SWEET '16 - PART II : A Resolution to Not Just Live, But to Live Joyfully
“What are you most looking forward to about 2016?” my father-in-law asked me the day after Christmas.
“2015 being over,” I said. I meant it, but I regretted it after I’d said it.
Because it’s an awfully negative thing to think.
Yes, 2015 brought the most hollow, all encompassing, all consuming pain I never imagined possible. 2015 was the year we lost Julia, and it always will be.
When my father-in-law asked me about the year to come, my impulse was to ball up the year that’s passed into a wad of garbage and chuck it far, far away, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
But 2015 brought huge joy, too. Reminding myself to remember the good despite — and sometimes because of — the bad became something close to a walking meditation for me as 2015 wound to a close:
Life does not entirely suck. Life does not entirely suck.
And now, in these first days of 2016, I can do that one better:
Life is pretty good. Life is pretty great.
2015 was the year my husband and I moved to a new city in a new state and made new friends, incredible people who feel like they’ve been essential parts of our lives for years.
2015 was also the year my friends and family comforted me when I was at my worst, and made me see how lucky I am to be surrounded in so much love.
2015 was the year my sister got married. (!!)
2015 was the year my husband and I wrote something together for the first time, fulfilling a years-long goal. Not only did we not kill each other in the process (hooray!), but we also managed to write a thing together that we could never have written separately, making us that much more energized to keep writing together in 2016 and beyond. 2015 was also the year I felt most gratified by my job and proud of my work.
2015 was the year the entire Gardner family, a family that had already felt like my second family since I was three years old, became, truly, my blood, and my lifelines. 2015 was the year the Gardners’ extended family became my extended family, too.
2015 was the year I experienced the lowest lows, absolutely, but also the highest and most profound highs (something I feel crazy-grateful to have been given the opportunity to write about here).
And 2015 was the year we adopted our dog, the object-of-my-OCD-level-obsession, Pasta Bowl Peanut Butter Plante. I mean, look at her. LOOK AT HER!!
I need these reminders, especially when I wake up sad.
And I wake up sad a lot.
My New Year’s resolution is somewhat simple, but I’m terrified of it:
When I wake up each morning,
I will smile first thing.
Smiling releases endorphins and serotonin, flooding the brain with “feel-good” neurochemicals. It’s science! Can’t argue with science!
If I can start the day smiling, the logic goes, maybe I’ll feel more confident as I go about my day, more positive about my work, more engaged with my relationships — and less fearful that I’m wasting away the life I’m lucky enough to live, and doing Julia’s memory a poor injustice.
There will be some mornings where I won’t want to smile. There will be some mornings where I won’t want to move. There will be some mornings where I’ll desperately want to go back to sleep just a little bit longer, because doing anything but sleeping will sound like way too much emotional effort.
“That’s the depression,” my husband tells me, “and there’s no shame in it.”
Already since I’ve put a label on what I’ve been feeling these past six months, I feel a little more adept at the work of “trying to feel better.” There’s no eliminating the sadness. There’s no pretending it out of existence either. It’s a real thing that I feel. But I can make room for all the other feelings, too.
Smiling when I wake up is something of a “fake it ‘til I make it strategy.” Am I sort of tricking myself into feeling better than I do, albeit with the help of a little brain chemistry? Maybe. But maybe I really will start to feel better.
Our motto isn’t “I keep trudging,” or “I keep plodding,” or “I keep going.” It’s “I keep dancing.” This is the vow we’ve taken, to honor Julia’s legacy: to not just live life, but to live life joyfully.
2015 was the year I learned to do that.
And the learning continues in 2016 — and on, and on, and (joyfully) on.