LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — There were many times in the past year I wished for 2013 to be over. Each month seemed to present another hill we had to scale, and as the year inched forward, I grew increasingly wary of that ugly 13, wondering what it was going to slap us with next. Now that it is nearly over and we can graduate into a nice, even number — wonderful, beautiful 14 — I realize that, though I longed to fast forward it, this year has taught me more than any other. These are the lessons I learned:
I CAN LEAN ON MY FRIENDS
This past weekend, we threw a big, ugly Christmas sweater party whose planning has been in the works for months. Throughout this year, I thought of this party often, imagining the day I could stand in front of a group of 150 people and toast to William’s recovery.
But days before the big shindig, William and his entire family came down with a terrible flu, which threw William’s heart back into a-fib. Needless to say, I had absolutely no interest in attending, much less hosting, a party.
But my friends — many of whom I’ve met in the past year — stepped up. Whether it was making banners and other crafty items, picking up ice, dropping off decorations, taking time to check out the facility with me, buying beer, coming early to decorate, checking on William through the night or cleaning up, I had a strong group of women I could lean into to keep me standing. And that felt pretty good.
IN-LAWS ARE INVALUABLE
When William was discharged from the hospital, my in-laws were set in motion. Without batting an eye, my vegetarian sister-in-law Leah picked up an order of meat from the butcher in Lexington so I could have a full freezer and not have to go to the grocery store. My sister-in-law Teresa brought over the cribbage board that occupied us for months. And if she wasn’t bringing over dinner, my mother-in-law Linda was popping over at the drop of a hat to keep a watch on William so I could run errands.
It’s pretty common for the wives of sons to have troubles with their mothers-in-law and for years, my M-I-L and I were no exception. But when William got sick, no one knew how I felt as exactly as Linda did. For months, I would start each morning with a text from her wondering how he slept, what he ate, how he seemed to feel. Since these were the only things occupying my brain, it helped to know someone else knew exactly how important this stuff was. And it’s because of this and because of this year I now feel I have a mom in Kentucky.
EXERCISE IS THERAPEUTIC. REALLY.
For my entire adult life, I’ve wanted to like exercising. I would watch other gym rats and wonder how nice it would be to go for a run or bob endlessly on the elliptical and actually enjoy the experience. For me, it was always a chore, always something to just get through so I could eat more and not hate myself in the morning.
But this year, I’ve learned that the true value of working out is your brain is entirely occupied in trying to get through it. All my worries were replaced, in fact, had to be substituted with two simple thoughts: how much my body hurt and how much I wanted to stop. But when I did push through and got to the end, I could rejoice in my accomplishment. More importantly, I had had an hour during which my mind was, essentially, blank. And when the hour was over, I found it took a while for those worries to come back, like my brain had been recalibrated and was immune to stress.
BEAUTY IS EVERYWHERE
While I’ve spent a lot of time wishing 2013 away, I’ve also spent an inordinate amount of time appreciating the little bursts of beauty that accompany the everyday. During William’s recovery, we would take a little walk each day. At first, it was just a few steps before we’d have to turn around. But each day, he would tackle a tiny bit more of the subdivision. We didn’t talk during those walks — neither of us were in the mood — and that allowed me to notice every last detail of the landscape: the clod of dirt on the road by the white pine that got smaller every day as cars passed over it, the fall of the water into the cold pond we would pass, the buds on the trees as they got bigger with spring, the shoots of daffodils whose blooms deserved applause. With each step, I was seeing this world from a slow-tempo, small perspective, and it was surprising how much peace it gave me.
Anyway, that’s my four cents for the year. Here is to 2014, dear readers. May it bring you peace, good health and joy.