It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
– Theodore Roosevelt
The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year, but rather that we should have a new soul.
– G.K. Chesterton
So 2016 has been quite a year hasn’t it?! If you’re taking part in a pub quiz in a few years time and a question begins, ‘In what year …’ just go ahead and answer 2016. At least let’s hope so – we have yet to see what 2017 has to offer!
It’s been a difficult year for me personally too. This time last year I was feeling unwell and putting it down to the change of seasons, first cold of the winter and a busy summer that included moving house, my parents moving across the country and my dad having a heart attack. There were a lot of things I could put it down to, but I was hoping it would pass with rest and I could get back on track. That didn’t happen though. The ‘dip’ continued and became a crash, or a relapse and still it continued on. After a few months I began to feel like I was no longer in free fall and things began to level out. But not improve. This is to be my new normal, for now.
It has really shattered me, and I’ve spent this year angry, confused, sick and hurting. And it’s not over. The turning over of a calendar has no impact on my body, or on my heart. One thing I am glad of is that I feel like I am finally in the arena. I may step out at times – I’m not yet as brave as I want to be – but I’m trying.
And now I’m facing the end of a tough year and amidst the festivities I feel a weight in my heart. I want to ignore it and try to let the Christmas lights lift my spirits, but there is a sadness and a dread settling in my heart. A grief for all I’ve lost this year and a fear of what the next year will bring, and of whether my soul will be able to bear it. I am still weary. I am sad and I am afraid. I can’t change any of those things, but I can dare greatly today by being vulnerable and honest, and allowing these things to shape me, to make my heart soft and not brittle. That’s my fight at the moment I think, and win or lose I want to fight valiantly.
So here is my fight today. This year has been painful. There have been loses after loses, that I may never get back. There has been the constant grind of crushing fatigue and pain, and there has been uncertainty, fear and anger. 2017 will more than likely be more of the same – in fact the fight may well become more intense as I more fully enter the fray – and it all just feels so insurmountable.
There have also been joys. Getting to know new friends in the home ed community, and starting to feel like we may be a part of something. Seeing my girls blossom and grow in their interests and in confidence. New kittens, and the little girl love for them that is playful and tender and almost unbearable in intensity. Prayers unexpectedly answered and a burgeoning trust in God’s love and care for me.
The joys don’t outweigh the sorrows. I used to think that was how it should work. Enough happiness could negate the pain, and if I just cultivated gratitude and ignored the pain, I could be alright. The hard stuff wouldn’t matter. But it doesn’t work that way. The hard things don’t go away, they only weigh heavier on your heart and the joys just never seem enough, and eventually you stop seeing them.
Instead of trying to balance the scales, I’m going to try to just hold it all together. It is all a part of what shapes and defines me, and neither needs to obscure the other. I do know though, that whatever difficulties 2017 brings, it will also bring its own joys and I want to choose to see them and hold them close to warm my heart, even as I let the sorrows break it. I want to be wholehearted in how I live my life.
Another joy of this year has been discovering the work of the wonderful Brené Brown, and being inspired to embrace vulnerability and believe that I could become wholehearted and courageous, and to have permission to feel bruised and bloodied. Maybe in 2017 I can learn how to rise strong.