There was a time when I would scoff at the notion of a whole year being bad. I would internally roll my eyes and externally offer Pollyanna platitudes on the unlikelihood that a whole year could be bad. “A year is just time,” I’d say as I would tilt my head just so and bat my eyelashes. “Time is neutral.”
That is true. And time, like everything else, is made good, bad or neutral by our perceptions.
My perception is 2017 is crap. There. I said it. Pollyanna is withering in the corner like a forgotten houseplant. However, with a little water and sunshine, she’ll be back. She’s tenacious. She is simply incubating, hibernating. I feel she has big plans.
To review, you may recall I came out guns blazing for the GIANT PURGE. I started the year counting all my things, tossing bags of things away, taking multiple trunk loads of things to charities and selling some other things. I was disgusted with everything I had accumulated and equally proud of my recent ‘stuff’ enlightenment.
Then a phone call at the end of January shifted everything. My mother was found unconscious in her home and had been transported to a hospital. She had had a massive brain bleed from which she could not and would not recover. Her passing was peaceful, but sudden. Her death likely caused by the medication meant to keep her alive. A known side effect.
Death is a known side effect of life, after all.
While trying to manage my grief – that’s a joke by the way, grief has its own agenda – I was also now tasked with managing her service and her stuff. She was on the edge of hoarding. She did not buy useless trinkets and appliances she would not use, but fabrics, yarn, beads, and crafting supplies she had big plans for. She owned hundreds of books (as do I) and had stacks of magazines that doubled as end tables. Baskets full of crystals, motivational and affirmation cards, CDs and sticky notes everywhere. Now it was all mine. A two-bedroom apartment two hours away full of her stuff and some family memories. And her life.
Was this a cosmic joke? I decide to purge and now I have an additional whole house to deal with? It wasn’t so funny. I would learn in the 11 months to follow that the Universe has a very wicked sense of irony. But it’s all for my growth, right?
- A mentally ill cheeto gets sworn in as president and my mother checks out.
- It is left to me to sort, keep, purge and organize her stuff, her service and my own grief
- A planned trip to India to take others began with a hotel fire in Delhi. Like the hotel I was in.
- Larry (the hubs) begins suffering from serious insomnia. It gets much worse.
- Bills for my mother are still pouring in. I don’t have to pay them. I can ignore them. Only I can’t. There seems to be some sort of urgency to them.
- There are countless doctor’s appointments, reiki and acupuncture for Larry that I have to schedule and drive him to because he is tired and dizzy. Nothing seems to be working.
- My anniversary is forgotten. And I angrily don’t care.
- He’s out of work. Short-term disability. A planned trip to Europe is looking threatened in the face of his malaise. I assemble a team of helpers and decide to leave. I need to leave. I have not had any space to myself for months and I’m at a breaking point.
- While in Berlin we hear news of a little disturbance in the Atlantic named Irma. Shit. I did not return until two days after she marched across my state. There was quite a bit of physical and mental clean-up to contend with. I felt I had to make amends for not being there.
- Anxiety is a new side effect of the insomnia. More doctor’s appointments, less sleep.
- Thanksgiving is at risk, the holidays are becoming more stressful.
- Christmas parties become the impetus for arguments and ramped up anxiety, decorations are delayed and the Christmas Spirit is hiding somewhere in the attic. I have gained 15 pounds in the last four months.
Instead of releasing all my stuff to create more space, both physical and mental, I was given more. More actual things to go through, more situations to navigate, more challenges.
Be careful what you wish for.
But here’s the thing: there is always beauty and magic. One year can be defining, it can be difficult. One incident in the year cannot define it. The beating down every time I got back up, the ground shifting underneath me as soon as I felt stable – that can define a year. But more importantly it can define me.
Growth is messy and hard. It sucks. Can I just say that? I’m in the business of growth and self-development and it sucks. And it’s necessary. And it’s beautiful.
Here’s the other side:
- I am reminded of my abundance by the things I have in my home. I am grateful for all of it even as I release it.
- The loss of my mother brings with it the love and appreciation of so many whose lives were touched by her. I am able to be with her things and in her home and to take as long as I need thanks to an understanding landlord on her end and amazing business partners and friends on mine.
- I get to go back to my spiritual home with my friend Karin, and actually take new people to share it. I meet a Vedic astrologer named Mustang Jack who told me what I already knew but was afraid to embrace. I get to see my Indian friends and be soothed by the rush of the healing waters of the Ganges.
- After India my journey continued with Karin to Spain where we drank delicious wine, watched flamenco dancers and took trains to amazing places.
- A little overnight trip for my birthday took the hubs and I to a remote island with white sandy beaches where we sat silently together to witness a stunning sunset.
- The insomnia and whatever else was going on created space and opportunity for real, honest and meaningful conversations between Larry and I.
- I boarded a plane to Switzerland alone and spent three glorious, healing days finding my own way through two cities and wandering along riverbanks before joining a friend.
- My friend Sarah met me in Zurich and we traveled to Berlin, Prague, Salzburg and Munich taking in the culture, architecture and food. I got to see the Fred and Ginger building live and in person!
- My brother booked a flight to come for Christmas.
- People are coming out of the woodwork that have suffered through insomnia or anxiety or both to offer support and advice to Larry. He’s not alone.
- Friendsgiving. Amazing food, awesome friends, laughter and intimate conversations under warm low light
- My brother, niece and son were all here for the holidays. We drank a lot, ate a lot and played reindeer games.
All in all it was just a year. The waves were higher, the water more turbulent. But stormy skies make way for the best sunsets. I learned more about myself through these challenges and some of it was not pretty. At all. But I believe I did purge. I was able to peel away some of the layers of pretense and armor.
I didn’t often ask for help, mostly space, but everyone I considered a friend offered so much support and love and even those I didn’t know that well became little lights in the darkness through their kindnesses.
It was just a year. It’s all perspective.
As I write this on January 1, 2018, it is raining, cold and windy. That feels somehow appropriate. Cleansing. Preparing for the journey ahead that will be this year.