As this is my final post for the year, it seemed fitting to take a look back and assess what the year has taught me. There are too many lessons to cram into a 1000-word post, but the central theme of the year has been CHANGE.
Since my third child was born in 2011, my life has been relatively unchanged. Absorbing another child into my world presented some challenges, but the infrastructure to support my daily life as a working mom and wife had been well-established by then, so the challenges were relatively easy to navigate. By the time 2016 rolled around, my life had fallen into predictable, fulfilling, trouble-free fabulousness.
However, trouble-free fabulous does not build character and, apparently, my character needs building.
As far as I remember, 2016 began smoothly. We spent Christmas in town, celebrated New Year’s Eve with friends and our kids, and returned to our work and school routines. I don’t remember having a resolution or a list of goals to achieve, although I may have.
In February, I began to turn and churn the soil of my life a bit, starting this blog after a sleepless night during a family ski vacation got me thinking about my future, my career, and the possibility of cultivating a creative hobby that might eventually become a profitable one; a wage-earning opportunity that I could do from home in order to be more present in my kids’ lives.
In the five months that followed, I worked around the clock, trying to essentially start a business with the bandwidth and time I had left over after managing my already-full plate. I was exhilarated by the prospect of building something from nothing, but also exhausted and over-worked. Instead of spending more time with my kids and my husband, I was spending less time with them. I could only hope the situation was temporary and that, soon, if I continued to work hard, the sacrifices would pay off.
I tend to measure my own happiness by the quality of my relationships and my ability to be fully present with people when we’re together (hence the inspiration for “Present Perfect” because the present is where I most like to live). By this measurement, midway through 2016, the overall quality of my life was suffering, but I was holding tight to the promise of better things to come.
I was being tested, but the tests were self-induced. I had made the decision to start the blog, adding one more bowling pin to my juggling act, and I could just as easily decide to stop at any time. Whether or not to continue testing myself in this way was entirely up to me.
The second half of 2016, however, presented me with a series of unforeseen, uninvited tests: first, my close sister-friend and her family moved a state away, next, my mom passed away, and most recently, my family’s beloved nanny (and my co-parent) accepted a full-time position with a new family. If the balance of my life had been upset in the first half of the year, now, it was ravaged. My axis broke.
Whether you’re a person who believes “everything happens for a reason” and there is order and intent behind life’s challenges or you’re a person who believes challenges are random, accidental, and unavoidable inevitabilities, one thing is certain: we have a choice about how to face them. We can face them with fear or anger or resentment or self-pity. Or we can face our challenges with courage, faith, humility, and optimism.
I confess that I have fallen squarely into both camps at different points over the last five months. Lately, I’ve felt lost and unsure of myself more often than I haven’t. I thought I was so strong! But it’s easy to feel like we’re strong when everything is going well and the illusion of control is unchallenged.
Control has always been an illusion and yet it’s my most powerful idol. At forty years old, despite all evidence to the contrary, I still live like I have the power to control things besides my own choices, beliefs, and attitude. Accepting that I’m not meant to know what will happen next is not easy, but in the rare moments I can, I feel peaceful and even joyful.
My eleven year old son has recently discovered the thrill of roller coasters. But not because of me! Today’s roller coasters are not the roller coasters of my youth; open-air trains, speeding from point A to point B, the more advanced rides including a corkscrew or loop to traverse along the way. No! These rides are designed to completely upset a person’s sense of gravity. Riders are strapped into seats that move and rotate independently – unfixed – as they are hurtled along the track. To me, they cross-over from exhilarating to terrifying. But my son loves them.
I don’t know what 2017 has in store for me. I don’t know if the sacrifices I’ve made to start this blog will pay off. I don’t know if someone I love will die or move away. I don’t know what life will be like in a world in which Donald Trump is the President of the United States.
What I do know is that every relationship and circumstance in my life is subject to change at all times. These days, it seems like the things I rely on most have the best chance of changing. Moreover, I have a feeling that more changes still lay ahead for me and change is always a challenge, even when it’s good. All the more reason to put my faith in the things that are stable and unchanging: my identity as a beloved child of God and the power to decide what to do with that identity.
I want to face 2017 and whatever comes next the same way my son faces Magic Mountain; with absolute confidence that it’s going to be awesome, no matter what. Not because everything will be smooth and easy, but because I have faith that things will be okay and hope that things might even be exhilarating.