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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Year of Me

I needed a plan - pure and simple.
Barely hanging on ...

As the weather turned cold I was starting to feel a sort of desperation about life in general again. Holidays were approaching, jobs were not materializing, a few important relationships rested on shaky ground and my mighty demons seemed poised for a resurgence. I refused to live in the sinking world I had for so long. I wasn't going to be drug back into that hole this time without a fight. So I started to devise a strategy - one that took me from where I was, where I wanted to end up and accounted for a lot of variables in between. So as a plan began to form for what I wanted to accomplish in the next year I knew that I only needed to ask and those that were important to me would help me along the path. I had such incredible people in my life, they showed me that time and again, and yet I never asked them for guidance. Help was something I gave, but didn't request. But, the more and more I contemplated what to do next, the more I knew that I needed to face some of the fears I had about leaning on people and asking for assistance.

A new year always seems like a perfect time for renewal, for a chance at a clean slate, for leaving the past behind, for looking forward. The year before I'd made an attempt at the resolution game. I'd even exchanged my short, but lofty list with a few people thinking it would inspire me to stick to the game - and yet I hadn't. So I searched back in my email and found my simple list of five things

  1. Get Healthy;
  2.  Find a job I love;
  3. Find my center (something that makes me happy and fulfilled and also leads to nothing but relaxation);
  4. Practice spontaneity (stop over-analyzing everything, every time);
  5. Don't neglect relationships.

That day I looked back on that list for the first time in many months. I was surprised by how in some strange ways I'd accomplished them, but not in the way or path that I would have imagined. The cliche "what a difference a year makes" was apropos. But, I still didn't know what I was going to do with that information. I started thinking about how I wanted my next year to look - if my resolutions were going to magically come true (even in unexpected or not always welcome ways), then I needed to plan out this year's list very carefully. And one of the items that I knew needed to be on the list was clear - be honest - but how to accomplish that was not as clear.  I made my first small attempt by acknowledging, even before the new year, how difficult my year had been and how much I'd learned that there were some incredible people in it that I didn't recognize enough. So I wrote my own version of a holiday letter. I acknowledged the resolutions and how I arrived at them and then I did what I could with words to let people know their importance:

For every one of you that realized, recognized and remedied my year - I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I wish more than anything that I could give you all a gift that would show you how much you all mean to me. A gift from my heart and soul, because those of you receiving this are truly some of the best, most remarkable people on earth. You all mean the world to me - maybe more than you even know. My Christmas gift to you all this year though has to be a simple one of words:
This holiday my gift to you is a wish for peace, love, happiness and surprises of the best kind in the year to come. May you accomplish your list and find people with which to share in the glory of such accomplishments. I love each and every one of you for the distinct and important role in which you play in my life.
-With all the love and thanks in my heart -me
It was a small start on the path to honesty. I knew I had a lot farther to go, but it felt good to make a move in the right direction.

 With one week until the new year I devised my job hunting plan, I read and researched the best way to find solid, full-time employment in the tough job market of today, I contacted the few networking contacts that I had and I wrote a second letter that this time contained more honesty and my plans for the year:
Happy New Year to the Most Incredible People in the World that every day make my life a little brighter, "funner," more tolerable, enviable and very much worth living.

As you flip the calendar from 2010 to 2011 I have a few simple, but important wishes for you all:
In 2011 may you experience all that you hope for, long for, wish for and want.
May you always look in your mirror and see an incredible person that you want to be.
May others look at you and delight in the fabulous person that they see.
May you learn to love yourself faults and all.
May you find or continue to delight in a person that looks beyond those faults and loves you all their heart anyway.
May you see the beauty of the world and humanity all around you.
May you be blind to the darkness and never experience inhumanity in the world.
And most of all, I hope that you will always be an important person in my life.

Much love & happiness to you for the coming year. - me

P.S. I've declared 2011 my year & I hope you'll come along for the ride as I rock it!

And so as I pressed send on my computer I was petrified to share with everyone that it was the year of me. It was a lofty goal to declare. What if I didn't live up to the mission? What if it didn't turn out to be my year? What if I didn't "rock it." But in the end I realized that it was also liberating to share my thoughts, it was good to have people who would remind me in the days to come that it was my year and most of all it was a joy to know that there were people that really would be along for the ride.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Coming into Focus

A few years ago one of my friends, knowing that she inevitably needed glasses, had asked me to go along with her to her appointment. Since I needed to go as well I scheduled an appointment for both of us and for some reason of misunderstanding on the part of staff they had separated us into different rooms. So I listened from across the hall as the optician asked "which is better 1 or 2, now a or b ..." And then I heard my friend tell her that wow that one is really bad to which the doctor replied "honey, that's your own eyes we are done with the exam." And as many times as that story has been used as a punch line it holds a more profound lesson - in the midst of things sometimes we only realize how bad things are when we are coming out on the other side. Once things begin to come into focus we look back and think "wow, my vision / life really was blurry beyond what I realized." And as I began facing the holiday season and the coming new year that's what I began to discover - I was flipping between the "a's" and "b's" and the "1's" and "2's" and I was finally seeing that my life was coming into focus again. With the new prescription for living the way I wanted to and a new attitude I was coming out on the other side of a great depression.
 
Slowly through coffees and dinners with friends, phone calls, emails and the like I was beginning to tell more and more people where I had been and I how I was pulling myself up from it to become the new, improved me. I wasn't where I needed to be yet and I wasn't selling my story to the world, but as it came up or if people asked the right questions I wasn't hiding the facts anymore. And slowly in that time I was beginning to value the people that were in my life. No matter how many mistakes I had made or how far I'd fallen into depression during the years I had done a pretty good job of surrounding myself with some very incredible people. One of the things that I'd resolved to do was to try to be one of those people that offered the option of a helping hand for anyone that needed to take it. If only once in my life I was the person that was there when someone most needed it without knowing that I had made a difference on a day they needed it I would meet my goal, but hopefully I'd do even better than that.
So as Thanksgiving neared I decided I needed to reflect on the things that I was actually thankful for this year. And when I looked at my life - jobless, moneyless and still a little mindless - what I saw the most was a lot of incredible people that had no idea what things they had done - small and large - to help me through all of which I had been encountering. And as I thought about how special some of the things they had done were, even when they didn't realize that they were even doing what I most needed, I decided in the spirit of the day I needed to thank a lot of them. Sometimes it was as simple as a funny comment someone uttered that made me smile when I no longer realized that I could. Or it was a group rallying to my side when I'd said I had a bad day - not asking for anything in return - but just letting me know that I had a cheering section. Or it was someone sitting across from me at a table at a coffee shop exploring where are lives where going as we communicated our thoughts and fears and admiration  as her kids played around us obviously bored with our longwindedness, but not abandoning me when she knew I needed the confident. Or an out-of-the-blue text that just said someone was thinking about me.  And sometimes it was someone telling me without any thought or reservation that if I needed to I had a home with him, he'd never let me be homeless.
So, as the blurriness was fading and I was reflecting more and more I went through my list of friends and thought about what each and everyone of them meant to me. And I composed a short email to share with them on Thanksgiving since it seemed the natural day to thank people. It was a small start to acknowledging where I was and how close I was to finally "seeing" again.
And so I sent the following Thanksgiving letter to a selection of people that may or may not have known what I was experiencing. For many of them they would have no idea what was really inspiring my thoughts, but I still felt like it was the first step that I needed to take in  acknowledging the gifts that people had given me and  in coming clean about where I was, who I was and where I was going. And so I quickly  pressed the send key before I started to focus too much and chicken out. It wasn't like I was telling the world that I was sick, even though my mind was, but it was a step to telling some people that might not guess that my life had not been easy the past year. 
" It was a struggle this year when facing a day dedicated to giving thanks when there has been so much to be despondent about this year. It inspires more contemplation, more soul-searching and more digging to find something for which you can say - 'for this I am truly happy.' But in all actuality I shouldn't have had to look far, because in this time I've discovered that sometimes there are people that you would never have known could be so wonderful. New people appear in your life when you need them most, old friends decide to pick that time to reconnect and the friends that have been there all along lend more support than they realize.

So, on this day of thanks, I want each of you to know that my list this year may be small, but the gift that is there is far greater than any for which I could hope. For, that inventory, well it's filled with each of you that make my days in ways that you know and may not even fathom.

Thank you all for being the people that you are and for being the people that I need.

I love you all for the strength, hope and support you provide me. I only hope that one day I will be able to repay the favor in even a small way.
...
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! "
It was only a start to telling the truth - to seeing how out of focus I had been - but it was a start and sometimes just beginning to see the letters and shapes and colors and numbers with only a little blurriness around the edges has to count for something. Some days seeing how bad your vision was and how good it can be is the best gift you can be given and I was thankful that the fuzzy edges were beginning to become clear again. It was like I'd too taken an eye exam and I was just waiting for those new, perfect lenses to arrive.