I have been trying to think of how to summarize 2013 for the last couple of days and based on the many things that took place in the previous year, I find that one word that best describes what I have gone through in both the good and the bad sense is I have been “humbled“.
Through most of last year, I went about my business with my head bowed, carrying a guilt and shame I thought I had to bear because of my mistakes in the year before that. While I have “risen” from the burden I had carried as I realized I had long ago paid my dues and had been forgiven by my God, I did not take that realization as a reason to gloat. Much too much has happened that has prevented me from doing that. And I am trying to learn from the lessons life had taught me and made me go through, difficult though some may have been.
In the beginning of the year, I had thought that 2012 was my most difficult year, my lowest of lows. I started 2013 with the thought that nothing could be worse than what I had gone through personally in 2012. I realize now I was wrong.
One of the most important lessons I learned in 2013 is not to expect that the worst has passed until it has indeed passed. If I thought I was in a bad dream in 2012, I was in a nightmare in 2013. But I suppose you can say that I had been prepared in many ways by my journey in 2012 for the more difficult sojourn of 2013. I had good practice. My resilience had once been tested, and it came in handy when I needed it most. It helped me to put one foot infront of the other to take even just tiny steps when I thought I could no longer bear the weight of the world. When the worst of the worst came, I looked back and told myself that was nothing compared to what is happening now.
Despite the challenges I faced, I never felt bitter. I just told myself I shouldn’t have been so quick to think that 2012 was my lowest point. I didn’t know I had the capacity to handle even so much more. I didn’t know that I would survive something worse or more difficult to go through. I didn’t realize I was stronger than the person I thought I was.
I learned, too, that I was never alone even when everyone else seemed to have left my side. In 2012, the circle of people around me grew even smaller. By 2013, it was just my immediate family and a select few friends who heard every beat of my heart, every whimper, every cry. And yet when the storm came, I couldn’t call out to them. I had to bear it all alone.
But I was not alone.
Through all the struggles I faced, I knew He was holding my hand and I never felt more protected nor sheltered by God. I felt Him in the gentle wind, in the sunshine, and even in a short message sent from across the globe from someone I had not heard from in ages and ages. When I asked Him to tell me what to do, someone reached out to me and gave me His message as if He had left a note on her desk to pass on to me. He said it so plainly, “I heard you, my child…”
I couldn’t even be angry at Him for one second. I didn’t have any reason to ask “Why me?” or “When is this going to end?” Everything that was happening one after the other seemed to be a never-ending conversation where I heard Him speaking to my heart. There were times when I would pause in the midst of the anger and the pain and just listen to the silence, and I found such great comfort in the stillness. Even when nothing was being said — when I was not asking any questions and I was not trying to discern what His response was, I heard Him loud and clear in my heart.
He told me to hold fast and not to go anywhere. So I relented, despite my doubts about having the strength to do that which He asked.
He taught me that my greatest strength was my faith. When all else failed, it kept me standing. When the tears wouldn’t stop coming, it gave me the air I needed to keep going to the next minute.. and the next. I learned to pray like I never prayed before. I started reading the Bible again. I finally relented and stopped resisting going to Church again. When I was stumped, I asked for His help and the answers came.
It is that faith which keeps me believing I can make it now, no matter where life leads me. I know that whichever way the wind blows, I will be able to bend and take it and not let it break me.
I used to be afraid that I would break. But even breaking now is no longer daunting. I know I will heal and stand back up again.
I learned that you can find happiness and draw it out even in the worst of situations if you will yourself to. My efforts at channelling happiness in 2012 proved helpful in keeping me focused on staying positive even when everything was going wrong. There is wisdom in knowing happiness can be created or be a choice — that no matter how crippling life’s blows, you can find a reason to smile about, or look up to the skies hoping to find a rainbow again.
While I have failed miserably at completing my happiness journal, the effort to actively seek out quotes and other happiness – related prose or text put me in a better frame of mind than I normally would. Those “words of inspiration” can, indeed, inspire.
I saw how others persevered and smiled despite the ravages of calamities and other sources of hopelessness. I have no right to begrudge the world for what I see as my misfortune in the face of their heartbreak. I have been so blessed, no matter how empty I may have felt. My cup was always full.
I learned to accept that the way some people may treat or regard you is not the sum total of who you are. On the contrary, it shows the kind of person they are. I am holding my tongue on this one, so further discussion needed.
I learned that I have such a capacity for forgiveness as I have such a capacity for hate. Again, both the good and the bad. I never realized I could foster so much hate in my heart like I did, and that I could espouse such evil designs in my head. We think that we are better than the evil we read about but when pushed to a corner, I have discovered that I am not totally above all that. That I am human and can succumb to the temptation to hurt another as I have been hurt, or as someone I love has been hurt.
At the same time, I have learned that I can swallow such pain and anger and accept an apology or the illusion of one if none is forthcoming for the sake of myself and those who matter most to me like my son. Where I thought I would have turned my back on someone who has hurt me like no other, I have succeeded in finding the compassion to give that person another chance.
Yet I am human, and there is hatred in my heart that might forever simmer and not find forgiveness.
I learned that forgiveness begins with forgiving yourself.
And forgive me, I have.
For the longest time I punished myself for my failings. I thought I had committed the gravest of sins, only to realize much later on that I had stumbled, but I had gotten up on my feet again. I had paid my dues and then some. In fact, I had overpaid what I thought I had owed many times over.
When I forgave myself, I found strength in knowing that the courage I needed to own up to my failings was the same courage that would help me move forward. It was wrong that I had been so harsh on myself because it allowed others to take advantage of me, but it was a lesson I had to learn from the mistakes I had made.
I learned that I should not be afraid of beginnings or endings as they are but time stamps on our life events.
It is never too late to begin again, no matter how far you’ve gone or how much time has passed. There is no such thing as having invested so much time into something that you cannot turn around and say “I’ve done enough of this, time to move on.”
Yes, you can move on to other things.
Yes, it is okay to give up and turn your sights elsewhere.
I used to be so afraid of the time and effort that would have all gone to waste if I had a change of heart. But the lessons of 2013 have taught me that there will be times when one must just accept the stopwatch has ceased ticking. The clock will start with some new endeavor, new place, or new pursuit.
And while we all hate endings, I look to them as the sign of new beginnings, of new things to come. It is all part of the so-called circle of life that we must go with if we are to survive and move on instead of getting stuck where we are.
We shouldn’t be afraid of either one. When things end, you know other things will begin. Life WILL go on. And in 2014, it will.