What. A. Difference. A. Year. Makes.

This year was different to last.

I know when I wrote at the end of last year I called it intense.

This year definitely had less short-term explosions, yet more junctures causing distress to linger longer.

Gnawing at the soul. Gnawing at the heart. Gnawing at the mind. Gnawing at the body. As if the intensity was less, but the discomfort stretched for longer, like when you are trying to fit a double fitted sheet to a queen-sized bed. Often.

The lessons took longer to come into full bloom and were definitely more painful, yet severely helpful at the end. But only at the end. The insights gained from this year were life changing in many ways for me.

At the end family remains the only thing that really matters. Keeping family ties in tact through ridiculously honest interaction spans many divides and conquers many preconceived ideas only conjured up from my over-expectant ideal of how I should be understood. Seeing the beautiful young minds of my niece and nephew as they engage with new subject matter or freshly-found, complex moral dilemmas taught me how being child-like and open to possibility in every scenario brings new alternatives to the fore. The love of a mother, the wisdom of a father, the unconditional love of a sister, the protection of a brother, the unfaltering love of a spouse. The joy of rekindling ties with extended family. Appreciating these gifts made the lingering distress fade gently.

Another interesting lesson for me, or perhaps more a coming-of-age issue here was finally accepting that I cannot make people happy. I am not wine. I am not a professional comedian, and I am not responsible for anyone’s happiness but my own. For many years I battled the burden of other people’s happiness, and this year relieved me of this burden in a tender way. There was no aha-moment, no fanfare. Just a gentle reassurance that as human beings our satisfaction is usually short-term. Our expectations ever growing. And this understanding cured me of the belief that I needed to satisfy others, or fill their expectations, as I never could. Oh, the joys of being 43 and totally okay with falling short of others expectations.

This year also helped me understand that balance is important. Not work-life balance as in 8-5 / 5-8 scenarios, but balance as in work when work needs to be done, train when training is needed, fun when fun is called and sleep, glorious 8-hour minimum sleep per night, when it is due. Balance for the first time is less of an issue for me, not because I found a magic formula, but because I am now okay with not trying to be a super human. I would rather try to be a super human being.

This year caused much pain. Many tears. Many many glasses of wine reflecting on how I could change to make it hurt a little less, and laugh a little more.  But it brought so much more clarity and acceptance of who I am and those around me. I am appreciative of the clarity it brought.

And I definitely laughed more this year. I laughed more (at myself) with my spouse, my colleagues, my friends, with strangers. I have felt such a desire this year to talk to and laugh with strangers, and just to connect with their souls, regardless of their social standing, religious beliefs, or physical appearance. Just a desire to connect with other souls on a similar trajectory. It is amazing what I have learnt from complete strangers. People who had no expectations of me, who could truly be themselves, as they shared a little, laughed a little, cried a little. I remember a particular event on a flight between two cities. The most amazing woman sat next to me. She had the middle seat, but she wore it like a beautiful centre-piece around her neck with her wisdom, kindness and laughter. We laughed. A lot. We cried. A lot. Two completely different women. Two completely different lives. Two completely different backgrounds. Yet one shared belief – believing in the good of a good heart. I learnt that we are all just trying to stay grounded, and are in different stages of rocking our gravitational pull. So, let’s rock on.

It was a year of getting a little closer to accepting that whatever hand we are dealt, how we deal with it comes from deep inside our core. It matters less what the outcome of the hand would be, but rather the joy of playing the game for its’ excitement, required skill, human interaction and ultimately trusting your gut.

Here is to a new year full of lessons, laughter and wine.

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