Tomorrow marks the last day of 2015. It’s been a year, but then again, aren’t they all? I’m feeling reflective today, so jotted down some of the lessons this year has brought to me. As you read through mine, consider what this year has gifted you, in terms of knowledge and experience. Our challenge is to put these new lessons into practice in the coming year.
1. Road Trips Are Awesome. My family took its first road trip vacation this summer. After years of only traveling to vacation destinations by plane, we raised the white flag thanks to a variety of disappointing experiences in recent years. It is not fun to be delayed or bumped when flying, but when flying with children, overnight bumps called at 1:30 a.m. and nine hour delays are enough to get you invest in a road atlas.
Our first road trip was an excellent success. We saw and stayed with friends we haven’t seen in years. We explored roadside attractions in little nooks and crannies of different states. We didn’t experience any traveling meltdowns until we were just about 3-4 hours outside of Chicago on the return trip home. That ain’t bad for a trip with a toddler and six year old. Oh, and the melt down was mine. I am already hoping this is the way we travel again next year.
2. Cancer Still Sucks. My Dad experienced a topsy turvy final few months of life. Because of his age, the docs thought his symptoms might be caused by dementia. Because of his history of depression, the docs thought his extreme personality and cognitive changes might be psychiatric in nature. Full disclosure, I did, too. It wasn’t until I was chatting with old friends at his wake and the funeral home director approached me with an envelope containing his death certificate that I let it sink in. The cause of my Dad’s death was lung cancer, something he had been treated for (stage 1) in the months preceding his decline. Cancer has taken both my folks and my daughter from me. It never gets easier. Part of me just counts the days until me or someone else I love dearly is diagnosed with it.
3. The Value of a Thermos. Did you know that you can buy a stainless steel Thermos and fill that sucker with boiling water in the morning for a few minutes and then whatever food you put into it will stay warm and toasty for lunch? Yeah, I didn’t either until I saw a friend write about it on Facebook. It has increased the odds that our oldest boy will actually eat the lunch that is packed for him from 30% to about 80%. May the odds be ever in your favor.
4. You Can’t Control Relationships. You can’t. You can try, and should try, really, really hard, but in the end, successful relationships require two to work. If only one of you is ponying up, it’s not gonna last. It sucks, but I speak the truth.
5. Online Shopping Is Easy. Man, am I glad I waded into the online shopping pool this Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I have always preferred brick and mortar stores to shopping online. Shopping and browsing has always been fun and entertaining for me. I love sales and the thrill of the bargain hunt. I don’t know what clicked this year, but for some reason I did the bulk of my holiday shopping online during the weekend after Thanksgiving. The most stressful thing about it was tracking the package of Minecraft plushies from China to see if they would be shipped on time. And thank the Gods, because I spent ten days in the middle of December feeling like a Mack truck had hit me, making it really, really hard to hit any stores. Coughing up alternate lungs is not really conducive to mall shopping.
6. Losing Your Second Parent Is Rough. When my Mom died ten years ago, it was hard. When my Dad died, what still feels somewhat suddenly to me, after a six month period of change and decline this spring, BAM, everything felt different. I know other folks have described the loss of both parents as making them feel like an orphan, but that doesn’t quite describe it for me. I feel, after the death of my Da, like I have lost my anchors to childhood. My history, my story, any link to who I was in my early years just feels gone. Poof. All the questions that went unasked will never be answered. The people who understood me best are gone. The people who loved me first are gone.
As long as my Dad remained, I didn’t realize the connection to my Mom that I took for granted through him. With my Dad gone now, too, well, there is just a gaping sense of loss and emptiness that remains. Hollow. I feel unmoored, drifting. And these folks, your folks, who are mythic to you, just stop one day. They don’t exist anymore. It is the natural cycle of life, but damn, it hurts.
7. Pinterest Is Great. I know people mock “Pinterest Moms,” but I am here to tell you that Pinterest rules. It isn’t about competing or one-upping or being a Stepford Wife. Think of it as a treasure trove of ideas from people who are smarter and more creative than yourself. Some of them will speak to you, some are insane, and some of them will be beyond your reach. My favorite Pinterest finds are the ones that make people think I worked really, really hard when, in fact, I followed a Pinterest idea that was easy as ABC. Minimum effort, maximum show is my Pinterest mantra and it has never failed me. Don’t hate me because I pin.
8. Try Not to Hoard. Those things that you just can’t bear to part with? Trust me, part with them. Your kids will thank you. Purge away, people.
9. Coloring Is Relaxing. I officially became a middle aged white lady this fall when I bought one of those adult coloring books that are all the rage. I get it now. I love it, too. One of the happiest days of 2015 was when I discovered an old set of fancy colored pencils my husband had hidden away, saving me over $60 for a new set that I was coveting. Something about the tactile act of paper and pencils and the sense of accomplishment I feel when filling up a page with colors just transports me. Middle aged white ladies unite, yo.
10. Writing For Cash Dollars Changes Things. 2015 is the year I made the leap from saying I was a freelance writer into actually becoming one. It’s hard and challenging and work. I guess that’s where the money comes in, right? I still feel like I am treading water in a too big ocean, trying to figure out both where my voice fits and how to improve on it. I’ve known a tiny sliver of success through blogging, but what I hope to accomplish is so much more daunting than what I have actually accomplished. It’s good to be humbled, though. I wish for more concentration and goal setting in 2016.
So these are just a few of the lessons 2015 has brought to me. There are dozens more, I am certain. What have you learned in 2015?