Ending and Beginning with Lessons Learned

snowflakeHere we are again at the close of another year. It has unquestionably been a year filled with change, some of it joyous, some heartbreaking, and some of the bittersweet variety. As with each year prior, it has been a year of learning and re-learning the lessons of life.

Giving back has traditionally been a community-oriented action for me, serving on a board or two here or there, volunteering for something, or making charitable contributions. This year it was personal. As Mom moved and my sister and I spent many hours embroiled in the process with her, the months of labor became a major gift back to our mother. Mom gave birth to us, helped us grow into the people we are, provided lots of advice (a little of which we may have actually followed), babysat our kids when they were small, and turned into a wonderful grandmother while still maintaining her own life and interests and pursuits. I have learned that giving back may be most meaningful when it is most personal.

I have learned that sometimes it’s okay to walk away from a fight. It’s not that the fire is no longer in me; it’s just that I can only put out so many fires at one time. I have to pick my battles and work on those that are most profound and significant in my life at the moment.

I have learned that my world view may be narrower than some but it is much broader than others. You can’t force people to find the macro view when they are intent on seeing life in microcosm.

We are most successful in life when we are resilient. Learning to roll with the punches is one of the hardest lessons of all, especially when the loss of a friend amounts to a seriously unexpected blow to the gut. But our ability to keep going is what really matters. When an individual made numerous contributions to the lives of others, the loss is devastating. Watching family and friends follow an excellent example, and picking up the shattered pieces to keep going, makes you want to stand up and applaud.

You most definitely can teach an old dog new tricks. Flexibility and embracing change may be one of the greatest resources we can draw upon as human beings. Whether we are 18 or 80, those who are healthiest emotionally and mentally are those who decide not to live in the past, but remain firmly planted in the shifting soils of the present and future.

For two dozen years we have been watching our children grow up. This year has been marked by some milestones as the younger one is now fully an adult at age 21 and the elder one moved away and is now launching her career with a full time job in her chosen field. As these changes unfold I realize once again that I can never reclaim those halcyon days of their childhood, nor would I choose to. I have learned that watching them grow into their adult selves has been the point all along, and that the most important guidance we provided along the way was the example we set of working hard to achieve goals, serving our community, and focusing on family. Even now, if I allow myself to become too pensive about the glorious paths our daughters have chosen, I will tear up from pride and love and the fact that they will be living extraordinary lives far away from our home.

As this year rolls to a close, I will carry these lessons forward into 2016 to face whatever comes our way. My wish for the New Year remains the same as in many years past: peace on earth, good will toward all. Happy New Year!

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