Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Reflecting on the New Year
New Years Day is a reflective holiday for me. How would I rate last year overall? Are there any obvious changes that I can make to improve the coming year? When I look back at the past 365 days can I say that I am proud of the way I lived them? Self reflection, however, is extremely challenging when grief has walked into your life unbidden and unwanted. Do these questions still apply when you are grieving? Can you reflect on life without a distinct bias when your entire world is upside down? What change, short of a miraculous return of my husband, could be made to improve my life after his death?
In some ways self reflection appears to be a luxury reserved only for those who still feel they have some semblance of control over their life. Before Phil died I harbored delusional thoughts of being in control of every area of my life. I was proud of the careful plans I made, and the way each action led to the achievement of a goal. Seemed to me that hard work and tenacity would always pay off. Then Phil died. Suddenly the ways I previously viewed success were suspect. Without the ability to be certain of a particular outcome how could I chart a course for the future? The day after Phil died I looked at my calendar. Each block was carefully filled in with appointments, reminders, and special dates, but without Phil as my partner not one of the notations mattered. Looking back I think the most frightening thing for me at that moment was the sudden realization that plans fail, life takes unexpected turns, and people die.
How does all of this affect my New Year reflections? Grief has taught me to adopt different criteria for success. When I look at my life today, I hold myself to a new, and in many ways higher, standard. Have I lived each moment knowing that life is precious, and an individual frame in time cannot be repeated? Do I tell the important people in my life that I love them~often and sincerely? Have I taken the lessons of grief and applied them to life? Will I look back at the year passed as a unique, necessary, and unforgettable gift? These measures change the focus from one of loss and despair to one of hope and gratitude. This Pollyanna attitude may sound trite, and there are days when I am surrounded by storm clouds with no noticeable silver lining, but losing Phil taught me to hold onto life~for that reason and countless others I am grateful for the opportunity to have loved him.
Life is full of both challenges and gifts. Without the challenges, perhaps we would be less appreciative of the gifts. Pictured is one of my recent blessings, my brother's new baby girl (and my sister-in-law in the background!). Welcome to a wonderful family Eveline!