Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Reflecting on a Decade

I suppose all decades represent seasons of significant growth and change because let’s face it, would our lives really be worth living if one stretch of time wasn't distinguishable from the next? I knew going into this decade I would see the last of my thirties. I would launch my children into the world of adulthood, and my role as a mother, a wife, a teacher and mentor would continue to evolve--possibly to the point of painful discomfort--I just didn’t know to what degree. 

I had no idea this would be the decade I would find my voice with The Central Utah Writing Project--starting a personal blog, submitting articles for publication, traveling on assignments, and benefiting from lasting friendships with co-directors and other Fellows who not only encourage me to keep writing, but to keep living. 

The past ten years took me to Vernal, Boulder, Mesa, Minneapolis, Washington, Vegas, Charleston, Port Townsend, Victoria, Nashville, Boise, and Irvine for work and fun. While many trips to Atlanta, Yakima, Logan, and more than a few small towns in Idaho connected and reconnected me with family in ways that can only be described as healing--worthy of heartfelt song. That is, if I could sing... 

It was a decade of coaching, pioneer trekking, deer hunting, camping, fishing, 4-wheeling, temple dedicating, skiing, crossfitting, teenage driving, missionary farewelling and homecoming. It brought the beginning and ending of outlandish dance proposals and their even more clever replies, track meets, basketball games, plays, dance recitals, orchestra, choir and rock concerts. It was a decade of discovery and accomplishment mixed with the brutal realities of life. 

In many ways, our family's past decade reflects a microcosm of life itself. Half of it spent for the most part on track, its trajectory seemingly predictable, comfortably common. Until it wasn’t. Until death stole my mother from me a good ten years sooner than I had anticipated. And then, as if it hadn’t taken enough, stole from me and my children again some 163 days later--this time taking the head of our family, our leader, our trusted, wise mentor and friend. The only thing worse than losing my husband of twenty-three short years, was knowing that Kyle only got him for twenty, Lane eighteen, Anna fourteen. Perhaps enough time to leave a lasting impact, but certainly long enough to leave us all desperately longing for his counsel and love yet given. 

And so, the second half of the decade was spent in a humbling, numbing fog, grappling with the unknown as we were not only knocked off course, but were forced into a world that vaguely looked like it did days, even hours prior. Since 2015 we have learned to both embrace and resent the word resilient in our home. Social media, gaming, fast food, and Amazon Prime--the world’s empty antidotes--gave us some reprieve but not like our faith, connection to family, and the volumes of heartfelt prayers sent up in our behalf did (and let us not discount the impact of a good therapist and medication that sometimes make the world just a little easier to face).     

The second half of this decade took me to my knees with grief, despair, and prayer. It saw me rocking widowhood for a whole nine months before deliberately deciding to break every rule in the widow handbook, hoping to spare me and my children from anymore pain. But instead, we faced new challenges and opportunities for growth that death alone did not offer. Spending the past few years as a newlywed in my late forties, trying to create a new life while hanging on to some of the past, and watching my kids struggle then give up on college, religion, and relationships was not what I expected in this stage of life and has been almost more than I could bear. But by the same token, this unexpected, Plan B approach to life has taught me to worry less, especially now that I know what it's like to live after all you've planned for and hold dear turns to dust in an instant. The worry isn't worth it and only steals from what may be known as the good ol' days...much sooner than you think.

Now we find ourselves pressing forward, walking into the next decade bound together by hope. This past year has taught me to accept my children’s choices as I have gained a firm testimony of  the integral role agency plays in all our experiences here on earth. Likewise, my children have taught me to trust them in their decision making as they have fully trusted in mine. While the healing balm of gratitude has always been a key factor in my life’s happiness and outlook, the past six months especially have confirmed to me, with some of the most intense realization, that God is in the details. He does not forget his children, and he keeps his promises when we keep ours--mothers' especially. How can I not be grateful, full of hope?

As I dare look ahead to the next decade, I imagine I will officially earn the title of Grandma. I suspect I will get a master's degree and perhaps put it to use by becoming a principal. I plan to finish what I hope will be a memoir worth reading, live my fifties to the fullest, and find a low-impact exercise I honestly enjoy. That said, I have every intention of continuing to eat whatever I want without gaining weight and doubt I will ever learn to sing or play an instrument as my "goals" have indicated the past four decades. I plan to retire from teaching at some point but will stay in the classroom as long as I can, or until former students quit approaching me at the grocery store to tell me how much they loved having me as their teacher. I will more than likely say goodbye to my in-laws and a few aunts and uncles but hopefully no one before they are ready. I plan to read more good books and spend far too much money on clothes, skin care, and eating out. I pray my children will continue to include me in their lives as they realize the undeniable impact they've had on mine. I hope I am afforded opportunities to spend more time with my siblings and extended family as they keep me connected with my parents and my past. Finally, I hope to cultivate the love I need to invest in and benefit from all of the beautiful second chances I have been blessed with in this life. 

Pray more.
Love more.
Connect more.

If I am allowed to do these things with and for those I love, I will consider the next decade a success. I wish the same for you as you both reflect and project on your life in the days ahead. 

No comments: