Well 2013 has been a hell of a year, to say the very least. It feels like it would be very easy to say “good (insert expletive of choice) bye and good riddance” to 2013, to declare it the worst of all of the years and throw my hands up in exasperated celebration that it’s over. And to be sure there was a part of me that definitely felt that way last night as we counted down the last few moments of 2013. But a much bigger part of me didn’t want to just write off a whole year, no matter how hard it had been.
2013 has had its share of challenges to be sure, but it was also pretty chock full of wonderful. We welcomed a new niece into the world, a wide eyed little bundle of wisdom, and witnessed many more beautiful babies learn to toddle and talk. We got to be there to celebrate with 6 wonderful couples as they got married this year, including several of our best friends and dearest family. Andrew and I both turned 30. For Andrew’s birthday I successfully tricked him into driving 2 hours out into Pennsylvania Dutch country where he found a house filled with our closest friends who were there to spend the weekend with him. (It was definitely the height of my already distinguished career in surprising Andrew.) We took a wonderful family vacation and I fell totally and completely in love with the pine covered beauty of the Pacific Northwest. I also finished up the last of my grad school classes, got my thesis underway and took on a new and challenging portfolio at work.
It is easy to pluck these bright spots out of a year otherwise darkened by illness but I think the value of 2013 runs much deeper for me. As I think about where I want to go in 2014 I have realized how much 2013 has helped me to become the person I want to be in the midst of the trials and not just in spite of them. Over the course of just a few months this summer I was diagnosed with Graves Disease, I turned 30 and I discovered that I had breast cancer. I am not certain wake up calls come any more dramatic. Looking back it feels as if there was a great explosion in my life. It was violent and destructive and brought both physical pain and emotional turmoil. It laid waste to identities that I had been constructing for years. It disrupted the familiar structures I had put in place and wiped out the blueprint I had so meticulously crafted. But in the wake of all that destruction a vast space opened up for new opportunities. In letting go of some of my most deeply held identities (a healthy young adult, a long haired girl, for example) I found that it became easier to know a truer, more authentic version of myself. Early on I choose to share my experiences and allow myself to be more vulnerable than I’ve ever been before which has helped me to create deeper and more meaningful connections to people all around me. I have become more connected to my body and have started to drastically change how I treat it. For example, I have started to completely transform my relationship with food from something that satiates to something that nourishes (much more on that in Part 2 of “Hello 2014). I have also become better connected to my own mind and am starting to better understand how to lead it through the treacherous waters of fear and anger and sadness. And, perhaps most importantly, coming face to face with many of my darkest fears this year has meant that I go into the 2014 with a greater appreciation and passion for life and love and living than I ever have before. All of this makes me grateful for 2013 even if I am more than happy to see it go.
Unfortunately, 2014 does not promise to be very kind either. I still have a very long road ahead of me. But I am hopeful. I am hopeful that by the time I welcome 2015 that I will have more strength, more wisdom, more health and a lot more hair.