How does one measure how defining a year is? Is it by the changes you make personally? The lives you impact? The places you have visited? The jobs you’ve held? A defining year might be because of events you’ve initiated: changes you’ve made personally. Or, for some a defining year might be because of events that happened outside your control. The only choices you were left with was the choice of reaction.
Some years of a person’s life pass with little change, no major events, no incredible changes, just living life. Some years aren’t defining until much later. Some of the 8 years J and I spent together were defining in that moment: marriage, having C, and moving to Texas. Others were simply years we spent living. However 2013 was not only the most drasticly changing and impactful of my 29 years of living. The events of 2013 definitely defined me, but they also made the last 8 years spent with J defining years as well: even those years we were simply just living.
The years J and I spent together were comfortable, and I liked that. Most weren’t what I would have called defining in that moment. Yes, I grew, I changed, I learned, but I wouldn’t have called them defining years. I wouldn’t have labeled them as life changing because I didn’t really see my life changing. I measured success differently then. Honestly, I’m really not sure how I measured my success then because how I view my life is so different now. What I do know is whether at the close of a year I labeled it as defining or not, it was. The events of 2013 have taught me a incredible amount because they have altered my perpective of life.
Today as I spend the last 11 hours of 2013 sitting by a pool and watching my little one learn to “swim” under water, I can’t help but reflect. One would think I would be reflecting on the events of 2013: J’s death, the funeral, learning to be a single parent, beginning The Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line, learning to live with only the memories of my soul mate. I have spent time reflecting on each of those, and how they’ve changed me, but honestly, I spend a considerable amount of my time reflecting on each of these events. I reflect on them daily. These events have defined my future. Today, actually this week at Disney in general, I’ve found my thoughts on the past 8 years. The years that I really thought were simply passing years. Sweet memories but far from life altering.
The years where I was growing ever so slowly and subtly into the woman I am today. The years of learning how to be a wife, and an officer’s wife at that. The years of learning to be mommy. A better teacher, daughter, sister, and friend. The years where I learned to cook breakfast, only to have to learn how to keep it warm without drying it out completely. The years I spent being a therapist to a silent man who grieved the tragic events he saw, but was never able to completely tell me about them…but yet somehow I gained the knowledge of how to help him heal without subjecting me to the horrors of his job. Years spent perfecting cupcake recipes, from a box, and learning how to package 36 plus cupcakes so that he could safely transport them without having to sacrifice yet ANOTHER cupcake carrier. I now smile at all the sacrificial cupcake carriers gone to the depths of a patrol room. I still couldn’t tell you where they all are: because I know no other officer wants a cupcake carrier!
I smile at the small, funny notes that were left to me on the counters, the pockets of his uniforms I washed and pressed so many times. The many times I saved him by squirting kool-aide bursts into his mouth as his sugar dropped, YET again, because he refused to listen to me about eating protein. I marvel at my emergency driving abilities as we FLEW down the interstate to the ER because SOMEONE took 90 units of short term insulin instead of long term. By the way, short term insulin takes effect in 15 to 20 minutes. My racecar driving of a Nissan Altima made a 20 minute drive a 10 minute one.
I now marvel at the patience I had while waiting for him to decide that he wanted to marry me. A fact I knew from the first time I saw him. I now laugh at the NUMEROUS times I spent embarrassed by his less than PC actions, or his incredibly “talented” dance moves. I look back at the years he spent playing on the floor with Caden: teaching him how to escape from various wrestling holds. In essence teaching him his own strength, patience, and bravery. The years they spent playing army, coast guard rescue swimming, hide and seek. The years I spent in a sleep deprived state STILL accomplishing all the tasks of the day. The surprise gifts or flowers, texts, and 5 minute visits snuck home in between calls. The stories of the lives changed for the better by our money spent on baby formula or canned food on a welfare check.
I find myself laughing at the spontaneous breakouts of “Ice Ice Baby” no matter where we happened to have found ourselves.
I find myself smiling when I see a package of Skittles: the candy he offered me in an effort to create a conversation with me for the first time. The same candy we handed out at his visitation, because in those sad moments of my life, Skittles still brought q smile to my face.
Marveling at my ability to make executive decisions while I spent time waiting for a simple, “Yes” or “no”text. In the end just making the decision and texting him the outcome because at that time his dedication to protect and serve was a greater need than our own. And my own understanding and acceptance of that…because it is OUR calling.
As I sit poolside in the last few hours of 2013, I’m amazed at my ability to survive this past year…this year of course has been a defining year. But, even with all the events of this year, the unfortunate losses, the voids, and the blessings, what I’ve chosen to reflect on the most is how the past 8 years of my life have defined me as well. At the close of each of those years I’m sure I “reflected,” but I doubt I was as thankful as I am now. This year in my reflections, memories don’t seem to stop, they just keep flooding my mind, and, for all of them I am thankful. Each of those moments were defining: sometimes in their simplicity, other times in their incredible outreach, but nonetheless defining. Each in some way prepared me for the most defining year of my life thus far.
At the close of this year I find myself saddened that the future years for both me and C will be without our soul mate or daddio, but I also know that each of those years will be defining. Because my definition of a defining year has been forever altered. Now, at the close of years I pray I truly reflect, and cherish all my defining moments: memories, mommy and son moments, strength gained, and lives changed.
Today, I’m ending the worst year of my life with the absolute best gift J ever have me: C. And as we start 2014, we are starting it by living!
As you reflect on your year, I pray you recognize it’s defining moments, no matter how small. The moments of this year: the bumps, hilltops, valleys, and the roads you drove as you were simply living, have in some way prepared you for events of future years. Appreciate the years you simply just”live.” In those moments of living, you’re constantly making memories. You’re becoming the person you were destined to be. Who is that person? Are you reflecting and changing to become him or her?
I wish you the absolute the best in 2014, but if it brings you heartbreak or loss, I pray that you use those moments to define you as well. Each year is defining because in the end each year brings you closer to the person you are meant to be. And, I believe that person changes each year: you decide if it’s for the better or worse.