Thursday, January 5, 2012

Best of 2011: Life Lessons

Three lessons stand out to me from this year. Lessons I've probably learned before and probably will need to learn again.

Lucy Greely wrote: “I used to think truth was eternal, that once I knew, once I saw, it would be with me forever, a constant by which everything else could be measured. I know now that this isn’t so, that most truths are inherently unretainable, that we have to work hard all our lives to remember the most basic things.”

What I hope to remember in my heart from this year…
2011 12 24_our family of 5 goofs

1. Late November, driving away from Chicago, completely spent physically and emotionally, I remember making an effort to get out of my head, out of the past and to see what was in front of me. And what I saw was so beautiful it took my breath away and I tried to articulate it to Brian but ended up just crying instead. I’m still not sure how to articulate it.

Growing up, I didn’t keep a notebook, as my sister Eileen did, with clippings for her dream wedding. I didn’t want to get married. I didn’t even like to play house. I had lots of dolls growing up, but I preferred to play orphanage. I’d arrange all the dolls around our basement and then introduce each to their prospective parents, my little siblings John and Elizabeth. When asked what I’d be when I grew up, I’d answer a nun, like the Sisters of Saint Agnes at my school. They were easily the happiest women I knew, and if I was determined to be anything, it was to be happy.

I’m full of flaws and make mistakes daily that I’m sure will provide my own children with excellent fodder for therapy someday. But of this I am also sure: my children know that they are loved. I looked around our minivan that night, and felt my heart overflow. We are silly, we are happy, we are moody, we are all over the place, but there is so much love. This is the dream come true that I didn’t even dare to dream. I often feel like someone just feeling her way in the dark, without a pattern to follow while I try to knit this life together. And yet, it’s still turning out so beautiful.

bedtime story

2. Ask and you shall receive.

I've never been very good at asking for help. 2011 gave me plenty of opportunity to develop that muscle, and low & behold, I received so much more than I even asked for. Just the act of asking is like opening a window in a stuffy attic of self-reproach.

The gift of tea with Catherine after dropping Nolan off on his first day of preschool.

CeCe showing up to help at the start and the end of our yard sale, which just happened to coincide with one of the roughest days of my year.

The airport ride from an old friend, Marie,  in October. I’d been out of touch, and it felt brave to even ask for this favor, but then I reaped from it so much more than I could imagine.

Since 2007  I have been choosing a word for the year, ala Ali Edwards’ One Little Word. My word for 2011 was LOVE. I was embarrassed by it a little; it seemed so unoriginal and so obvious, but it was exactly what I wanted my year---and my whole life---to be about so it stuck. I had expected holding that word in my head and heart would be about stretching my ability to give, but almost immediately I was surprised by how much I had to learn to receive, how much energy I spent blocking love being sent my way out of pride or a desire for self-sufficiency.

I know life has even more love in store for me in 2012, if I can just trust enough to be open to it.




3. Plan, plan, plan and then let it all go.

I’ve been having this debate in my head for years. I planned a lot of things for 2011. Some of them happened, and some didn’t. I wish I could find the Thirtysomething clip when Melissa’s boyfriend Lee gets the art job, not the one he was planning on but one beyond that. Hey, maybe it all comes back to lesson#1 in a way.

If I stick too closely to any plan, I’ll lose out on greater things I can’t even envision. But I’m a girl who needs a plan, who does well with assignments and deadlines. So I’m going to make resolutions again, look at where I’m at and where I want to go, and still try to remain “open, choiceless as a beach, waiting for a gift from the sea.”


1 comment:

  1. love this post. and so relieved you decided to relocate rather than get rid of blogging all together. love, love, love reading your posts.

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