Working my way to hope for the New Year

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It feels like I've had a very hard time writing for the past couple weeks, but truthfully, I think it's been difficult for months.

I've taken time off for Christmas, so there's that.

And I've done a lot of traveling since October (which I've loved) and I know the disruption to my routine has affected my writing for sure.

But it's deeper than that. The words seem stoppered.

(I typed those last two sentences and then questioned for the next five minutes how I might have communicated that better, but nothing came to mind. See what I mean.)

I'm afraid. Afraid I've lost the words. Afraid I'm going to stop being a writer. Writing is one of my vocations, it's one of the ways I define and know myself and how I make order, beauty, and connections in the world. Not being able to get the words out, and losing my drive and desire to do so really freaks me out.

It reminds me of the summer of my writing anxiety, except it's not anxiety that's plugging the flow.

This season I think it's loss, grief, uncertainty, and transition. All of which can make me anxious. So maybe it is anxiety?

(And the fact that these things are stoppering my writing makes me question my skill as a writer and adds a dose of inadequacy and failure to the mix.)

One of my dearest friend's son died by suicide in the fall. And a week before Christmas my forty-six year old uncle-in-law, wife to my aunt and father to four of my cousins (who are my children's ages and younger), died from a brain tumour.

Happy New Year everyone.

My December 2019 and January 2020 - the end of one decade and the beginning of another - will be bookended by trips out west to collectively grieve and celebrate the lives of loved ones gone too soon.

I started writing a piece on loss and pain earlier this year. I had just learned of a searing grief and pain being borne by one of my childen. These are the worst kinds pain, the suffering of our children that we can't resolve. For me this has been one of the hardest parts of parenting past early childhood, the pains you can't nurse or kiss away just keep multiplying.

In that piece I was writing, I was working my way to hope and life in that struggle (which for me is the meaning of faith), but I never did finish and publish it. Maybe later. It's a hard piece to write because sometimes it's a hard truth to live.

Hope and life co-exist with grief and death, I just can't write it any fancier than that right now. I can't paint a beautiful picture and weave an interesting story to tell it. One sentence will have to do it.

There were (are) some significant losses and pain in 2019 that I have not published. My life and writing is multifaceted and I was focusing on other things. And it was a very good year in so many respects. As the year came to a close, I wrote a list of highlights and accomplishments in my personal journal and there was so much to appreciate and be thankful for.

This conscious attention to success and accomplishment is a very good practice for me since I tend to forget the wins and focus on life's losses. Appreciating all that went well is good for my mental and emotional health.

The success and joy from the previous year, all that copious love and grace, are what I'm standing on going into this year. It's like the rock beneath my feet, it's my hope and courage.

Look at what has been done in your life! Look at all the provision! Look at all the love! You can hope for good things for the future!

Some people are more naturally hopeful about the future. I find it fraught with uncertainty. I need to remember the good from the past and the challenges I've overcome to this point to feel I have what it takes for the future. I don't have a ton of confidence and I have to pull it from somewhere.

So I've been recognizing this rock of love, provision, grace, and goals achieved beneath my feet. And I'm feeling battered by grief, pain, and fear. Like waves beating against that rock, somedays higher than others.

Then add to this the weight of a new decade.

The end of a decade is kind of a big deal that I hadn't given any thought to until it was popping up all over media and social media in late December. I had not even noticed before that.

I find people's year end reflections and New Year's resolutions tedious to begin with. (Even in a non-grieving season I just can't muster that much optimism.) Stacking a decade's worth of reflections and future dreams on top of that feels like more than I can handle right now.

2020 is bringing so much change to our lives as I wrap up homeschooling. And I've been dealing with all the accompanying nail biting, personal reflection, anxiety, and regret in that "ending".

While that's happening I'm charting a course for my future career, feeling terrified I might steer in the wrong direction and end up full of regret at 65 that I didn't (fill-in-the-blank) enough. I feel inadequate to the task of building what I'm hoping to achieve in this next stage of life - financial security, lifestyle freedom, meaningful employment, and strong family and community connections. What if I can only have one or two of those? Add to the mix that I'm also feeling like I've already missed the boat in areas of my life that I once dreamt about but could never get traction on. Ugh.

Maybe I haven't lost the words maybe it's just that the words are so hard to write.

#sorrynotsorry that this isn't a rah, rah New Years post. I'm not a rah, rah New Year's person.

I'm working my way to hope by choosing to acknowledge the good in my life and living into that goodness breath by breath. It's a bit stormy right now. The waves of loss, grief, and uncertainty are high but love is the rock, and with steady action - showing up and doing the work, it will be enough. I know it will. I've got 43 years of experience as proof.

How are you coming into this New Year and new decade?

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