Reflections on a Year of Living Bravely

This time last year, I resolved to “be brave” in 2017. It started as a joke and evolved into a totally sincere focus point for the year. Newly-divorced, newly-single-parenting, newly-home-owning, it seemed like bravery was really the most I could expect of myself in a twelve-month period.

And you know what? It worked. I tried new things this year and the results were lovely. I took new art classes, created new artwork, and even got a piece accepted into a juried exhibition. In opening myself to new avenues of community, I made several new friends who now number among my closest companions.

I started dating this year, the adventures of which I will NOT be recounting in these columns (you’re welcome). Suffice to say that online dating requires all the courage one can muster, along with an extremely good sense of humor and a willingness to look past an exceptional number of photographs of men proudly holding dead fish.

I also lived alone for the first time in many years, something that was more intimidating than I had expected. My house is beautiful and comfortable and homey…and it makes the weirdest noises at the oddest times. And I will tell you right now that the offhand comment by a neighbor that the previous owners swore they once saw the ghost of a confederate soldier in full regalia walking across the upstairs hall did not help me sleep well.

But I (bravely) faced down a year of strange thumps, inexplicable creaks, and random gurgling noises that were ultimately traced to my sump pump. That’s a thing, apparently. I even went down into my (garage-accessed, unfinished, deeply creepy) basement alone, people. At night! It turns out that the sound of a dying smoke detector battery is annoying enough to inspire even a wimp like me to venture into the dark unknown.

This year, I asked for help. From my parents, from my friends, from my co-parent, sometimes even from my children. Admitting you can’t do it all is itself an act of bravery because it lets the world see that you are vulnerable. But here’s the thing – you ARE vulnerable. We all are. Might as well admit it and call in the cavalry when the going gets tough.

As I look ahead into 2018, I don’t have a specific new year’s resolution. I certainly intend to keep living bravely, but the words that have been rising up in my mind are a bit milder than my warrior mantra of 2017. Breathe. Peace. Patience. Compromise. I am trying to tune into a feeling that I want for my life, rather than a laundry list of goals to achieve or habits to break. So perhaps 2018 is the year of living gently  – choosing to be gentle with myself, with my kids, and with the world.

Whatever your resolutions are for the new year, pursue them bravely. But if you don’t achieve them, be gentle with yourself, okay?

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