Thursday, December 30, 2010

What I learned this year

As usual, I am pensive as the year draws to a close.  However, this year, more than ever, I am simply amazed at all that these 365 days have held for us.  I am quivering with gratitude and amazement.  If you had asked me, at the beginning of this year, how I thought it would go I would probably have started sobbing.  And now, I am sitting quietly, filled with joyful calm.

This year came in with blustery, blizzardly frenzy.  We had two very small babies and a two year old with more energy than all of us combined.  We were buried with snow, and I was overwhelmed.  I was frozen in a state of dizzying exhaustion.  Most of my faith fell out of a hole in my pocket years ago, but what was left as crumbs of hope slipped right through my fingers when I tried to grasp it.  I am not exaggerating the state of things.  It was, by far, the most difficult time of my entire life thus far.  I had no idea where the strength was going to come from to care for these three people entrusted to me.  The winter was cold and felt endless. 

Fortunately, I had the best teammate on earth and the greatest support from family and friends.  I also happened to discover the writing of Pema Chodron, and that has given me the perspective and resolve to get through those challenging times.  And so we moved on through the days.

Maya did learn to use the potty with proficiency although I started to worry she would leave for college untrained.  She also learned to say “a really bad word” and has been a mirror to my many faults in other countless ways.  She’s precocious and daring and wildly curious.  She’s funny if slightly mischievous in her humor.  But Maya’s greatest trait, by far, is her kindness.  Her teachers have told me several times how patient she is with the kids with special needs.  She is always trying to teach Elliot and Zoe and can be so gentle with them.  Her first year teacher told me she is a voice for the kids who cannot yet speak.  To hear that made my heart sing.  I am choking up as I write this.  She is my teacher in so many ways.  I have learned to let her rage when she needs to and put myself in timeout when necessary.  I am still learning to listen.

Elliot is following in Maya’s dangerous footsteps.  He’s a determined little guy who loves to take things apart.  He’s also extremely tender and nearly melts when we tell him no.  Zoe then takes up his cause with vigilance and rebellious determination.  We call her The Reporter and rely on her to keep us loudly informed of all the misdoings of her siblings.  Their little personalities are still being revealed to us, but it is clear they are not two peas in a pod but more like oil and vinegar.  One is nutty and a little slick while the other is tart and strong.  They are yummy and quite nice separately but are incredibly delicious mixed together.  We’ll keep them.  I have learned that there is no way I can be in three places at one time.  I have learned that I just have to put my head down, focus on the task at hand and get us all through the day.  There will be less crying in the end if I focus on making breakfast rather than consoling the weepers.  This is a very difficult thing to do.

Marco, my cube-mate and co-manager on this family project, has been a fearless and supportive collaborator.  He continues to amaze me with his unending patience and diligence and strength.  He is always learning and really challenges me to fill my day with more and not be defeated by the clock.  I could wax poetic about how the strain of parenting these three people has tightened our bond and given us so much more respect and admiration for each other.  I will refrain.  J  Fortunately, Marco loves his job and continues to “put bread on the table” as he likes to tell me.  He had another great garden this year and started brewing beer.  He’s only brewed two batches and already wants to “take it to the next level” which, I think, means very large equipment we can neither afford nor house.  He’s been reading about irrationality and continues to remind me that the universe favors chaos, so we’re on the right track.  The greatest lesson I have learned from Marco is to challenge myself and see if I can do just a little bit more.  And the second lesson I have learned is to sit back and actually relax.  It’s all about balance.

Marco finished his pilot’s license which made it possible for him to fly us out to Columbus and for me to be able to help his family in their restaurant.  I learned a lot about running a restaurant, as planned, but, more so, I learned a lot about all that fear that holds me back from doing things in my life.  I learned to ignore the fear and just do it.  And I learned that I am awesome and capable of more than I had ever imagined.  The confidence I gained working at The Fork & Spoon and under the tutelage of my mother-in-law has carried me through the year and pushed me to exercise more, write more and  be more fearless in my relationships.  I’ve lost 30+ pounds and continue to try to get “sixty seconds’ worth of distance run” in every unforgiving minute of my day.  And when I don’t, I’m learning to be patient with myself and a little kinder to my spirit.  I hope I’m being kinder to everyone around me as a result. 

People often ask me what I believe.  And for many years, I had no answer.  But, after learning so much this year, I can say, with confidence, that the one thing I believe in, for sure, is a fresh start.  No matter what has happened in a day and no matter what chaos exists around me or within me, I can stop, at any moment and access peace.  I can start fresh.  It’s all about forgiveness.  For me, this is salvation, and this is access to the divine.  And that is what I learned this year.

Life with the three grows easier.  I sing and dance a lot through the day with them.  And Marco and I just have to laugh at the chaos.  We have big plans to do more flying and do more beer brewing.  Marco’s citrus trees are finally producing.  I’m writing more and trying to use my free time to be creative.  I’m cooking and knitting and sewing and drawing.  I’d like to get back into Tae Kwon Do with Maya, and I’m going to learn to play bass guitar.  Marco plans to work on his instrument rating, and we both plan to start using the Bowflex we inherited.  We’ve overloaded ourselves with reading to do.  All-in-all 2011 looks to be a pretty fantastic year. 

I’ve learned so much this year.  I’ve learned to stay.  I’ve learned that just when things seem as though they are going to fall apart, they start to get better.  If I just stay in it, no matter how crummy it feels, I can access the really sweet nut of life.  I’ve learned that instead of escaping and filling and doing, I can just be, now.  It’s terribly difficult.  So, I’ve learned to breathe deeply and not be so hard on myself.  And, above all, I’ve learned to give myself that fresh start.

I’ll leave you with a quote that has inspired me.

Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us...It is all about letting go of everything.”  Pema Chodron


Monica (your sis) said...

Heather, what a beautiful reflection! Isn't it amazing to be able to look back with pride once you've come out of what seemed to be an unending tunnel? My year was 2006-2007 and I know that I grew and learned so much. Of course each year has it's own challenges and I look forward to continuing to learn and grow.
I am so glad that you are writing more, you are a very talented writer and I hope that you will continue to work and expand on this craft. You are such a thoughtful and witty person and I am very glad to be a part of your life. We love you all so much!! Here's to a 2011 full of adventures! XOXOXO

b.g. said...

You are so inspiring to me. I miss you and love you and I am so glad to hear your voice on this blog.

Jennifer Williams said...

Heather, you are an inspiration! I remember you as this littl girl, but because of your openess, I can know you as an adult that I may never meet again. But also as a friend. I hope you get published and others will read your words and have hope!

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