Can 365 days bring about significant change? I would say mere minutes can, just ask those whose lives have been forever altered by the too many to name mass tragedies that seem to be almost common place in our modern society. In our own lives some years are a watershed of change, while others seem to keep the status quo. Certain holidays or anniversaries of important events, societal or personal, cause us to reflect back on the year since the last marking of that date. I think this is a good practice, it reminds us how far we’ve come and provides us with an evaluation of sorts for moving forward. A friend was sharing with me the other day how amazed she was at how I had handled an ugly personal situation with grace and compassion towards the person whose actions were full of betrayal, hurt and caused chaos not just in my life but in the lives of others. She joked that I probably would have responded much differently a year earlier, after all I was “older” now. We laughed at the idea that one year older could bring about that much maturity, but on reflection I really do think this past year has been seminal in my personal growth and has brought a profound shift in my outlook on life.
I was born in November so my personal new year is at hand. On the surface this past year has been full of some important developments in my professional life. I am still completely committed to my teaching career and have at least four to six more years I plan to dedicate to it, but I have also made a commitment to my writing career. I have been faithful to posting a weekly blog, I have completed two novels and submitted them to a publisher and I have been working on book three. I am no longer dabbling in writing I identify myself as writer. My writing life has gone from an exploration to a full commitment. It also feeds my soul.
Last November I had experienced three of the five deaths that were pivotal to my examination of my life and how I wanted to live it. The fourth, last Spring and the fifth just a month ago solidified my commitment to living that renewed life. It is not that from November 2013 to November 2014 I did not have moments of joy or appreciation for my days and the people in them, its just that I was not as aware and attune to them on a daily basis. That year was a status quo year, and we all need years like that. After the first three deaths, one of a terminally ill older woman, who was a second mother to me for decades, one of a smart witty woman who I had the privilege to work for, she was cruelly taken early with the added insult of an aggressive dementia that took her long before she stopped breathing and the third to a young college freshman who as a high school senior had found a place in my heart, a truly remarkable young woman who had such great gifts, I was profoundly shaken. Life to one-hundred or one-hundred and eight, my personal goal, was tentative at best. Each day truly is a gift and life is what you make of it. I did not have the luxury of the status quo if I really wanted to build a better life.
So I chose to make each day a day of gratitude this past year, some days that has been more challenging than others but what I have found was the more I worked at it, the easier it got. In tandem I worked on my spiritual life, in particular faith, that God has me and despite what goes on here on the temporal plane, there is a greater plan. That means regardless of what chaos is swirling around, I am insulated in a core of peace. If I am going to talk the talk then I must walk the walk, which means I must view my fellow human beings with compassion and love and each day that has become easier and easier. A year ago and prior I might have let chaos derail me, lash out in anger at others or judge them harshly. Now even though I feel hurt, I am also at peace knowing that I have done my best to love and care for others. Who am I to judge? I am as flawed and complex as those around me, that is part of being human. I choose to build up rather than tear down.
I can say I am truly a happy and joy-filled soul. I still have the daily challenges of life like everyone else, but it is how I face them that has changed. So yes a year can truly make a difference and I would say it took way less than a year to make the adjustment. When I reflect back in November 2016 I hope I can say that not only did I continue to walk the walk, but that by being compassionate and loving towards my fellow beings I helped to make them happy and joy-filled souls as well.
So a year older, a year wiser, a year kinder, that is the difference a year can make.