I have never been much into New Year’s resolutions … A friend of mine was asking the other day to give reasons why we don’t make them, as opposed to most people out there who make them every year. At the time, I couldn’t come up with a reason. I just knew I was not in the “let’s make a list for the new year, so we can have something to stray from” crowd.
Then, I thought about it for a bit … And, as with most of everything in my life, when I need explaining about who I am, I go to the way I grew up. Sorry, mom and dad, but it is true!
As a Romanian, who are somewhat passé-ists, I look back to the old year for lessons learned rather than look into the future with a plan. In our household, and even today, when I call my folks at midnight tonight, we talk about what went on this year and what we've learned from it. We assess how this year has changed us, inevitably, through the fortunes and misfortunes it showered us with, and we acknowledge what, if anything, is still the same in our characters … Sort of like a landscape after a tornado – we evaluate the damage and contemplate the new surroundings, never the same again.
And here I am, in the last day of 2010 reviewing my past 365 days! Every time I think of this year I feel tired! Every time, I sigh and say ‘WOW’! - I cannot shake this reaction, although I have tried to multiple times during the year … But this year has been that full, that overwhelmingly rich, meaningful and yet … short …
I feel like this was definitely, for me, one of those milestone years. One of those years when you know your life just took a 90 degree turn. I have done things this year I won’t be doing often, for sure … All the while, I have learned more about people and life in general and I have learned more about who I am, about my flexibility, patience, or lack of it, about what’s true and important and timeless in life.
I have learned that there can be marriage without a power struggle. We are here, together, to complete each other, and not to dispute who gets to the finish line first. There is no finish line, and if there is, I’d rather get there together, at the same time, hand in hand. I have learned new meanings of love, commitment, and respect, and for that I will forever be grateful to my patient, loving and overall amazing husband. Who knows me better than anyone else now, and who loves me just the same!
One of the things I have learned from him this year is how to slow down! I never thought this was possible! My agenda used to be completely full all the time. My calendar, with no days off for months! My weekends, filled with plans, trips, friends, and chores … Not so much anymore … I have learned how nice it is to just be. To just sit down for a full day and do nothing but finish a book, or a scarf!
One valuable lesson that I am still trying to acquire teachings from is that so much in our lives is out of our control! I know this is such a cliché for most people, but you control freaks out there know what I am talking about! We always want to know we’ve got the handle on everything. Well, I have learned this year that we have control over perhaps 10% of what’s happening to us. And that percentage is generous! The rest is chance. Or God. Or Nature. Or Government. Or … the economy … Or family. Or friends. Or … you fill in the blanks…
Like many folks around me, I have learned that the American Dream of owning your home can quickly become the Universal Nightmare of not being able to pay for it or sell it. And that what seems like a completely personal decision you have made with eyes wide open can take a life of its own and spin out of control when the economy tumbles! And, again, there is not much you can do about it. And “waiting it out” is painful, but it’s the only thing to do. Waiting it out is also not an option for a control freak. But I am forced to adjust.
I have learned, yet painfully, and very much against my nature, that my job doesn’t define me! I also learned that you can lose a job as quickly as you can get a job, and losing it has absolutely nothing to do with who you are or how good you are. I know now that a job is probably one of the most volatile “assets” we have, and thus we should not make an absolute of it … We should very much treat it like an appliance – it’s great, and useful while it’s there and while it works. And we do our best to care for it, maintain it, give it our all to keep it going. But once it breaks, we have to be ready to buy a new one. Not get stuck and cry over it in deep depression for months, ‘cause that won’t fix it. My mom was right (of course): “People make jobs. Jobs don’t make people”, she says. So, you move on, and you start enjoying your life instead of crying for that broken vacuum cleaner … eerr ... I mean … lost paycheck! Your life is the only definite you have left at the end of every day, for as long as you live. So tend to it.
On a more practical note, I have discovered that three old cats do not die if cooped up in a small car for four days and moved across America. They do just fine. Once again, I was amazed at their resilience and their tolerance, and their immense and unconditional trust in me! It was a once in a lifetime journey, and I am so glad we all did it as a family!
I have discovered how fast kids grow this year: one minute they are completely reliant on you, the parent, in diapers and non verbal, the next morning, they wake up speaking in sentences and asking for things by name, like “a red fire truck with a ladder” from Santa! My nephew also taught me how deeply sensitive, impressionable and kind small kids can be if exposed to love and affection – it’s all up to us whether they will be bullies or lovers!
Speaking of kids, I am also learning as we speak, that unborn babies have a mind of their own! They can call for birthing any time they feel like it – not knowing a thing about the mandatory 40 weeks! And the adults, and the doctors have to comply with their needs. They’ll show you who’s boss from early on. The tens of shelves in thousands of bookstores loaded with books about “What to expect when you’re expecting”, eat your hearts out!
I have learned this year that I am really not too old to change! All my life, I have secretly wished that I will never be too old to change … and this year was a great testimony to that: I am not too old to move to a state that should require a passport to just come visit; not too old for a new climate, new culture, even new speech! I am not too old to once again learn how to live with someone else in the house. Nor too old to make new friends and look for new connections. It’s refreshing to know that I still have the drive to go out there and find life and beauty and interest, even if sometimes I do have the reputation of a cynic.
I have been able to stay true to my personal goal, and keep moving this year. Life IS a trip, after all, is it not?! I have been so lucky to afford, both financially and physically, to see some gorgeous places this year – I have literally traveled “from sea to shining sea”, from North Carolina to California, through many places in between, and all the way to The Great Lakes, too. With every mile, I have reveled in the splendor of this land, and have returned home richer and more inspired to look for more beauty around me …
I am even grateful this year for the things that were not so fortunate. As I say, always, I am even grateful for the band aids: declining health, loss of money, loss of jobs, loss of friends – they were all part of this year’s mix! But each one of these was a lesson in patience, humility and optimism! You have to keep moving on. There is no reverse in the car of life! So, you “get tough or die” as Johnny would say.
I have learned this year who my friends are, for now. And that they can be as relative as the days of life themselves: they come and go … regardless of my actions. And that is fine. That is just the tide of life as it is. We change as people, so our relationships change. I am grateful for all my friends, from various stages of my life, and I wish all of them happiness in the new year, regardless of where in my universe they reside now.
I am also thankful to my blog readers. Their comments, and readership sometimes were the only connection I had to the “great, big world" out there, when I traveled across The States, or complained about the “new culture” I moved to, or about my craggy yard, or about unruly parents! For their presence and time, I thank them!
More than anything in the world, I am grateful today for my family – for my old and my new one, too! They are the force behind my smiles, and the energy under my feet in the morning! I am grateful for every second we all got to spend together this year, and I have been feeding off of the magic in those seconds year round! I know now, more than ever before, that no matter what life will throw my way, no matter how many changes, and pains and challenges, the lighthouse of my storms will always remain my family! And I am so happy to have that! The rest is just superfluous matter!
Happy New Year to all of you! Hopefully better, hopefully richer, hopefully healthier for all of us. But more importantly: make it full; make it matter, and enjoy it!