It’s that time of year when people are posting their recaps of 2013. The highs and lows. Milestones. The goals accomplished and the resolutions surrendered. I wasn’t going to write a recap. As far as I’m concerned, good riddance to 2013 and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
But then the other day, my husband and I were driving out to his parents’ house and a Paul McCartney song came on the radio. I asked if it had been one we’d heard when we saw him live.
“Was that this year?” my husband asked.
I counted the months in my head. “Yeah,” I answered. “May.”
“That feels like forever ago,” he said.
“It was before July,” I pointed out.
And that pretty much sums up 2013 for me: Before July. After July.
Before July was pretty good. I started the year with the publication of my short story, “Weddings for Grown Ups” in the Black Fox Literary Magazine. My husband and I traveled. I took an advanced writing workshop with Sara Zarr, through which I met several good friends and writers. I started strength training and completed the New Rules of Lifting for Women (something I never imagined myself doing). I took a stand for women’s rights by attending protests and filing testimony. I went to concerts and comic cons. I met Andrew McCarthy and Rob Thomas and Jason Dohring. I talked to Community creator Dan Harmon about story structure in a comedy club parking lot at midnight. I saw the Dixie Chicks, The Killers, and the legendary Paul McCartney.
It was an amazing year. And then Blanco got sick and died.
The second half of the year seemed marked by loss. I lost July to a black cloud of grief, regret, and anxiety. I lost a member of my family, who I’d cared for and loved every day for more than 15 years. I lost the innocent belief that our little family would always be together. As the months rolled on, I dropped out of book groups and dinner groups because I couldn’t face the idle chit-chat. Long-time friends slipped away. I drawered the manuscript I’d worked on for nearly seven years because my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. The cloud that came when Blanco died slowly covered the rest of the year until I couldn’t remember anything but loss.
After that conversation in the car, I was feeling sorry for myself so I tried to list all the good things that had happened since July. For one thing, my husband and I adopted two Siamese kittens and watching their escapades has cheered us up on several occasions. I put my heart into a new manuscript. I started working with a kind and encouraging mentor who took on my crazy writing process letters (ie. therapy) without judgement. I found more writing friends. I did another advanced workshop, this time with Francisco Stork and got re-inspired to write.
But it was only after I’d made the list that I realized that my biggest milestone of 2013 was that I made it through.
You know how there are those with whom we just can’t imagine life without? It might be one person. It might be several people. It might be your cat or dog, your career, your home. Who or whatever it is, you feel like the day you lose it will be the day your world will end. That was the way I felt about Blanco. Who would I be if I wasn’t taking care of him? What would my life be like without him in it? I didn’t want to imagine it when he was well and then when he got sick, I couldn’t think of anything but. It scared me.
That day came. It was awful and hard. The next several days and weeks were not much better. The house was emptier and someone important was missing, but the world kept spinning. Things got a little better every day. I’m changed, but I’m still me. I made it though.
And that’s the thing I’m holding to as I usher 2013 out the door. There will be other challenges. There will be other awful and hard days, but I’ve been through it once and I came out the other side. Whatever the future holds for me, I’ll remember that.
Happy new year.