There have been several times these last few weeks where I wanted to be anywhere or do anything else but what I've been doing. Many times, I thought it would be easier to lose myself at the bottom of a bottle or crawl into bed and hide under the covers forever. Or just stop. Give up and say that this is beyond my control. Or run away. I dream at night about waking up on a quiet beach or a mountain cabin or a foreign country.
They seem like easy choices on the surface. But if there's anything I've learned in life, it's that "easy" doesn't always equal "better".
Looking back, it's easy to say that I'm ending this year in pain. It's easy to look at myself and find all of the things I hate about myself -- all those things I wish I could change. I'm overly-sensitive and stubbornly proud and terrified of failing. Yes, those are things easy to see about me.
But "easy" doesn't always equal "accurate" either.
I am sensitive. I joke often that when God gave out feelings, I got in line for thirds. It's a part of myself that I've always been ashamed of. It's been scolded by bosses as unprofessional and taken advantage of by others. My sensitivity was a target, a soft spot, a trigger. All my life, I viewed my mother as the "tough" one. She was the one I was afraid to cry in front of and hid my hurt from. I wanted, more than anything, to shield myself as she could. What I've learned, however, in the last few years (and weeks especially) is that my sensitivity has led me. It guides me in the questions I ask, the battles I choose, the decisions I make. It gives me the understanding and patience to sit bedside and not look away. It reminds me how lucky I am to have had 39 years of my father's love -- so much more than far too many have had, and it gives me the ability to give him permission to leave us when he's ready. More than anything, it gives my mother an example to follow. This woman -- this wonderful and strong woman -- who held her feelings and fear at bay all of her life to shield her from pain is now defenseless. She is uncomfortable and unsure in her own feelings, but she is not alone in them. I am grateful to have grown up in a family who, while they may not have loved my sensitive nature, never forced me to abandon it.
I am stubbornly proud. To a fault, many times. I detest asking for help and resist accepting it when given. I believe fervently in making my own way, owing nothing to anyone, and standing on my own. That, to me, is a success. But it's not, really, because when I look at my life, who am I without those around me? From my family to colleagues to friends I see often and those I see rarely and even those I've never even officially met. My stubbornness leads to me being a better teacher and a better competitor, but it also makes me stick and stay. And my pride, well, it forces me to think of others before myself, and for that I'm grateful. I'm grateful to be in a place I can still want more for someone else than need for myself. I'm not alone, however, and even on the days that I do crawl into bed and hide away, I know that I will always have someone to seek me out, take my hand, and pull me back into the world -- whether I ask them to or not because I'm also surrounded by people just as stubborn as me.
It would be so easy to judge myself or this year by only the sadness I feel now, but that's not fair or accurate. This year, I was loved by many friends, traveled to wonderful cities, ate delicious food, drank, danced, and laughed a thousand times more than I cried. I saw my favorite team win a national championship, and I sat court side on their journey. I challenged myself, and I met the challenges of others. I grew. I changed. I reflected. I was knocked down. I kept getting back up.
Yes, things seem dark now. This will not be the last dark day I see, no matter my hopefulness for 2016. But without acknowledging the dark, I cannot see the value of my light.
And I am surrounded by so, so much light.
I wish you light and love and laughter this year, my friends.