“You have a story. It doesn’t have you.” — Mark Brunetz
At year’s end, we often take stock of the past twelve months, and this can lead us into contemplation about past years. For many of us 2015 has been more remarkable for its difficulties than for its successes or gifts. Come to think of it, the same could be said about our entire lives…but only if we choose to see our stories through a harsh and unforgiving lens.
Each person’s life is important, and we gain nothing by flinching at the unpleasant truths our biographies contain. Discounting or ignoring pain and trauma does not defeat despair. At best, it allows for a temporary escape that may only worsen the blow when reality intrudes again, as it inevitably will.
But there’s a difference between denial and discernment. We can recognize the pitfalls of the terrain and use that insight to be selective about how we build upon it. Just as every story has its sorrows and failures, so each contains unique beauty, or at least the seeds of it. There’s no doubt that some lives are more burdened with tragedy and suffering than others. Yet history teaches us that amazing, world-changing ideas, movements, art, science and progress often come from people who have faced bitter uphill battles.
If you are reading this, you have survived another year. That’s an accomplishment in itself, and for some of us, it’s a rather remarkable one. I invite you to join me in celebrating the past year and all that it brought us, whether pleasant or painful, ecstatic or agonizing. Our enduring task is to take whatever life brought us and turn it toward good.
Perhaps our difficulties made us more patient, or compassionate, or wise. Or maybe we’re simply happy to be on the other side of whatever it was that was so unbearable…or, if we aren’t yet there, we are looking forward to a time when we DO reach that other side. Meanwhile, let’s celebrate our own grit and determination and tenacity.
If you read the comments here, you know that Alys recently mentioned choosing a word for the coming year. I love the concept of having a one-word theme in lieu of a list of resolutions. I was casting around for precisely the word I wanted to have as my theme for 2016, and while writing this post, it came to me. My word for 2016 is a word I’ve always thought profoundly beautiful: redemption. There are many nuances to this word, but for me, it encapsulates the concept of taking what seems damaged, useless or compromised, and transforming it to something richer and more complete.
Whether your own story this year has been full of woe or wonder, delight or disappointment, or (most likely) a mixture of all these, I hope you will remember that your life is always a work in progress, and the tale is not yet finished. What word will be your bellwether for 2016?
Thanks for being with us on this journey. I wish for all of us a year of growth, discovery and contentment. Happy New Year!