I’m feeling rough, I’m feeling raw, I’m in the prime of my life. – Time to Pretend, MGMT
There are years.
And then there are YEARS.
It was a YEAR.
I often wonder about the culmination of events that take place over the course of a year – how it’s not really the events themselves that shape it, but the timing, circumstances and – most importantly – where YOU are in your life.
And as I look back from January 1st to today, never was this more true than this past year.
In my 50th birthday post I alluded to some big changes that I wanted to make in the coming year – changes that I wished I could have known I had to make years earlier. But I was determined not to dwell on what could have/might have been had I gotten there sooner.
I was excited, looking forward and looking FORWARD.
And then, over the course of twelve short/long months:
Noah was diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy, had five seizures, one MRI and seven EEGs. There were four hospital stays too.
Noah broke his arm during a weekend away upstate.
Conor was hospitalized for acute appendicitis – and spent his first night (in the ER) while Noah was spending his last night at a different hospital.
Conor was accepted to his two top colleges (with partial scholarships to both), and left for his first semester away this fall.
Chelsea moved out – into an adorable apartment in New York City, with a girl she’s grown up with.
Chelsea was hired full-time at the company she’s been interning with since she was a junior in high school, and is officially on her way to making her mark in the real world.
Mike and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary.
Noah started kindergarten.
So the emotional turbulence? Pretty intense – the highs were SUPER high and the lows – well, I learned that two of the most useless phrases in the English language are “I’m at the end of my rope”, and “I can’t take one more thing”.
Because (especially if you’re a parent) there is no “end” to the rope.
And you’ll take as many more “things” as you are handed. No matter what.
I discovered this full-on during Noah’s five-day stay in the hospital in June. He started the week with three seizures (one at school and two later that day in the hospital). We were told that since traditional meds were not having any impact in reducing the “electrical storm” in his brain, he was going to have to be put on Prednisone. And though we knew this was a possibility (our wonderful doctor had prepared us), we were devastated nonetheless. We were now faced with having our five-year-old on steroids – and dealing with all of the nightmarish side effects that accompanied them. The first two days of the hospital were spent monitoring Noah with an EEG, and the last three administering the initial dose of Prednisone via IV. I would stay with Noah during the day and Mike would take the overnights.
Over the course of that same week I was busy frantically filling out paperwork and making plans to get Chelsea squared away in the apartment she and her friend had just committed to the day before Noah’s hospitalization. I’ll be forever grateful for her friend’s parents – who took over the lion’s share of work so that I could concentrate on Noah. But I still wanted to be available for the planning and shopping and setting up of Chelsea’s first real home.
And over the course of that SAME week Conor was feeling sicker and sicker. By late Thursday night (the night before Noah was due home) I wound up in a (different) hospital ER, where a scan revealed acute appendicitis. This kicked off an 8-day hospital stay, IV antibiotics, a possible abscess (averted, thankfully) and scheduling of surgery. My mom flew up to help, and my dad joined her later on so that we could all attend Conor’s high school graduation AND move Chelsea into her apartment.
We spent the summer battling the toxic behavioral/mood effects of Prednisone, with the help of a heaven-sent camp director/staff and our beloved neurologist. I don’t think I’ve ever cried as much over a sustained period of time in my entire life.
But through all of this, I was keenly aware of the resolutions I had made on my birthday – to be the most authentic ME possible (for the first time ever), and to make more mindful and “present” decisions. This awareness was critical to my surviving the year intact, as I truly believe that the emotional toll of the events that took place would have swallowed me whole otherwise. The timing of my making huge personal changes prior to a year where I would need them the most was never lost on me for a minute.
As the year began to wind down, so did much of our life. Conor had his surgery and successfully settled in to college life far away from home. Chelsea is now in the next phase of her life, and we are in that next phase of parenting a grown up person. Noah’s subsequent EEG’s showed positive improvement – thanks to the Prednisone – and gave us the green light to begin weaning him off. And though the violent tendencies are still there, they are more occasional tremors than the constant explosions we experienced in the beginning. The stellar teachers and wonderful staff at our elementary school adore him, and support us in more ways than we could have hoped for.
And as the year began to head towards a close I thought about how I fared through it all, what the course of events meant to me, and how very very differently I handled things overall. And I realized that – as far as magnitude is concerned – there was not a single year in my life that came close to this one. Not marriage, childbirth, divorce or even depression. And it wasn’t so much that I kept getting hit with one event after the next – I’m pretty sure there were years that were similar, or even worse. The difference was my responses to it all – that rather than just flailing and being reactive, I was able to take what was going on at the moment, process it and reflect in a way that I know I had never done before. I felt more like “me” than ever in my entire life, and it was truly emboldening.
Which is how this happened on my 51st birthday:
I had no intention – ever – of getting a tattoo. I wasn’t necessarily opposed to the idea, but never thought that it was something that I would want (or need) to do.
But after this year I felt the want – and need – and envisioned it almost immediately.
The arrow symbolizes the need to be pulled back in order to go forward.
The circle signifies how the year started and ended.
And the open space in the circle is because we’re really never “done”, are we? – and so there needs to be that space to allow for the changes, for the unknowns, for the possibilities.
We’ve got the vision, now let’s have some fun.
And though it took me almost the whole year to truly own all of the changes I wanted to make, I feel that going into my 52nd year I can begin to build on what I started:
Being really “me”.
Being really mindful.
Taking on more rope.
And more things.
Yeah, it’s overwhelming, but what else can we do?
Peace out 2014 – you sure packed a punch.