The final day of 2017 arrives and my thoughts begin to turn to the year past and the one yet ahead. That thin wedge between December 31 and January 1, while a most arbitrary dividing line in our lives, has the power to do this, make us reflect and resolve and sometimes, perhaps, regret.
As this year hastens towards it’s end and a new one begins, the phrase that keeps dancing in my head is “the year of letting go”. I knew I had read a quote that struck me, and so I sought it out, finally finding it:
My heart truly soared when I read it, because that was my 2017. It was a year of letting go of so many things, putting down some of the burdens I had carried for so long and forgiving others – and myself – for our faults and failings.
2016 was a difficult year in my community. The massive wildlife that swept through our city destroyed not only homes but lives and hearts and souls. And it impacted me far more than I initially understood, even though I had not lost my home or my heart; but somehow the flames had singed my soul and I struggled for so very long.
2017 was the year we marked the first anniversary of that fire, a date that seemed both a relief to finally have past us and an agony to endure. I sat in my office on that memorial date and looked out my window, seeing not an angry black and red sky but a beautiful spring day and could not help but compare the two days, separated by one year in time.
2017 was the year I walked across a stage and accepted a medal for my conduct during the initial hours of that fire. I came very close to denying the medal completely, to asking to have my name removed from the list of recipients because I felt I did not deserve it in any way. On that fateful day in May, I had done my job, which did not involve saving lives or homes; and more than that I was carrying the secret shame that I was profoundly disappointed in myself that I had not been stronger, smarter, braver or tougher on that day or the days that followed.
2017 was the year I made friends, lost friends, saw my respect for some grow as they showed themselves to be more than I ever imagined and saw my respect for others diminish as they revealed themselves to be lacking in what I thought they had; and in this way it was no different than any other year, as this journey we are all on means at moments our path crosses that of others, for better or for worse.
2017 was the year I left the job I had worked at for almost five years, the one that was intense and challenging and that I loved but that I had come to recognize was having negative impacts on me both emotionally and physically and in which I knew the time had come to move on, although I clung to it tightly because it was the job that had given me hope and life after my divorce and because I adored the colleagues who has become more like family.
2017 was the year I began a new job, one with new challenges and intensity, but keen and sharp and fresh and new and exciting and with a cast of new colleagues rapidly becoming friends.
2017 was the year I worked on a political campaign (well, two, really) and saw the highs and lows and thumps and bumps and victory and defeat and everything in between.
And 2017 was the year I began to write about my marriage and my divorce, these topics until now untouched and undisturbed as they settled in my heart and mind to a place where words could finally penetrate.
2017 was the year of letting go.
I let go of my anger and disappointment in myself that lingered after the wildfire; and I let go of my anger and disappointment in those who I felt had failed me in some way. I let go of a job that I had loved for so very long, but that I knew was time to leave. I let go of people who did not enrich my life and for whom I suspected I did not enrich theirs; and I let go of the emotions of my marriage and divorce enough to begin unpacking that baggage, quietly choosing what to keep and what to discard and what needed to be written.
I broke open and dug out all the rot with my own hands, beginning the year feeling uncertain and unsettled and finding myself at the ending at peace because I have done the things I know I needed to do to get where I wanted to be.
And here I am. 2017 was the year I made peace and love, with myself and with my world and with my soul that had been singed in a fire that somehow left me smoke-damaged and scarred without even touching me in any real way.
It was a good year, one not unmarred by losses and crises and tragedies, but one that reminded me that what mattered was not what happened but how I responded, and one that allowed me to remember to be as gentle with myself as I tend to be with others, forgiving them for things I would likely struggle to forgive in myself.
It was my year of letting go, of letting be, of almost losing myself and diving deep to find myself again, of stopping writing for a time to allow myself to feel until those feelings began to demand they be written again.
And now, 2018. A new book with blank pages, crisp and clean and empty like the dozens of notebooks I own, just waiting to be written in and to tell the story. Today I let go of 2017, not with the angst I released 2016 but with fondness and with gratitude for being not only a year of letting go but being another year I was so blessed to have had when I know others were denied of that privilege. And I look forward to 2018, with new challenges and new highs and lows and more than anything, most of all, another year in which to love and laugh and live with those who have chosen to be part of my life just as I have chosen to be part of theirs.
Dearest reader, whether 2017 was your year of letting go, and whether it was the best or worst or just another year, I hope you will embrace 2018 as a new chance, a fresh start and very simply another year in which you get to dance across this earth.
Happy New Year – and thank you for being part of my year of letting go. I look forward to sharing tales of 2018 – whatever they might be – with you.
And with that, I let go of 2017, and welcome a fresh new year.