Happy New Year? The question mark is intentional.
New Year’s Eve is a bit of an illusion. I heard people say (myself included) “I can’t wait for this year to be over!!" or “I don’t want to let this year go it’s been so good”. It’s as if the stroke of midnight erases the year left behind and you are given a brand new start. Somehow, I naively thought when the calendar turned, my new start began and all of the pain and struggle of the last year was behind me.
I woke up on January 1, 2013 and didn’t feel new. I wasn’t all that happy either. I still have a bunch of stuff hanging over my head from 2012. It’s nobody’s fault. It just is. There are things yet to be done; decisions yet to be made. The new start that everyone says arrives with a new year didn’t come without some strings from my past.
We had dinner with some good family friends last night. They encouraged me to not look back and just move forward. On one hand, this is good advice. On the other hand, it is somewhat dangerous.
Imagine driving without your rear view mirror. At times, it is extremely important to be able to see what is behind you. There are things in my past that could sneak up on me and kick me in the butt at any time. If I am not able to glance at them from time to time, this could cause a dangerous collision. The loss of Mike will be with me forever. Will it always be a huge, gaping hole? No. Dealing with it is easier than it was 9 months ago and I will continue to learn to live with the loss, but he will always be missing from my life from now on. Mike would not want me to get stuck in the past. Before he died, he told me he wanted me to move forward. I am and I will continue to do so, but there are lessons to be learned from the past that are important to carry with me as I move along.
One important lesson is to realize that everyone is fighting a hard battle. Many people were completely puzzled by Mike’s death because he was one of happiest, kindest people they’d ever met. This is true, but underneath it all, he was suffering immensely. Having been through this experience, I’ve learned to be more compassionate and kind to those around me. You only see what people are willing to show you and one act of kindness could make a huge difference to someone. Unfortunately, in Mike’s case, one more act of kindness did not save him, but it might save someone else.
I’ve also learned to count my blessings and appreciate even the smallest things. Life can change in an instant. When life does get turned upside down I know I have incredible support. I’ve been reminded that God is near to the brokenhearted, He is an ever present help and strength in times of trouble, He is unchanging, and gives peace that is beyond worldly understanding. I’ve lost some friendships along this journey, but many have been renewed and strengthened beyond belief. Of course, I want to look back and remember all of these things.
What was meant by the advice I received was that you can’t change the past so accept it and move forward. Perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned from 2012 is that I am not able to control everything. Pretty much everything that happened this past year was completely out of my control. Let me tell you, that is a harsh and humbling lesson to learn - especially when it involves losing someone you deeply love. I don't believe Mike's death occurred so I could learn the lesson. Absolutely not. But, I learned it nonetheless. Let go, and let God.
My 2013 is not a completely clean slate because some events of 2012 follow me into the new year. There are still things left to complete (like my law school applications which are allllmost done). I’ll continue to move forward, but am giving myself permission to glance in the rear view mirror every once and awhile. It’s necessary for safe “driving”. But, as I embark on the road laid out before me for 2013, Pintrest assisted me with some words to live by:
“Be a lamp or a lifeboat or a ladder”.
So many people have been that to me over the past year; it’s time for me to return the favor.