully recovered.
But we also had the great pleasure of traveling to Wisconsin with friends and to Texas and Oklahoma to spend time with family and friends. We had a blast visiting Marco Island and the Everglades of Florida. We were so thankful to spend Thanksgiving in Kansas City with our family. And the boys and I loved our many local adventures with our friends.
We grew closer to some friends and formed strong bonds with new friends. And we were so proud of the amazing academic accomplishments of our nine year-old son who had struggled in school for so long.
We cried a lot, but certainly cherished those times and the people that brought us laughter and loved and supported us through all the difficult times.
It wasn't just the big stuff that had gotten to me, but the smaller stressors too, I began to recognize. Of course, it wasn't all bad, not by a long shot. There were many wonderful highlights in 2015, as well. And yet, it was the hard stuff holding on to me, pulling me down, by December, which is already the darkest, hardest month of the year for this Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) sufferer.
I sought joy in the most magical time of the year. This time of year that I love so much for so many reasons, but this year over and over the old familiar traditions and activities that I was sure would bring me joy instead let me down and left me feeling disappointed and sad and ripped off; empty. And this made me even sadder.
I tried to sort through my feelings and figure out what to do to change the outcome; to be happier and more joyful, but each attempt failed and the more hollow I felt.
I had not fully realized the amount of stress I had put on myself taking on the education of my children, adding this big, bulky, time-consuming job to my existing responsibilities as a legal editing consultant and house manager. I had not fully recognized the deep guilt and sadness that filled us when my son's friend died last spring; guilt that my sons are still here on Earth and the heartbroken sadness as a mother and friend. And honestly, I still don't fully grasp the depths of these feelings and responsibilities, but I am acknowledging them and accepting that I don't have to fully understand it all.
I like to choose a word for the New Year. And sometimes that word finds me. And this year, I wasn't sure what that word was until I picked up my well-loved, well-worn devotional, God Calling, and read the entry for January 3rd…"You must be renewed, remade…Only Love is a conquering force…Take heart, God loves, God helps, God fights, God wins. You shall see. You shall know. The way will open."
And then I knew my word. It is "Renewed." I must be renewed and remade this year. 2016 must be a year of healing and renewal for me in all areas of my life.
On that note, these are my aspirations for 2016:
Write a letter to the mother of a friend who died. This should have been done years ago.
Make a detailed plan with dates and activities for Date Nights each month with my Husband. Otherwise, we will never have date nights. We're off to a good start with this one.
Stay on Schedule. This is not an easy task for me, but it has become necessary for staying on task for work, for school, for sleep. I can do this as long as every once in a while I can totally go off schedule for a bit.
Yell less. I think this can be accomplished by taking more time to be alone…completely alone to read, write and think.
Write more. This I can do if I follow the above suggestion to take more time for myself to be alone.
Walk more. I like to walk, alone or with a friend, and I feel better when I walk a lot. But this is the thing that gets pushed back and out and forgotten. So, I must put it on the schedule and stick to it.
Pray more. I've always been a prayer, but sometimes I get too busy, too bogged down and I forget how important that is to my every day mental health.
Take at least 3 trips this year and have hundreds of little adventures. I'm off to a great start on this goal too!
Surround myself with people who are positive and uplifting and loving.
Be a positive and uplifting and loving friend.
- And keep on: reading, talking with my kids – there's always so much to talk about – and really listen to what they have to say too, adventuring, traveling, experiencing and laughing with friends and family. Without these things, I don't see much point. These are the essentials to me.
So, I press on, looking forward, shedding my old, dry skin of 2015, but remembering the lessons learned, holding on to the beauty and joy of things seen and experienced while letting go of the hurt and the disappointments and the ugliness. Here's to a Happy, Prosperous, Adventurous, Interesting Renewal in 2016! Over and out…