Good riddance, 2013. So many people have had such trouble with you. More than any other year, I’ve heard complaints about the challenges you wrought: death, sickness, emergencies, frustration, disappointment … did you bring anything good with you?
Hmmmm. Of course you did; and it’s remiss of us to forget this. But I am as guilty as so many others, focusing on the challenges, disappointments, fear and angst, instead of the joy, fun and love that you also offered. How many times did I wish for December 31 so I could say goodbye to you, cheering lustily like I never have before as the ball drops on the changeover from one year to the next?
Until, that is, about two weeks ago, when I read a friend’s Facebook post lamenting the problems of 2013 and how she wishes the year would just be over already. “Me, too!” was my initial reaction … but then it hit me: despite the fear, the stress, the questioning, the exhaustion … despite all of it … I, and I believe my family, are better people for what has happened in 2013. Hard lessons, for sure; but the type of lessons we all face at one time or another, that help us grow, hopefully more into the people we want to be when it’s time to face the end of our lives.
Illness is scary
Our family’s biggest challenge this year is not what I ever would have predicted. Our teenage daughter, Natalie, got very ill – starting last winter, abating, then hitting full-force in the summer. This caused a tremendous amount of fear and uncertainty in our family as we searched for answers that were more than elusive. For every answer, another, more serious, question arose. It seemed like it never would end, and we wondered – and feared – what the final verdict would be. Natalie, who the majority of the time looked fine and hid (to all but those closest to her) how she felt behind a cheery exterior, faced ridicule and derision as other kids – and even adults – scorned her as faking and simply seeking attention. She could not participate in the things she loved and felt isolated from her peers, which only added to the stress of feeling so awful and not knowing why.
While Natalie’s health was our main challenge, we also had other things going on during this time, of course; the normal detritus of life that becomes blown out of proportion when you face a truly serious situation, plus other challenges such as “sandwich” issues with elderly parents; new jobs; public office campaigns; and more. No matter how you look at it, we did not have an easy year. And I admit, for months, I just wished for 2013 to end, as 2014 simply had to be better.
Flipping the switch
But just as irrational fear can be overcome by the flip of a switch in the brain when you realize you can perceive the world differently, the light went on for me after reading that Facebook post. Wow, I thought – yeah, it’s been tough. I’m exhausted, stressed, and at the end of my rope. But look what I’ve learned! Look what I’ve gained!
A while later, I sought out Natalie: “You know,” I said, anxious to gauge her reaction, “there is a lot of good coming out of you being sick this year.”
“Oh, yeah?” I got the expected response. “What? I can’t think of a thing.”
And then we started talking.
2013 has blessed us
What we determined was that 2013 truly has blessed us. In the midst of all we perceive to be bad, there is a tremendous amount of good. For instance, it’s truly a blessing Natalie got so sick this year, instead of next (her senior year of high school), or the year after when she starts college. And by her getting so sick, with such disparate problems, we have discovered and dealt with issues that would otherwise not have been identified for years, when they would have posed significantly worse challenges for her. Not being able to attend school normally seemed at first like a curse to Natalie, who was lonely and felt even more ostracized; but being able to work at her own pace through online classes gave her the chance to explore other opportunities that have brought joy to her heart and may help determine her life path.
She’s learned about friendship and people, trust and conviction, perceptions and constancy. She’s learned that she doesn’t have all the answers and that’s OK. She’s learned to be more patient and take things one step at a time. And through it all, she’s learned that she does have a future, a bright one, a future she can determine that will roll with the curves and even the abrupt, seemingly-180-degree turns.
In 2013, I learned more about fear than I ever wanted to know (but that’s another post). I learned that while there are people out there more than willing to take us down, we also have a tremendous amount of support we never knew existed. There were people coming out of the woodwork, dispatching prayers, wishing us well, sending encouraging texts, supporting us when things weren’t going well and cheering when they started to turn around. I, too, learned a lot about friendship and people, how I handle situations, and what I want and need out of relationships. There are situations I look back at and am content with how I handled them; and even more I would handle differently if they happened again.
Thank you, 2013
So as we say goodbye to 2013, as we welcome in 2014, always hoping to be moving forward in our lives, please join my family in stopping for a moment and thanking 2013 for all the lessons it brought: including the bad, the ugly, and those that hurt, because in those lessons are buried knowledge, love and even joy. The real challenge is what we do with what we’re presented – do we learn, do we move forward? And are we moving with every step toward the person we ultimately hope to be? Just like two sides of the same coin, something good has to come out of every not-so-great experience – even if we don’t see it quite that way yet.
So thank you, and bless you, 2013. And welcome, 2014.