Happy New Year, lovely people. I hope you said goodbye to 2016 safely and filled with peace. Ours was a quiet night, warmly snuggled up on the couch watching Netflix, listening to the fireworks outside, just the two of us. That husband guy really went out of his way this season to bring the Christmas cheer, hanging lights without being asked and quietly plugging them in every night. He even bought some new holiday candles to burn, making our house glow from the inside out every day when I got home from work. It really helped to keep me going, especially when somber thoughts crept in. Last year… well, last year was something else…
I read somewhere along the way about an idea to write an honest letter to yourself for the past year and I couldn’t shake it. I found myself composing this kind of letter in my head for the last couple months on a constant loop. I’d think of an opening, contemplate what I wanted to remember of 2016, then revise and edit endlessly. So on this first day of 2017, here I sit typing, wondering what it is I need to be honest with myself about 2016. We’ll just have to discover it together, since I never did come any closer to a final draft.
an honest letter to myself: 2016
Thankfully, 2017 is finally here. You love your new year, your fresh start, your clean slate, all the cheesy cliches. New years energize you and usually you map out every detail of every goal planned for the coming months, excited to accomplish every.single.thing.
It’s been raining since after midnight last night, washing away the last 365 days. Fitting, especially considering everything you’d like erased from 2016. Naturally, it’s gray and moody outside, reminding you how you felt for so much of the year. Seems sorta lucky though, that 2017 came in with a storm to clean everything outside the way you want your head cleared. Now is the time to acknowledge the last year, take from it what you can, and use those lessons to make 2017 one that you’d prefer to honor rather than forget.
Don’t get ahead of yourself here. 2016 had plenty of happy and treasured events. You experienced San Francisco for your birthday last January. It was an incredible trip with your husband that you needed to pump you up for the year to come. A city you always dreamt of visiting, and you were lucky enough to experience it. Good for you!
The year was also filled with your ever-expanding family, cherished friends, lovely times with good people. Don’t forget all the birthday parties, dinners, and time spent with your nieces and nephews. Growing closer and creating memories with the kids you love so much. Memories that they’ll hopefully hold dear as they grow up and conquer the world. This means more to you than ever before, because of 2016.
When your nephew passed at the start of the year, you crumbled. You can say that now, even though you hated to admit it at the time. You’ve never worn your heart on your sleeve, and that’s a big deal for you. Call it pride, say it’s how you protect yourself, admit you’ve worked hard to build up walls around yourself. Walls that fluttered away like the little pig’s straw house when you watched your beloved family suffer a blow that brought them to their knees.
You realized that when your even younger niece passed years before, those barriers you assembled protected your heart better then. Once grief stomped it’s way in again, you felt like you were grieving for both of their beautiful young hearts, stolen far too soon. Surrounded by loved ones rallying to heal, you felt more alone than ever before. Since you’re being honest here, you know there’s more…
Right when you felt like you’d gathered all the pieces of your broken heart and began to mend the ache, Grandpa Buck died. You still can’t grasp the darkness that followed. Maybe you never will? Almost a year later, you have unanswered questions about where your mind went and why. But you know for sure that the events of early 2016 defined the rest of your year, the decisions you made afterwards, and perhaps even the whole of your future. If you really dig deep into the dark crevices of your brain to consider every choice you make from now on, you may realize everything stems from the impact of really letting yourself be raw and open and vulnerable.
Since you’ve started to heal, you’ve been more truthful about what you want from this life, what you will tolerate and what you won’t. That’s something important and special, because for the first time ever you feel like you’re being real with yourself about who you are. You’ve started to acknowledge everything you’ve endured, what you’re made of and frankly, what you deserve.
Want to know what you did with all of that? For one, you stopped stalling on some big decisions and allowed things to progress naturally without trying to overthink and manipulate the variables. You finally pulled the trigger on fixing up the yard and renovating the kitchen. Annual trips like your Thanksgiving camping tradition, Ocean Beach and Lake Havasu felt so much more special. Hell, you even got the new car you were fighting yourself on.
Things at work are falling into place because you stopped deferring your accomplishments, owned your skills and embraced your love for learning. You stopped talking yourself out of growing your career and experiences you previously felt you didn’t deserve because you allowed love and light into the broken bits.
You’ve earned every bit of your life. The good, the bad. Since you’re writing an honest letter to yourself, you know 2016 taught you that. As did the people you’ve chosen to surround yourself with, the choices you’ve made from way back when and the decisions you continue to make. Yeah, last year was rough. It was painful. Thoughtful. Lonely. Be honest, though: it was also lovely, eye-opening, real. You’ll feel 2016 for a long time.
Don’t fight it.
photo credit: Christopher Sardegna for Unsplash