What I Learned in 2015

 Photo from unsplash

Photo from unsplash

Dear Sherah,

This year was a doozy, which is a cute word to describe a not-at-all cute year. Beautiful, yes. Gut wrenching, yes. Full off love and heartbreak, yes. But cute? No no no. Over the past couple of months, I've been really anxious to leave 2015 behind me. Every difficult thing that happens, from a car problem to a thrown-out back, is yet another piece of evidence that this year needs to be over and done. (Did I tell you that I tripped this past week and have been walking with a limp? I mean, really. Let's be done.) I've started making lists of hopes and dreams for 2016—intentions I have, books I want to read, changes I want to make, the person I want to become. I'm ready to move on. 

But this morning as I was getting ready for the day, I looked in the mirror and realized that I was looking at a different face than the one I saw a year ago. And suddenly I felt a rush of gratitude for this beautiful, gut wrenching, lovely, heartbreaking, limp-y, doozy of a year. 

So here, before the resolutions for 2016, are some reflections on what I learned in 2015. 

In 2015, I learned the difference between lifeless expectations and my true values. When I abandoned the expectations, I felt free; when I lived outside of my true values, I felt unstable. I'm leaving this year more clear about what's real, what's important, and who I want to be. 

I learned that the difference between "living life for God" and "living life with God" is the difference between anxiety and peace, disillusionment and hope. I learned that who I am is far more important than what I do. I'm leaving 2015 with less fear over doing everything right and more desire to discover true, abundant life with Jesus. 

I learned the value of professional help. In addition to the hours of therapy I went through this year for emotional healing, I also found a fantastic estestician, stuck to a skincare system, and am leaving 2015 free of the acne I've suffered with for fourteen years. Just because you haven't been able to break free of something for a long time doesn't mean that the story can't change. But it probably means you need to stop trying to DIY and find some real help. 

I discovered I like how I look in nose rings, skinny jeans, the color red, and tattoos, which I think means I'm leaving 2015 cooler than I entered it. 

In a year of painfully difficult marital relationships and story-lines, including my own, I suspended a lot of what I've held to be true about marriage. I learned no person or love is stagnant, that people and loves will most certainly change, and that if you're married to someone who's willing to change with you and build a new relationship when the old one dies, you've been given a true gift that you should protect and honor with your life. I'm walking into 2016 less judgmental of other people's marriages and more grateful and determined for my own. 

I learned that if you are certain about most things in life, I can respect you but I probably can't be friends with you. The people who my soul recognizes as true friends are curious, questioning, wondering, learning, changing, and hopeful. They regularly form new opinions and are passionate about the things they really care about. I'm walking into 2016 with more appreciation for my friends and a sharper vision for the people I want to find and surround myself with.

I learned that "regret is a tough but fair teacher." 

That "only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others." 

That "not one of us gets through life without expressing desperate, messy, and uncivilized need." 

(And a crap-load of other things from Brene Brown, one of my new true loves from 2015.)

I learned that I really, truly love being a mom, that it's every bit as important as everyone says, and that believing it's the most important thing I'm doing doesn't mean it's the only important thing I'll ever do. I'm leaving 2015 ready to embrace yet another new season of motherhood, whatever that may be.  

I learned to memorize some of my priorities. Even after years of consistent positive reinforcement, I still sometimes get confused. Reading a book with my kid is always better than writing. Writing is always better than doing dishes. Sleeping is always better than watching TV. Sex is always better than sleeping. Stuff like that. 

I learned that the only thing more naive than trusting other people to carry my stuff is thinking I'm smart enough and strong enough to go at life alone. The former is always a risk; the latter is a certain way to fail or be miserable. 

I've learned that restoration is better than giving up on people, that grace is better than holding people to their mistakes, and that sometimes letting go is the restorative and graceful thing to do.

I learned, in a deeply experiential way, the most beautiful quote I read all year:

 photo from unsplash

photo from unsplash

So here I am: clearer, freer, more myself, less fearful, more determined, less judgmental, better rested, and more alive. All because of a year that I would describe as the hardest year of my life. Makes me wonder what to hope for and expect in 2016, you know? Or maybe it means I'm ready to let go of my expectations and dive in, heart and hands open. 

I bless you with big and beautiful things in the year to come, my friend. Thanks for writing through this year with me when we could have been doing the dishes.

And now, dishes.

Love,

Joy