2014: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful
December 31, 2014 § 2 Comments
The lessons of this past year were many, and most of them were a struggle. It’s been a year of upheaval and sorrow and loneliness. Changes, so many changes both good and bad, like that of a bend in the road, a turn of the page, a fierce east wind that blew through my life with reckless disregard for my love of the familiar. Two close relatives, my cousin Christin and my niece Cecilia, passed away within a span of a year. I ended my six-year relationship in February. I couldn’t pray. I cried in a lot of different people’s arms, in an embarrassing amount of public places, very much at the drop of a hat. But I also picked myself back up. I remembered how to pray through daily Mass. I healed, I laughed again, I took road trips, I dated a little bit. I can’t say it was a good year, but here at the end I find myself in a place familiar after all: waiting for God, desiring to love Him, trying to make sense of these lessons.
If there is anything this past year has taught me, it’s the intrinsic value of kindness. My post about baby Cecilia’s death was the second most-read post on my blog ever, and so many people came up to me and said they read it and told me how sorry they were and that they were praying for my family. Those kind and simple statements meant so much to me. I can think of no better encomium than to be described as a kind person. I went back to the foundation of who I am during 2014: the girl who reads, the girl who bakes, the girl who prays, writes, dances by herself, makes awful puns. These are things that will never change about me. In 2015, I just want to work on being kind. At the end of next year, I want to be able to say that kindness is a quality that will never change about me. Not my wit, it’s a fast & fleeting thing. Not my mind, which may one day fail me, nor my body, which will one day definitely fail me, but my heart. And I want my heart to be kind.
The things I want are good things, strong and true things: love that lasts, marriage, children. Wanting to know the future is a human trait, and although we know we can’t, we still yearn for it. I just want to know that my future holds more than this struggle, more than the selfishness of wanting what I do not have, the regrets of the past. I see my friends writing living epistles, reading their futures in the faces of their children, and my heart is lonely.
Bitterness & Regret
Yes, 2014 was the year I learned the truth about these things. I never knew how bitterness and regret could grow so entwined inside me, slowly and insidiously. It’s the memories, you see. The sense of what was unfairly lost to me. The simple joy of Red Barn. Family. Old and new friends. Certain songs. A future I’d imagined for years. But how do you regret the past without feeling like you’re wishing it away? Even if I wanted to, I can’t wish it had never happened, that I didn’t have these memories. How could I, when they and the people in them made me who I am today? Salt and earth. Regret and bitterness. At times they have seemed to me like a snake eating its own tail, coiled around my heart. Where did it begin? Where does it end?
Forgiveness & Strength
It ends at forgiveness, that mighty sword. It ends when the woman crushes the head of the snake with her heel, and what is her heel? Her Fiat. Her Yes, her humility, her obedience to the will of God. Mary is our shining example, our beautiful strong mother, and where does she get her strength? From all the things the world says we should despise. Meekness is not weakness, it’s strength in the form of sacrifice. To follow Jesus, I have to love others more than myself, and to love them, I need to forgive them, and to forgive them, I need to be strong, and to be strong, I need to be humble, because humility comes from stripping down to the essentials and strength is impossible without this foundation. Such is the paradox of faith.
People have told me a lot of good things about myself over the course of 2014, trying to be kind and to help me figure myself out, but the one that keeps coming back to me right now was something my brother’s girlfriend said to me after the guy I was dating in October and November broke it off. Christina was on the phone with me as I drove home from Phoenixville, and she said, “Rose, I know it hurts, because you have so much love within you and you want someone to see that. Give it to your family and friends right now. It’s not wasted.” It seems like a simple enough statement but it really hit me then. Nothing we do in love is wasted. It might not seem like it is doing much, just the day-to-day routine of being a good sister, a loving daughter, a firm friend, but love is like grace: invisible, intangible in itself, but made clear by actions. If I can, by the suffering and trials and roller coaster ride of this past year, figure out a little bit more about love, how to selflessly give it, and how to gratefully receive it, and how to grow in it, then 2014 will have proved itself beautiful.
What hold you, 2015? A bend in the road, a turn of the page, a fresh west wind, alive with hope. And my pet rats, of course.