I'm trying to find a single word that best captures the essence of 2013 for me. A few are floating around in my head.... Persistence. Resignation. Viral (thank you, daughter who brings the germs home). Stagnant. None of these work, since they all carry a negative tone that suggests that the whole year was worth wiping off the calendar. Not so! 2013 has had its highs and lows like any other year. What's been hard for me this year, though, is the acceptance that these peaks and valleys, hopes and disappointments and changes, have been mostly beyond my control. What it really boils down to is..... Acceptance.
I accepted 5 hours of sleep a night for the first half of the year. I accepted that spending time with my daughter means that other, personal goals of mine will need to be put on hold. I accepted that my relationships have changed, and that my marriage is different after having a child. I accepted that, given the choice between a clean house and sanity, sanity always has to come first. I accepted that completing this MBA with a stellar GPA is not in the cards for me.
I am still struggling to accept the fact that we are entering 2014 in the same financial position we were in a year ago; that the time and physical effort required to complete my goal of running a marathon in March 2014 are too much for me right now; that I will never feel on top of things at work.
The difference between "acceptance" and "resignation" (to me, not Webster) is that resignation implies some level of resentment towards your circumstances. I can't say that I haven't been there this year - I have, and have spent more time than I'd like to admit pointing fingers and lashing out at the universe - but I am ending the year at peace. I am trying my best, as is everyone around me, and nobody ever said life was supposed to be easy.
I ran alongside a 64 year old man a couple weeks ago, who had just started running and recently completed a half marathon. We didn't talk too much, but just running beside him and thinking about his life and recent accomplishments gave me a much-needed jolt of perspective. Life is short, as they say, but it can also be long. 64 years is quite a lot of time, really. Enough time to hit rock bottom and crawl your way up again, enough time to gain everything you want and lose it all. Enough time, even, to spend a year or two spinning your wheels before you figure things out and start moving forward again.
The whole "live every day like its your last" philosophy really bugs me, truth be told. I understand that the message is to live with gratitude in the present moment, but it also carries with it an implied pressure to constantly be doing something grand. And that, frankly, is ridiculous. I'm letting myself off the hook this year, because I really feel that sometimes it is OKAY to just get by for a while. My accomplishments for 2013 include putting my phone away in the evening to be present with my daughter, holding my tongue and being supportive at times when I felt like screaming, getting a (quick, unglamorous) dinner on the table more often than not, planting a garden, not letting the bathtubs get too gross, and making a solid effort to take care of myself throughout the year. Nothing particularly noteworthy, but sometimes keeping all your balls in the air, day-in and day-out without dropping and/or throwing them at someone, is a real victory.
I look forward to each new year as a time to sit down with my long list of goals, pat myself on the back for every accomplishment, and set out a new lengthy list of things that I want to do in the upcoming year. While I will still be setting goals for myself for 2014, there aren't going to be any long lists and detailed specifics. I am accepting that, with so many things being out of my control right now, this could very well be another year of wheel-spinning. And I am going to be okay with that. Even if I'm not achieving my dreams, altering my circumstances, tackling exciting new projects or making a lot of life-progress this year, I will still be here. Alive. Sitting cross-legged on the floor amidst the chaos of toys and discarded shoes, reading to my daughter with leftovers in the microwave.... and happy.