As 2013 comes to a close, I might be tempted to look upon it as a “tough” year. As a family, we had a lot of health challenges, money challenges and discipline challenges. I took a detour from the path I had come so far upon only to find that I had gone in a frustrating circle. I gained some much-needed self-awareness during this detour and ultimately fortified my resolve to continue the journey and build the life I desire, but I lost pace with some dear traveling companions along the way. It was the year of the dog. It was the year of some of my greatest successes and biggest failures personally, professionally, and as a mother. But even though it was a difficult year in many respects, when I look back at 2013 I will remember it as a year of lessons and a year of growth; a year of facing fears, dead-ends and consequences of poor choices; a year when I determined what is truly important to me on this life’s odyssey and reaffirmed the person that I want to be while I travel it. Ultimately I will remember 2013 as the year of the great cosmic kick in the ass that I so sorely needed.
I’ve discussed my thoughts on New Year’s Resolutions before. I make resolutions every freaking day, so making special ones for the year tend to feel like I am setting myself up for failure. So instead I will make a list of lessons learned in 2013 that I intend to carry forward.
- Making mistakes isn’t the end of the world. This one may seem obvious, but for some reason I have had the hardest time learning this lesson. My fear of making mistakes has actually caused me to make even BIGGER mistakes than I would have if I had just followed my heart. Somewhere toward the end of 2012 I started playing the old song of “You have to do everything just right or you will be a failure as a mother.” Well, I made some doozies this year and I actually think I am better for them. At least a little wiser.
- A dog is not the answer. Unless it is to the question “What are the boys not ready for?”
- Forgiving oneself is one of the hardest things to do, but one of the most necessary. This one sort of goes along with number 1. We all do stupid stuff. Sometimes it is even more than stupid. Sometimes it is hurtful to ourselves or to others. Sometimes it is dangerous. Sometimes it is the only thing that we could come up with in the moment of being human and you have to forgive yourself and move on.
- Laughter is actually the best medicine. Especially when it seems that humor can’t be found. I’m a better person when I take some moments out to have some laughs with friends. And I’m a better mom when I can laugh with the boys or turn a tense situation into a funny one.
- I will never be a dad and that’s OK. I can’t play both roles. I’ve tried. I suck at it. I’m a mom and a damn good one (most of the time) and that will have to be enough. Trying to overcompensate for the fact that I am just one person or lamenting the fact that I am not a man and therefore can’t relate to my sons in the way that I perceive they need is not helpful. It wears me out. When I’m worn out, I am a grouchy, yelling, stressed-out mom and that’s no good for anyone. I’m better off just being me.
- Comparison is the thief of happiness. I didn’t write that. I think it was Teddy Roosevelt. In any case, it is true. When I compare myself or my family or my parenting or my ideas to others, I find myself second-guessing and doubting myself. Where there is doubt, there is no faith and where there is no faith, there is no joy. I stole happiness from myself by comparing my life to how I thought it “should” be, by trying to reach others expectations or perceived expectations of how I should be living my life and raising my family. Once I stopped doing that, I noticed how much more content I was. No one has it all figured out. There is no one right way. There is only our individual paths and we can travel them anyway we choose as long as we are doing so authentically and kindly. If I want to dance my way, while others are marching or hopping or running, so be it.
- Boys are loud, physical, potty-talk loving, joy grabbing, stormy little creatures. At least mine are. And that is OK. And it will pass. And I will be OK until it does. And it is OK to look forward to bedtime for the quiet it brings. Really.
- Love really does conquer all. Along with humor, I’ve realized that approaching everything with love makes it better. If any of these lessons are to be turned into resolutions, I guess this would be the one. This year I resolve to react with love, rather than fear. Love, rather than anger. Love is the most powerful emotion there is and I know that I have a lot to give. This is the gift that God gave me–to love and feel and give with sometimes overwhelming passion and sensitivity. I’ve often felt this sensitivity was both a blessing and a curse. And that is where I have gone wrong…believing in the “curse”. Believing that love is not always a blessing. I lost sight of this somewhere along the way and began to doubt love and its efficacy. Believing that I was suffering because of love. I think it is because I had forgotten that love is only about the giving. It is only about the other person. I must remember to take myself out of it. I’ve been praying the Prayer of St. Francis almost daily and I think it encapsulates how I want to move forward into 2014.
I hope that everyone can look back on the lessons that they have learned this year and feel as hopeful as I do about this next year. Imagine all the dreams that could be realized if we all faced this year with love and compassion and kindness and gratitude and some good humor. I’m in. Are you?