This year is different, and although I’m not sure I can explain why I’m compelled to talk about it anyway.
Usually at this time of the evening on December 31, I’m counting down the hours until I can sweep the old year out the door and welcome in the new year. Generally speaking, I’m an optimistic person. When a year has been a rough one, my normal state of mind is to wipe the dust of the uncooperative year off my sandals and greet the new year as a do over.
For the first time in as long as I can remember, I’m not terribly excited about saying goodbye to this year. If this year was a person, I would like to keep it as a friend. I can name lots of nice things that happened in my family, my job, and my own little home. One couple I love dearly went from being childless to celebrating their first Christmas with TWO new daughters. (This was the same family I wrote about in Finding Lost Things.) Another friend who was chronically single (like me) surprised me with a phone call about meeting “the one” in the spring, and I went to her wedding in the fall. Although I don’t believe that happiness is something that is guaranteed or something that can be counted on, I was happy this year. I was as happy as I can ever remember being.
Maybe the difference is that I’m truly at mid-life. I don’t know if I’ll live to be 86 or 106, but if life is a teeter-totter, I feel like I’m at the center of it. I’ve spent the previous December 31sts looking forward, hoping that particular somethings will come to pass and be good in the coming year—maybe this year I’ll fall in love, or get a raise, or travel to Italy. As 2014 has drawn to a close, I don’t find myself wishing so much. I feel like I’m balanced between looking forward with hope and looking back with appreciation.
Perhaps that balance is because, despite my happiness this year, the world is still broken. It seems like so many of my friends and their families have been rocked by cancer lately. My peers have lost parents and are grieving, and part of my happiness is another year with my healthy parents, who have become my best friends. Some of my friends are being treated for cancer right now. Other friends have been dealing with unemployment, broken marriages, and countless other tragedies.
This seems a bit horrible to say, but I’m quoting not one but two of my friends who have said in 2014 that cancer was a blessing. Obviously neither of them meant that they wanted cancer, or that they were elated with the diagnosis.
One friend put it this way:
…We realized that cancer has actually given us more “joy” than usual. It allows for less happiness – because we can’t really go out, party, play, travel, etc. – but there has been a surprising upside to the whole thing.
We tend to take a lot of things for granted – when things are going well, we don’t really notice, and when things are going bad, we ignore all that might be going well and have a pity party…
Now some would think that [cancer] would be cause for greater depression and despair – but no. It actually brought us closer together, helped us to focus on what was really important (thus, not taking things for granted), helped us to count our blessings, and has increased our faith.
Another friend, who first shocked me early in the year by switching from her usual hashtag of #suckitcancer to calling cancer a blessing, said this:
Every single moment is precious.
Every 3am conversation, over peanut butter toast
Every “I love you”
Every “thank you”
It shouldn’t take a diagnosis, to cherish & savor the precious people in your life. Never miss a moment. Be present. Be kind. Be vulnerable.
These are the sorts of things that make me grateful for 2014–celebrating new babies, new spouses, good jobs, and all the reasons to understand that life is precious, friends are valuable beyond measure, and that we have so much to love about this life, this year and next.
I’m spending New Year’s Eve alone, but I’m more aware than I can remember that we live in community and that life is a journey toward our true home. We are made to love, and we are at our happiest when we’re doing what we are made to do.
Happy 2015 to you all.