It’s that time of year again. Tomorrow is the last day of 2010, and people are supposed to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the upcoming year. I usually participate in this socially imposed obligation, and I guess you could say that I’m participating again this year, but in fact when I reflect about myself and areas that need improvement for next year, I find myself making a non-resolution of sorts. I resolve to accept myself exactly the way I am and not try to find ways to be better. I think one of my faults is being too critical of myself and caring a little too much what other people think about me, so this year I resolve not to change a single thing.
After all, isn’t the passing of time an arbitrary concept? Have you ever stopped to think about how we mark time? I have because I’ve taught it to my children and students before. When you think about it, it’s actually just a system to measure our existence. 60 seconds make a minute. 60 minutes make an hour. 24 hours make a day. 7 days make a week. 52 weeks make a year (or 365 days). 10 years make a decade. 100 years make a century and so on. Isn’t the passing of one day into the next a concept that is continually happening no matter what number we assign it? In this view, January 1st is really no different than December 31st except that we have decided to mark it as a ‘new year.’ But to me, this doesn’t mean the days are different at all or that there is anything significant happening that should make me want to change, or that resolving to do something differently means that somehow I will be aided by the fact that it is now 2011 instead of 2010. Shouldn’t we all try to be our best every day, no matter what?
People usually like to make resolutions to meet some ideal picture of what humanity should be like. We try not to eat too much, or drink/smoke too much. We try to be nicer or more organized. We vow to spend more quality time with our kids or to do something good for the world. We promise we will exercise more. We look at the negative aspects of our lives, habits, and personalities and try to wish them away with false promises to ourselves only to find ourselves at the next December 31st saying the same things all over again. My point is that maybe we would be better off if we treated each and every day as a new year and accept the good with the bad, striving to be the best we can but also being ok with ourselves for being imperfect. Without negatives, there are no positives, and we are imperfect beings, so maybe we would all be happier and better off if we just accepted ourselves the way we are.
It is fun to look back a year at a time and see the growth or lack thereof that has occured. In my case, a year ago, I had just had my second ankle surgery and fourth knee surgery. I was laid up in bed not able to move around at all. Today, my ankle is still sore and weak, but I am walking and able to do low impact activities. Yes, my life has changed significantly as a result, but that’s ok. As I drove to my mom-in-law’s house today in Reno, NV, I gazed up in awe of the beautiful Mt. Rose with a fresh blanket of snow, remembering the day in the late 90s when I hiked to its summit at 10,776 feet. I remember the days when I used to hike and bike in the 14,000 ft. mountains in Colorado and all the other amazing adventures life has afforded me. I realize I will probably never experience that kind of joy and exhileration again, but I’m ok with that. I’m now learning to enjoy kinder, gentler ways of staying active and fit, and I am thankful I was able to make those memories while I was younger and stronger. I am thankful I can walk again, because a year ago that seemed very far in my future.
A year ago, we had recently found Joe’s son, Brent, and were starting to make contact with him. Today, we have enjoyed two wonderful visits with him and have been in contact pretty much every day thanks to text messaging. I can’t begin to explain how thankful I am, and all I can hope for the future is that we continue to get closer and that we can continue to have visits as frequently as possible. It’s very rare that the universe brings a person into your life when you are not expecting it, and his presence in our family’s life has been a real gift. He is an amazing young man! I could go on and on about the reasons I am proud of him as well as my three children.
A year ago, I was a stay home mom and part time math tutor, and now I am a full time math teacher. It’s a challenge to juggle family life with work life, but as always I appreciate the challenge and am doing my best in all aspects of both lives. I know I am not perfect at either job, but to me the most important thing is that I’m trying my best. That’s all I can expect of myself. I’ve made some great new friends, and I enjoy being back in a professional atmosphere.
It’s impossible to peek into my world without understanding the difficult things I deal with as well. Primarily, I have a hard time with loss of loved ones, since unfortunately it has happened too many times in my young life. Starting with my childhood babysitter who died with her brand new husband in car accident on their wedding night, continuing into high school and college with many friends losing their lives to accidents, murder/rape, and suicide. Then as an adult with the loss of my father and grandmother and several other friends, including children of some friends who were taken way too soon. I’ve struggled with loss repeatedly, and the only one I really feel at peace about is my grandmother who was 93 years old and died of natural causes. She was the only one I got to say goodbye to. Somehow in that case, it seemed ok since she had lived a long and full life and we got to anticipate her departure to the great beyond. However, when people die unexpectedly, it leaves me feeling so unresolved inside, and I can’t help but look backwards and relive old memories even though it makes me sad. It’s hard to write about and to share this with the world, but if you know me at all, you know that is part of what I carry around day to day. I question a world that takes life away in such tragic ways, and I realize my own mortality and wonder when and how it will be my turn. As I reflect on the past and look to the future, all I want is to find peace and acceptance that ‘it is what it is’ as my husband always reminds me, and that there is nothing I can do about it, so the best thing to do is take one day at a time and accept the pain of death with the joy of life and realize that without one there isn’t the other. We are born alone, and we die alone, and in between we are blessed with this incredible journey called life. And just like taking a vacation, even though you know that one day the journey will end, there is no point worrying about it while you are still on the journey. It’s better to accept the fact that everything comes to an end and enjoy each day of the journey while you can. It’s funny to be writing about this today, because in fact, today is the last day of my vacation, and I know it’s coming to an end but trying to enjoy every last moment of it while it is still today.
So, to summarize my thoughts, I am including lyrics from one of Jewel’s new songs which says what I’m trying to say much more poetically than I ever could. It’s called, “You Are What You Are” and it’s about being ok with yourself because everything is already the way it should be. Without dark, there is no light, without goodbye there is no hello, the opposing forces of the universe make everything the way it is.
I’m driving around town
Kinda bored with the windows rolled down
See a girl on the bus stop bench
Dressed to draw attention
Hoping everyone will stare
If she don’t stand out she thinks she’ll disappear
Wish I could hold her, tell her, show her
What she wants is already there
A star is a star
It doesn’t have to try to shine
Water will fall
A bird just knows how to fly
You don’t have to tell a flower how to bloom
Or light how to fill up a room
You already are what you are
And what you are is beautiful
Heard a story the other day
Took place at the local VA
A father talking to his dying son
This was his conversation
“It’s not supposed to be like this
You can’t go first I can’t handle it”
The boy said “Dad now don’t you cry,
Remember when I was a child what you used to tell me when I’d ask why?”
(You’d say) Gravity is gravity
It doesn’t try to pull you down
Stone is stone
It can’t help but hold its ground
The wind just blows, though you can’t see
It’s everywhere like I’ll always be
You already are what you are
And what you are is strong enough
Look in the mirror
Now that’s another story to tell
I give love to others
But I give myself hell
I’d have to tell myself
“In every scene there’s a perfect plan”
Everything I hoped to be
I already am
A flower is a flower
It doesn’t have to try to bloom
And light is light
Just knows how to fill a room
And dark is dark
So the stars have a place to shine
The tide goes out
So it can come back another time
Goodbye makes a love so sweet
And love is love so it can teach us
We already are what we are
And what we are is beautiful
And strong enough
And good enough
And bright enough