As I sit here with seven minutes to go until 2014 is over, it would be easy for me to want to burn the calendar as this year has been undoubtedly a tough one. With all the life changes that have come my way, it would be easy to say this year was my worst year on record. My almost 27 year long marriage came to an end, my father died, I had to move from the house where I had lived for 26 years and raised my children. It would be natural to feel bitter, to feel happy that 2014 is coming to an end. But as I read in the Tiny Buddha blog today, the author stated that instead of all the ball dropping, champagne popping of New Year’s Eve, that she likes to take stock of what she was grateful for over the past year and what her intentions are for the coming year. It sounds like she had a similar year and she started off by reflecting, “I am grateful that I have survived this year”. I would start off similarly, so here goes: I am grateful that I have survived this year. However, I don’t think I just survived it, I think I learned a lot about myself and about people in general along this journey. This year tested me in ways that I was never tested before. The circumstances allowed me to see what I was truly capable of doing.
In August 2013, after my life became undone, I wrote a series of questions in a journal. That journal became my mileage log and I just found what I wrote over the past few weeks. One especially deep question was “Who is Susan?”. I think today, now technically, January 1, 2015, I am more clear than ever on who Susan is and what Susan is truly capable of doing. In the book, “Broken Open”, the author discusses how hard it is for a seed to blossom. Sometimes, while it is easier to stay safe in that seed status, it is not always beneficial to one as a person to stay in that seed state and you need to start to blossom, even though it is hard work. Lesser also discusses the “Phoenix Process” , which is “reproducing ourselves from the shattered pieces of a difficult time” (p.55). I think that I am a Phoenix today – however, I don’t think I would be at this point at this New Year without the help of so many people. This past year held so many changes, however, I think the chaos that was surrounding me, almost freed me in a way to turn things even more upside down than they were. I think I decided to not stay frozen any longer and to take chances. I am grateful for so many people’s love and support over the past year. I would never have come through the chaos so smoothly without you all. So, here goes a partial list of some of my list:
I am grateful for two wonderful sons. They have grown into wonderful men who have been extremely supportive of their mother. They are my greatest pride.
I am grateful to have the best friends in the world. You are my stars. Even though I may live alone, I know I am always surrounded by your light. You have sat with me in divorce court, you have been my before school therapy, you have been there to “talk me off the cliff”, you have fed me both physically and spiritually, you have let me use your home when I didn’t have anyplace to go, you have cheered me on every step of my marathon – both literally and figuratively. You have laughed with me, you have cried with me, you have been happy for me, you have been sad for me. I will forever be in awe of your friendship. I am so blessed to call you friend.
I am grateful for my family. Knowing that you always had my back helped me trudge through some of the more difficult moments of 2014. I am grateful for my aunt and uncle who have supported and loved me since I was the littlest of girls. I am grateful for the technically not my brother in law, but who I now call brother, who recognized my grieving process and stood by me, especially on that last hot July day on Laws Brook. You all are my foundation and even when there are cracks that appear, I know I can always count on you.
I am grateful for the awesome opportunity to work for 15 years in the Concord Public Schools. It was the most wonderful and awesome responsibility to teach 15 classes of children and to work alongside with dedicated educators who always put the students first. I am grateful for the support that I always received in pushing students to new levels. I am grateful for the support of the many parents that I had the opportunity to connect with over the years, I am grateful for the continued opportunity to work at Regis College as an adjunct and to work with a wonderful colleague as we hopefully impact teachers in a positive manner. I am equally grateful for my new opportunity to work at my dream job in the Weston Public Schools. My first four plus months there has been extremely nourishing and working alongside a team of creative specialists is an incredible experience. I am extremely grateful for being a doctoral student at Regis College. My professors are simply incredible at pulling me to be a better student by providing authentic learning experiences. But most importantly, I am grateful that they see me as a person first and foremost and they supported me during some really bumpy moments. I am equally grateful to have wonderful classmates. I am so lucky to have met folks who are fun to be with and who are supportive of one another. It has been a great first year of studies.
I am grateful for the opportunity to be a home owner once again. I love my new home. I am aware that I am very fortunate to be in this type of position as I realize that many divorced woman do not end up so fortunate. To that end, I am grateful that I had a great divorce attorney, who recognized the emotional side of divorce as well as the legal side of divorce. I am so grateful for my wonderful realtor, who was more than just someone who wanted to make her commission and move on. She provided me with a lot of advice, not just about how to stage a house, but on moving through this grieving process. And my great real estate attorney was not afraid to sit me down and tell me like it was and that I needed to trust the process. I love my home and as I start 2015, I am not uncertain like I was a year ago when I didn’t know where I would go. I am grateful for my angel neighbors at 457. They snow blowed the monstrous amount of snow last year, left little gifts and cards on my stoop, and made me feel like one of their family. And I am grateful for spending four months at “The Cottage”. My wonderful landlords were more than just picking up the rent check. Their friendship and beautiful spot started to provide me with a sense of security once again.
I am grateful to all of you who supported my Boston Marathon effort. Your donations to the MGH Children’s Cancer Center had a big impact. Walking for this cause helped put my life into perspective. I am grateful to those of you who came and cheered me on in April, who partied with me after the marathon, and who I knew were with me every step of the 26.2 miles. This was undoubtedly one of the most difficult things I ever did and there were times that I wanted to quit, but your support kept me going. I am also grateful to all of the folks who have supported JHYSF. To think that this little grassroots organization has donated 1.1 million dollars is incredible. And it is because of your support over the past ten years that sarcoma patients now have more options than ever before. Thank you.
I am grateful for the help of a wonderful therapist to help shepherd me through this process. Her humor and compassion are wonderful gifts as I start to heal.
I am grateful to live in an area where natural resources are treasured. Walking on my trails brings me a sense of peace and calmness. I am grateful for my dog Kyla, who greats me enthusiastically every day. I realize I have probably forgotten someone, but let’s just say, I am grateful for so many reasons. I am a rich woman who isn’t going to be defined by the bad events over the past several years. I’d like to close with this poem that really summarizes my deepest gratitude:
Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride thinking the bus will never stop, the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness, you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say it is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you every where like a shadow or a friend.
Naomi Shihbab Nye