I like to think that we start over with each new year, like we have a second chance to make things happen for ourselves — to learn and to grow. Last year, I thought it was all about the healing — both physically and emotionally; I thought that the physical pain was behind me with my gallbladder surgery and that I had finally learned to let go of a grief that was keeping my heart on permanent lock-down.
I didn’t know then that a nightmare was just beginning; I could never have imagined the hell I’d go through, the suffering that I and my family had to endure from this disease. I could never know how much there was to lose…
…and everything I would gain instead.
I wrote this last year:
I didn’t expect this past year to unfold as it did, with its challenges and changes in this never-ending story of life, but maybe life is sweeter that way.
Maybe the tears that are shed are worth it as you remember how to smile.
Maybe the pain and heartache that seem to suffocate you helps you hold on.
Maybe the darkness shows you where’s there’s light.
Those words, though old, sing more true today than ever before.
When I really look back on 2012, when I see the so-called “highlights” of this past year (thanks to Facebook’s Year in Review) I can really appreciate how the year was filled with such challenges and dreams and how, maybe, I needed one to get me through the other.
This past year was filled with little moments: a few extra beats of the heart; a love lost and found; a promise to myself…to save myself. This past year I said hello again; this year, I could have said goodbye.
This year, I learned what it means to survive.
But far more defining than the little moments were the big ones, those life-altering ones:
It’s so strange to see them side by side like that — one negative and one positive — knowing that both played such a huge part in my life, that they still do and possibly always will, irrevocably altering my life and changing me in its process.
One created a suffering I’d never before known — a physical pain, a mental confusion, and an emotional anguish that became a nightmare from which I wasn’t sure I would ever awaken.
The other provided hope for a healing, a reason for living, a purpose for being that guided me like a beacon through those dark days and into a future I once doubted was still mine.
I don’t think I could have gotten through my diagnosis and beginning stages of Lyme Disease treatment without the promise of my book, without that something to work towards, without a dream to cling to. And I wonder if I would have pursued this dream so fervently if I didn’t have the fear of succumbing to this life-altering and disabling disease that strips you of your life even as you try to save your life.
I certainly couldn’t have done either without my family — my very own earthly angels — and the unconditional love and support from friends. That gratitude will always remain.
But now…I’m moving forward in both recovery from this illness, pursuit of my book’s publication, and — most importantly — in healing this broken spirit.
Life lessons aren’t suddenly learned with each new year. Changes don’t magically happen upon the stroke of midnight. When I look back — really look back at these past few years — I can see how much healing needed to be done and how it wasn’t over despite ringing in 2012 with promises of renewal and growth. No, those lessons slid into the new year and followed me through illness, through fear, through despair, through friendship, through family, through recovery, through hope, and through dreams…
I know it’s not over now, as we step into 2013; I know that the healing will continue. But I know, too, that this is life — this constant continuation of who we are and who we grow to be, each year creating a foundation for the next, each lesson building upon our present and leading us towards a better future.
* * * * *
Last night, I chose to spend New Years’ Eve alone, and although there was a small part of me that was worried that the loneliness would sink back in, that the nightmare of this past year would linger like a shadow I couldn’t shake, the peace I felt was palpable.
I was smiling. I was happy. My heart felt light and free, and I felt strong and brave and full of promise.
I know that things will be hard as recovery continues, and I know that the darkness isn’t gone for good.
But today, on this first day of a new year, I vow to start loving myself instead of hating myself. Today, I stop blaming myself for something that has always been out of my hands; I vow to take control back from this illness that has left me helpless. Today, every wish becomes the beginning of something positive.
Today becomes the start of my brave new world.