Possibly the easiest way to sum up 2017 is to say that it’s the worst year ever. And I’m sure a lot of folks would agree. It’s been a messy, divisive, violent, angry, painful, scary year. On a personal level, it’s been the year that my family has had to deal with, among other things, cancer and an unimaginable loss. It’s been a year of incredible highs and crippling lows. But in the end, it just leaves me hopeful that 2018 holds something truly magical for us all.
I started out 2017 with a joyous occasion – my daughter and son-in-law (well, son-in-law to be) got engaged on her 25th birthday on New Year’s Eve! It was a beautiful way to cap off what had been an incredibly difficult year and we were blessed to have been with them to witness the engagement.
Before the engagement surprise – she’s just the birthday girl at this point. 🙂
I also started 2017 by officially promoting to leadership with KEEP, with a team that had grown to almost 20 designers. Being in leadership meant trips to Cleveland and Chicago, meeting a few of my heroes within the company’s management, and doing things I’d never imagined myself doing. But the year is ending with me as a lone designer, having resigned my team and somehow more content than I was before. Somewhere midyear I began to get really uneasy. At first I thought it was just that I had stepped so far out of my comfort zone, but I soon realized that it was that I was trying to live someone else’s dream, someone else’s goals. I had never really wanted to be a coach; it all happened rather unexpectedly. But I loved the girls that were on my team, and so I tried really hard to make it work and to be the best coach that I could be for them. In the end, I had to take a good hard look at myself and my life and I realized it wasn’t what I wanted for myself and certainly not for them. And then when my husband was diagnosed with cancer in August, it lit the fire under me and I knew it was time to take the plunge. I didn’t want to disappoint the girls and I didn’t want them to take it personally but in the end, I knew it would be best for everyone. And it has been. I’ve watched the team members who are still with KEEP soar to new heights, with me cheering them from the sidelines, and I’m happy with my business again.
And yes, the cancer diagnosis. Although everything turned out the best way that it possibly could having been given a diagnosis of bladder cancer, it is one of the scariest things I’ve ever been through in my life. I’m the kind of person who’s always waiting for the other shoe to drop, always waiting for the rug to get yanked out from under me, so I’ve lived for 30 years thinking that at any second, this man that I love beyond all reason is going to somehow disappear. And I don’t care what the prognosis is, what the tests say, what the surgeons tell you – when you hear the word “cancer” – it’s like a punch in the gut, and even worse, it’s every nightmare you’ve ever had coming to life right before your eyes. Thankfully, he came through surgery just fine, and didn’t need any treatment (just constant monitoring for the next few years at least), but it opened my eyes in a way that nothing else could. Life is just going to keep rolling on, and it’s up to me to make the most of it. Treading water, worrying over stupid things and spending my time doing things that don’t matter or don’t make me happy is just a waste. And it’s made me appreciate what I have right now, in this very moment, so much more. I know it’s not going to last forever, but there’s not much I can do about that, so I may as well enjoy what I have. (Also it makes those dumbass arguments about things like socks on the floor and such seem a LOT less important.)
I found out sometime during the spring that I was smack in the middle of menopause. I would have known earlier but I had a hysterectomy in 2008, so some of the signs weren’t there. I went through a weird period of mourning (not sure why – I haven’t been able to have kids since 1999), but somehow, I was convinced that it meant the end of the “young” me. It’s funny now, but it wasn’t at the time. Right about the same time, our youngest was graduating high school, so I was hitting some weird empty nest/menopause matrix that had me all caught up in self-pity and bittersweet sentimentality. And then on July 31st, we got the news that we were going to be grandparents, and suddenly getting older took on a whole different meaning, and I was thrilled beyond belief.
As many of you know, we lost little Ezra on November 24th, and I can honestly say it was the hardest day of my life. Having to watch my oldest son and his beautiful wife go through this kind of loss, knowing there was nothing any of us could do to help them, was agonizing. And it still is. But in the midst of this unthinkable loss, there were moments of unbelievable grace and beauty. Seeing these two beautiful people become parents to this perfect, sleeping boy and watching them support and care for one another, was the best illustration of unconditional, flawless love that I’ve ever seen in my life. In the week that we all spent together preparing to meet little Ezra, I saw unimaginable strength, love, grief, compassion, sadness and peace. And alongside the grief that I feel at the loss of that beautiful angel, I feel so incredibly blessed to have shared those moments with him and with his parents. I think that I was changed when we got the news that we’d become grandparents and changed again when I met him. And in spite of the heartache, he changed my life for the better.
In just 3 short weeks, I enter yet another phase of my life. I’ve taken a job at Wittenberg University that I am really excited about. I had been toying with the idea of going back to work for the past few years, but I was determined to find a job that was meaningful. And this one has felt like fate every step of the way. I accidentally stumbled on the job listing one night while I was searching job sites like I’ve done 1,000 other times and decided to go for it. I didn’t think I’d get a call back since I had such a long gap in my employment history, but I got called for an interview. I was so nervous through the whole thing I was sure I’d botched it, but a week or two later, I got through to the second part of the job process where they started calling references and doing background checks. And then the week before Thanksgiving, I found out I’d got the job!
And although some of the absolute worst things have happened in 2017, I’ve had some true bucket list moments, too. I finally made a pilgrimage to Paisley Park (I’m still in shock) and got to be closer to Prince than I could’ve ever imagined by taking the Ultimate tour. I finally got to see Lady Gaga in concert. I got to see a Broadway play and visit the Statue of Liberty and the Met Museum and the Museum of Natural History in NYC.
It’s been a year of incredible highs and lows, but I guess that’s how life goes, isn’t it? In the end, I’ve learned a ton about living in the moment and enjoying things as they are, not as you wish them to be, and about quieting the storm inside. I’ve learned that I’m not likely to ever get over my depression and anxiety or my grief, but they’re just pain in the ass roommates that I have to live with. They don’t define me and they are not badges or labels I’m going to wear anymore. I’m more than the challenges I’ve had or the abuse I’ve endured. And somehow, I’m more “okay” with myself than I’ve ever been before. I’m not sure if it’s a product of getting older, of changes I’ve made in my life or what, but it feels pretty good.
Here’s hoping we all have an amazing 2018.
P.S. Stay tuned for some exciting changes in the new year involving a podcast. 🙂