2019. In some ways it was a really rough year and in some ways it was a really great year. As I observe others reflect on this year it doesn’t seem like an entire year should be one way or the other. I mean a year is really just a way of marking time. I have had years where I lost my brother and years where I have added to my family. Years I got divorced and years that I started a business. Years where I learned about myself and years I got stuck. As I personally reflect I think that often all these good things and hard things are not really linear or time constricted but are happening in a jumble – the calendar really is an arbitrary set of parameters, as if we have a need to organize our lives into distinct timeframes. But what if it all became about the journey and we didn’t choose to look at life with good years and bad years, good months and rough months, good days and challenging ones, because if we took away the calendar we wouldn’t have to compare or start over or wish for a better year. I have a good friend who always talked about seasons of life and it is something I adopted. What if we could always look at life in seasons, some being long and others being short. Some we enjoy more than others. Seasons of lack and seasons of plenty, seasons of relationship and seasons of solitude, seasons of joy and seasons of sorrow. Seasons of hope and yes, even seasons of despair. I have had them all and they certainly don’t seem to care about the ball dropping to signal the beginning or end.
I will acknowledge that there are some good things about the constraints of a calendar year. I always try to choose a word for the year. Last year was “simplify” which was a lot about downsizing all the STUFF I have accumulated. I did alright with this and want to keep organizing and giving stuff away. Organizing is comforting to me and I like having things put away neatly for when I need them. But honestly, it is probably just as much a way of controlling things when other parts of my life feel out of control. Life got a little complicated this year with two jobs and schedules and kids in three locations but as I mull it all I think in my head I really tried to simplify what was important – what I needed to pay attention to. I tried not to allow some of the noise and clutter from the outside world distract me because I had a lot to manage emotionally. I assume, to some, this looked like I didn’t care or was shutting myself off, but I had to downsize what I allowed in just in order to make life work this year. I kind of sucked at a lot of it. I allowed myself to overthink and stress and take on a lot of the emotions of the situations. But in all of it I continually heard God tell me that there really is nothing I can control. Sometimes He had to shout this fairly loudly and I am pretty sure He is rolling His eyes at how often He had to allow me to hit a wall to realize how little control I have over things. A lifelong journey of learning and certainly not determined by a calendar.
This year I struggled for a new word. Last night while I was reading it popped into my head to choose the word “present”. For those who know me well I may seem like the incredible multi-tasker. (Side note I am currently thinking about what the superhero supersuit for this superpower would look like – probably something like what Elastigirl wore in The Incredibles to allow for maximum flexibilty). But the honest truth is, that in this ability to scurry about and clean and talk on the phone while writing an email I am really not staying in the moment at all. “Busy” is an easy way to not have to sit with, not only some of the hard stuff of life, but also to miss out and relish the good stuff. Time continues to go fast and I spend too much time floating through, thinking about what needs to be done next, instead of living in the moment. I realized a few years back that I spent a lot of my life in this semi-fugue state wherein things are getting done but I don’t recall the real moments, the moments that really make a life. I need to slow down. I need to feel the good. I need to give up control of the hard stuff. I need to look my friends in the eye when we talk and put my phone down. I need to let the moments of pain wash over me instead of trying to push past them. I need to accept the human in me and not think it can all be controlled if I just keep moving.
After not writing for several months, you all might have caught me in a moment of vulnerability. A moment where a thought popped in my head and I just needed to write it down. 2020 started today, and yes I have some goals and dreams that I am working on. Things that are really big picture. But what I really want to do is to be present. Not just this year and not just for a season but present as a way of living. I want to not worry about the date so I don’t feel the pressure of being “one year older” or agonize over what I did or did not accomplish in the timespan of a paper calendar. Because life is full of a lot of stuff. This year I stumbled and I grew. I cried and I laughed. I deepened relationships and cut some out. I felt like a failure and I felt like I found my calling. I felt taken advantage of and I felt joy from giving. I was inspired and I was defeated. I was more vulnerable and I also shut down. I am working on being ok with feeling it all. I am working on the present and maybe, just maybe, that is the greatest gift.