It’s Okay to Look for the Happy in the New Year

Surrounded by dozens of overflowing garbage bags that are piled high, waiting to be triaged to either the trash, recycling, or donation piles, I realize that these bags symbolize a lot more to me than decluttered closets. They hold more than the childhood treasures of my children, and the obsolete office and arts supplies. They reflect so much of what I’ve experienced over this last tumultuous decade. They hold symbols of joy, pain, loss, purpose, and love.  They represent strength and faith.

I would characterize the first two thirds of this past decade for me as a runaway train that I did not pay to ride, journeying through completely foreign lands, with an unknown destination. It was unnerving to have my most basic assumptions challenged and to face so many experiences as a pioneer, making up the rules as I went, praying that the decisions I made were good ones. It got to the piont where I expected the unexpected and understood that my life had to revolve around the dysfunction of others. I lost trust in my own intuition as I became aware of how often I was being deceived. My emotions were dictated by the experiences of others and I felt trapped as I tried to control other people, fruitlessly thinking that would relieve my own stress.

I was surrounded by substance abuse, other addictions, and mental health disorders. I divorced the man who had been my best friend for more than half of my life and started a life as a single parent, fully responsible for my three children. I learned that I had been wrong about my own child’s gender and entered the new universe that comes with that awareness. I realized that my children’s journeys were going to be different from the journeys of everyone else I knew and needed to find a new skill set for handling the experiences that those journeys brought. I lived daily tolerating the plight I was in, just trying to survive and to keep the family intact. I felt powerless. I did not realize until recently that I did not have to be a victim of life or make choices based from fear.

Through trial and error, life coaching, and my higher power, I now know that I can control the way I experience almost anything. Each situation is neutral until we label it. One person may see a struggle while another sees an opportunity from the exact same set of circumstances. I can choose how I view the situation. My eyes have been opened to the beauty and strength surrounding being trangender. My life has changed as an ally and advocate for that community. I have gained so much appreciation for the illness of addiction and celebrate the strength it takes hourly, at times, to move forward. My children’s different journeys have been opportunities for resilience, thinking outside the box, and faith. The skillsets I gained as the mother of these perfect human beings have made my life one filled with gratitude.

Many of us are approaching this new year with some trepidation. We are nervous about what we will be experiencing globally, nationally and even locally. Our safety as a planet and as human beings is not assured and is often out of our control. There is fear. I am familiar with fear and with things being out of control.

I have learned, in the latter part of this decade, that seeking joy and a life filled with passion and purpose does not downplay the seriousness of the situations we are experiencing.  As I ponder how to process recent serious and often horrifying acts of hatred, I opt to respond in a multitude of ways. I choose to have my eyes wide open, to listen to my intuition, and to not turn a blind eye to the realities of what people are, and possibly I could be, experiencing right now. I choose to advocate and let my voice be heard.

I also choose not to make decisions based in fear. My daughter was nervous last night to go to a public lighting of a menorah. She wondered about our safety. I reminded her that living your life is showing up and spreading the light and joy of the holiday. As some terrible things happen, I still plan for a future filled with meaning and fulfillment. I commit to practicing self-care. I unapologetically continue to seek love and happiness. These options are still in my power and are essential for me. They keep me strong, motivated, inspired, and give me clarity. When I am passionately involved in something, I am my best self, capable of making the most clearheaded decisions. I can decide when to let go and when to hold on.

The removal of each item now in the bags, by my daughter and me over the past few days, had become a catalyst for an internal emotional shift. Each possession prompted a memory and discussion, before it was lovingly tossed. Teeny clothes and costumes were tried on one last time, to peals of laughter. Stuffed animals were hugged, school projects were briefly revived, and tiny eclectic collections removed from a variety of plastic purses as we relived the magical moments and said goodbye. Many things were easy to discard and others were laden down with the weight of emotions. I relived the past decade more than I had realized I would.  I remembered the great and easy times. And I also remembered some of the challenging ones. I’ll admit that I do feel nervous at the abyss that I suddenly feel as I’m allowing so many dear items to leave our home. Am I erasing my children’s delicious childhood?

I simultaneously feel excited at the space that it’s creating for our future. Cleaning out all of the camp stuff means that we’re ready for the tranformation that the 2020s will bring. I realize that it means that I have faith in the unknown of my future. I don’t want to be scared to let go and I don’t want to fear the future.  I have trust that the future will fill these now emptier shelves in my mind’s closet with new experiences that will likely leave new souvenirs to cherish. I enter this new decade a wiser, stronger woman who knows that no matter what life throws at us, we still deserve to make room, emotionally and physically, for our own happiness.

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