The Lessons of 2015 (#15Lessonsof2015)

This post has been sitting on my desktop for a week now and I want to publish it before it gets stale.  As my friend tells me, I shouldn’t overthink it.  So I’m going to do one pass and write what comes to mind first and post it.

Somehow, the line from one of my favorite Christmas songs keeps playing in my head.. “Greeting cards have all been sent..”  Just that first line.  First of all, I failed to send my greeting cards this year, but I’m trying to send Happy New year greetings.  Secondly, the new year always signaled the end of the holiday season for us Catholics, although it doesn’t officially end until the Feast of the Three Kings.  At least I know my card will not be lost in the flurry of mailbox arrivals.. Ha!

2015 saw me starting what I hope will be a tradition for me in this little corner  — I looked back to the year just ended, and I planned for the year ahead.  I wrote about the Lessons of 2014.

I have always lived by the motto that “I learn something new everyday.”  I think it is a humbling reminder that life has a lesson to teach us– often through the most unexpected ways and through the most unobvious “teacher”.  Uttering the line to myself is a means of imbibing the lesson learned by acknowledging it as something I didn’t know that I know now.

I had originally thought of listing down 15 lessons for 2015, but when I went back to last year’s post, I didn’t exactly do 14.  (I did 12..)  Again, I try to write as spontaneously as I can, so rather than fill a quota, I have decided to just let it flow.

In 2015, I learned …

…that no matter how much pain and bitterness I have in my heart, I can let go.  I was born under the sign of Aries, God of War, and I have always been true to form to the fiery temper embodied by my zodiac sign.  So when I do get angry, I tend to overdo it (like most things that involve emotions), but I have learned to just take a step back even when I’m seething with anger.  It’s like picturing yourself holding on to something and then just letting go and allowing it to fall to the ground.

… that falling out of love is not as difficult or impossible as I thought it was.  We always want to think of “falling in love” as akin to “forever”, but I have learned that while that is our hope, it often isn’t the case.  And human nature has always seen us clinging to lost love as if our life depended on it.  Well the truth of the matter is, my life didn’t depend on it and I realized I could continue living and breathing and being happy after the love left.  It’s a complicated picture to paint.  I won’t try.  But it is a lesson that I has helped get me to where I am now, where I can say I’m happier.  It’s something that has helped me to realize that there are things and people that I can do without.  I guess as we grow older, we come to terms with being content with the more important things in life that we often forget.

… that I am not fat.  I wish I can say there was a time I was really slim and svelte.  I have always been rather chunky and chunkier at times.  There were points in my life when I was really heavy.  Right now I have my “love handles” and I am wont to occasionally “lose my way” such as I did over the holidays.  But whether I’m at my thinner or thicker girth, I am more accepting of my shape and size and dress to flaunt my assets and highlight the better parts of me.  Fat can be sexy.  After all, without the extra parts of me, I wouldn’t have the meat to fill in the curves.

This is not to say that I’m going to “let things go”.  It’s all about taking care of me.

…that I am proud of being almost fifty because people can’t believe I’m 49.  I used to think I’d feel washed out at this age because I am literally almost a century old!  When I think about all that’s happened and everything I’ve gone through the last couple of years and I look in the mirror, I keep saying Dinna 2016 is actually the best iteration of me yet.

… that life is a steady stream of people walking in and out of our lives. The younger me held on tightly to everything that came my way — sometimes too tightly that it hurt when I had to let go.  I have realized that you can never really cling to something that must pass or someone who chooses to leave.  You have the memories, but you have to pick the good and let go of the pain.  I can let go of the people who choose to walk out of my life, because there will always be more than enough who will walk in and choose to stay.

Youth has a way of making us pine for others instead of appreciating the ones who actually ARE in our lives.  Why else did Sharon Cuneta have such a big hit in “Mahal Kita, Mahal Mo Siya, Mahal Niya Ay Iba?”  (Translation: “I love you, you love her and she loves someone else…” – yes, that was a title of a pop tune way back when..)  And yet as we grow older we realize that no matter how we want someone to stay, it’s really not up to us.  Just as it’s our choice to sit and watch life pass us by or up and go.  I have learned to hold on tight, but to be ready to let go when the universe or the person says I need to go now.  Even when that person can’t say it, but everything that he has done says his heart is no longer there.

I cried, I got raving mad, I prayed, I listened, and then the proverbial lightbulb lit up in my head.  And I learned to let go.

… that it is true that it is never too late to start again.  People tell me I’m brave.  Maybe I am.  But I think it’s more because I have to be, rather than just being.  There’s this colloquial expression back home “Forced to ‘good'” — you have to or you fold.  I have done a lot of things in 2015 that terrified me to death.  And yet, I cast my fate to the wind, closed my eyes and told myself, I have been through the worst, so how much worse can it get?  I already know it can get even worse, and I’m ready for that.  But at the other end of the spectrum lies the light — and I can’t wait to get there.  So I persevered and I made it through the year.  I was afraid to be alone but I am enjoying that right now.  Well, almost.

… that there will always be at least one person you will inspire, so acknowledge that there is a hero in you.   Perhaps it’s human nature to shrug off compliments such as those coming from people who find inspiration in the things we say, create or do.  The nuns had taught me to just be gracious and say thanks.  We always think we are ordinary people — that the everyday things we do do not inspire — because they are “everyday things”.  And yet sometimes just breathing or being able to go on from day to day can inspire someone who is going through worse.  The direction we take, the words we write, or the decisions we make may inspire others to move one way or the other.  Just say thank you.  And recognize that your actions can affect others in a very positive light.  When they do, take your medal and wear it proudly.  Know that your goodness is a seed planted that will hopefully make our world a better place for the children we are building it for.

… that sometimes you just have to learn to say no, or enough is enough.  I have always been generous to a fault — with my time, effort, money and love.  And At times, that has worked to my disadvantage.  To the point of tears and hopelessness.  In putting myself first, I have realized that while we have been taught to share, we should not forget that we need to take care of ourselves, too.  So the “selfish me” has decided to prioritize “me”.  I have to take care of myself before I can take care of anyone else.  Like I said last year, it seems the best way for me to take care of those I need to take care of is to actually be able to be strong enough to do that.

While putting yourself last seems noble and ideal, it doesn’t give you the best footing in terms of carrying the weight of the world, so to speak.  This is one time when logic needs to supersede emotion — so put yourself first.

… that there are times when people aren’t being mean or being bad on purpose — they are simply wired that way and have no choice but to act like they do.  I think it’s safe enough to say that we often fall victim to thinking that when someone does something bad to us, they do it on purpose.  Not that I’m wearing the Queen of the Benefit of the Doubt crown, but if you think about it, not everyone is born with the kindness gene.  Not everyone will think of others before them, hence they will not think they’re hurting you in focusing on themselves.

Knowing that now has helped me to be more accepting but not tolerant.  (Does that make sense?)  It has also given me an anchor to tether my magnanimous side on when I would normally have otherwise shoved something or someone in the way of utter ruin.

…that it doesn’t hurt to bring my expectations down or have no expectations at all.  One lesson that I learned during the first quarter of 2015 came about as a result of one disappointment after another — so much so that I found myself almost resigned to further disappointment, on the brink of frustration. So I decided to try and not expect anything of anything or anyone.  I was busy trying to fortify my spirit and mind given certain decisions I made during the first month of the year, so it wasn’t all that hard to practice not pinning my hopes on others.

When you find yourself terrified of your choices but are forced to go ahead and stand on your own two feet, you just close your eyes and take that leap.  When you close your eyes, you utter a prayer and then you jump.  So I said, if it happens, it happens.  If it doesn’t.. we go on to the next.

I don’t know if t was because the universe finally heard me or simply because I let go, but the strangest thing was it was at that point that the disappointments trickled down to a drop.  Yes, the disappointments still come, but because I don’t pin my hopes high on them, I don’t fall as hard.  I have been pleasantly surprised when things do work out, and I have been able to recover faster when they don’t.

No, it isn’t that the disappointments  have made me cynical about life or people.  It has just made me more pragmatic about my expectations.

… that surrounding yourself with people with optimism, cheer and wisdom will rub off on you.  I am not always the most chipper person in town, but I’ve generally had a cheerful countenance during my waking hours.  First, I had long ago learned that you can get more and get things done faster if you ask nice.  And second, people do remember and will return the same kind of treatment you give them.  At work, there’s a senior colleague who actually has a standard answer when you ask her how she’s doing — “Just fabulous!”  This from the woman who trumps us all in our league because she supports the boss of the bosses on the highest rung of our corporate ladder.  No matter how crazy a day it may be or how impossible a request I am about to relay to her, that softens things up and starts us off on a good note.

We often brush off the claim that what we do affects others, but the truth is, no matter how insignificant a step we take in either direction, it cascades to others around us like a ripple in a still pond.  And you can sink or swim.  I choose to swim.

I can be grumpy or just stoic — but I choose to smile.  Less wrinkles, more friends, more things done the way I want them when I want them.

… that my son is even stronger and more mature than I thought he was.  I’m a mom and will always be a mom to this little guy who is now up to my eyes — and who will probably shoot up to be taller than me in the next couple of months.  Up until last year, I had always looked to him for inspiration and focus.  He has been my anchor.  And yet the recent months has revealed to me that he has grown in leaps and bounds and have been a source of life lessons even at just 11.  I keep telling people he’s 11 turning 31.  One thing I know now is to never underestimate his capacity to understand or figure things out for himself.  Of course, he still floors me with questions about life in general (like “What is a condom?”) and I am relieved by that, because I would hate for that day to come when he won’t find it necessary to ask anymore.

…that I do better writing long hand and editing myself on paper.  With all the technology around us, writing with a pen or pencil on paper has become less and less necessary unless you were scribbling down notes.  But to actually write a story, a piece, or a post longhand and scribble lines across your words and change them up is something I find more effective.  It’s something I hope to go back to in 2016 when I write.

… that “happier” can be with a “glass half full” rather than a “full glass”.  In the past year, I saw myself transforming in many ways.  It has been so dramatic that people actually see it.  It’s not just my demeanor or my general attitude about life — I look different.  It has all been a conscious effort to go back to the person I used to be — and who I actually am.

We often aspire for things and say we want it all.  In 2015, I found that “some” or “a little” can be more than enough.  Perhaps it’s my own efforts at not clinging to anything outside of me as tightly as I used to.  The people in our lives and the things that we own are not truly ours.  They will go.  They will fade.  They will be lost.

I savor the moment, I enjoy the taste.  If more comes, then so be it.  If that’s it, then I have that to relish and go back to as something I had done or experienced before.

… that 2015 paved the way for an even better 2106.  There are life decisions which we keep postponing because we fear we don’t have the ability or the strength to see ourselves through it.  In January 2015, I made one such choice, and while I had the love of friends and family to goad me on, it was a decision I made on my own.  I was deathly terrified, so much so that I had considered just leaving things as they were so as not to disrupt the order in my life.  But I decided to live dangerously.

Through the year, I found the tools and the means to cope, and now I am very excited by the thought of starting fresh.  There is still a part of me that worries — but that’s just me.  I cannot be 100% sold on an idea ever.  I think it’s what makes me prepare for the eventuality of things not turning out the way I thought it would.  And it helps me bounce back when that happens.

There were countless disappointments, but now I realize that both the good and the bad that happened in 2015 brought me to where I am.

I say this with conviction: I am happier.  I am in a very happy place.  And that is not to say that I don’t have my own problems or dilemmas.. I am just coping better.

2015 has been a year of growth for me.  I feel as if I had shed my skin and have grown a new one.  On the whole, I look at it as the start of a journey I’m still on.  Not quite there yet, but on my way.

#ThingsToDoIn2015: The final scorecard

Blog graphicI’m going to do this update separate from my new list of #ThingsToDoIn2016 and will be as honest as I can be about where I landed.  No explanations, just a status report for my benefit.

1.  Read six books. – Read one.  I tried.  I do have the six I can start with in 2016.  #FeelingOptimistic.

2. Take a trip to visit old girlfriends from SPCP/SPCQC — on my own — so that’s either Boston or California. – Boston is definitely on my list.. at least once.

3. Do another craft fair and learn new techniques.  (Visit one, not sell in one.) – Hoping to do this in the Spring.

4. Take my little guy to ComicCon 2015.  (Epic fail!) 

5. Take at least one actual class beyond online.  (Yes, Elaine.)  Definitely in 2016. Whether it’s an actual sewing class with Peter U or a course at FIT or at the Lion Brand Store, I will.

6.  Watch at least 1 concert — hopefully Billy Joel’s at Madison Square Garden..

7.  Watch at least 1 play or musical on Broadway.  And I saw God… =)  – Act of God, actually! HAHA!  Happiness..  Done!  I am actually going to drop this for 2016 because I am already slated to watch a musicale this coming Saturday with my little guy.

8.  Go to the gym at least once a week — and maybe even earn a locker!  (Go 10x the previous month and you get YOUR OWN LOCKER the following month.) – With all the weight gained over the holidays, this is a MUST.

9. Lose another 10 lbs at least before April.  (Lost over 20 in 2014!) – Need to work on this seriously in 2016.

10. Tweet/Instagram at least one positive thought every week.  (I thought “everyday” would be too big a commitment to make.) – Very good with this one!

11.  Find a rehearsal studio and actually spend an hour just touching the piano keys again. – I have actually found the studio.. just haven’t found the time.  Hoping to do this first quarter of 2016.

12. Spend a Saturday a month, on my own, just roaming NYC or some other place nearby.  (Do something “only in New York”..) – This has been one of the easiest to do.

13. Leave one preloved book out in the open once a month for someone else to enjoy/read. – I must choose the books I will part with so that I can get this act of sharing books going.

14. Destash: Give 5 items away from my current stash (clothes, books, art supplies, postcards) every month. – I have started — sort of?  Well, I need to be more systematic about this to make this work.

15. Write one letter long-hand every month. – Did not get to do this every month but did my fair share of longhand letters.  Happy with the effort and the results but hope to do more in 2016.

I know it looks like I didn’t get anything accomplished given the updates regarding the 15 on my list, but I’m happy to have been able to focus on trying to get these things done.  From the very beginning, I have tried not to be too hard on myself in keeping to the list, but I think the lack of progress should goad me to be more focused on what I will set out to do in 2016.

As I wrote on my Facebook wall as the year ended:

” 2015 had its challenges but I’d rather look at the gifts it brought my way like the lessons I learned. Some friends find it weird that I am thankful for the bad things that happened or the people who caused me so much pain and sorrow, but it is because of them that I found the courage to stand up on my own and be brave. I am in a better place now and I am much happier. I end the year knowing I am at peace with who and where I am. I am thankful for the love of family and friends which kept me going. To those who were there even when it was awkward, when they didn’t know what to say but who never left my side or let go of my hand, to those people I least expected to reach out and offer their kind words and support — I wish you and the ones you love the best of 2016. I am not quite there yet– my journey has just begun– but I am happy to be finally on my way.. Happy new year from Angelo and I.”

And while I have always kept our photos private — being careful not to post personal photos here, here’s one that I think is safe enough to share with the whole world as we bid 2015 goodbye, and say hello to 2016.