Last night I asked the question on Facebook, “In 365 days, what could you accomplish?” Crickets chirped. No one answered (which surprised me because I have an active group of real friends on Facebook). I think when people think of 365 days, they start to think of New Year's Resolutions and at my age, they're no longer relevant. Every one makes them and breaks them but I wasn't talking about New Year's. Yes, a year is 365 days, but I was thinking of it in terms of segments of life where you have so many life events that change who you are that it becomes a pivotal year. I've had many.
The first? Late 1985-1986
The first time I experienced loss and loneliness. I didn't make the drill team and wasn't allowed to play tennis because I got arrested walking into a party to pick up my boyfriend and my Dad wouldn't have the charges dropped (for the record, I had not been drinking). My best friend was pregnant and went away to have the baby. My parents announced that they were getting a divorce. That fall, I left for college where I knew one person, my ex boyfriend, pledged a sorority and started Journalism school.
In 365 days, I felt like I had almost everything taken away from me. I didn't have much of a support system because everyone around me had their own problems. This made me self-reliant. It gave me the courage to choose a college almost five hours away and begin my first journey into adulthood. Had things been different, I might have gone to college with everyone from my high school, hovered close to home and never found my calling.
The second year? Late 1992-1993
The first time I realized that you can't plan everything. I woke up one day and decided I was unhappy so I left my live-in, college boyfriend and moved into an apartment in Lawrence by myself. That year, I met my best friend and my future husband, but we were just good friends at the time. I was gunning for straight A's in grad school when I felt a lump in my breast. It wound up to be a cyst but the experience changed me.
In 365 days, I went from thinking I'd marry someone to being alone and somehow learning how to appreciate solitude. I opened myself up to two of the most meaningful relationships of my life, even though I was resistant to anything long-term after being hurt. This was the year that I kept my eyes on the prize and learned how to motivate myself to stay focused on an end-goal. It's also the year that I realized that life is fleeting and you have to make the most of it. I got softer this year. More caring.
The third? Late 1999-2000
The first time I realized that my life was no longer about me. After a three-year struggle to conceive, we quit and wound up finally pregnant a couple of months later. I lost what I thought was a life-long friend and was devastated. I had a rough pregnancy, terrible labor and my delivery was a nightmare but in the end, we had a beautiful daughter. As I stayed awake night after night trying to feed her, rock her and pray that she'd sleep, I never once thought of myself. I felt complete.
In 365 days, I went from a career-minded woman who yearned for a baby to one whose dreams came true but it wasn't quite like I pictured. The loss of the friendship was a shock to me as it was the first time in my life that I had someone I care about walk away from me for absolutely no reason. Pregnancy and motherhood weren't what I thought they would be, but I never regretted a moment. This is the year that I learned to let go of things that I thought were important and focus wholly and completely on someone else. I learned to love deeper than I ever had before.
The fourth? 2004
The first time in my life that I had no clue what I was going to do. I lost my job, a nine-year career that I'd given so much of myself. I, for the first time ever, felt lost but instead of feeling sorry for myself (after the first month of wallowing), I embarked on a new venture. I took a risk, changed industries and started my own business. It's also the year that my husband almost died. I became a passionate advocate for life planning and an even better mother, because I had to do it by myself for a couple of months.
In 365 days, I went from having my dream job to not knowing what my dream was. I had to learn how to create a new reality and learn to enjoy something that was unfamiliar. I also had to learn how to trust myself to believe that I could do the impossible in an industry where everyone failed. At the same time, I had a seriously ill husband who had a five-week hospital stay after surgery. I had a four year-old that needed to feel normal and come out of the experience unscathed. I learned this year that I was tougher than I thought and that my strength was enough to pull us all through.
The fifth? 2012
The first time I realized that my success rested wholly on my shoulders. I left an eight-year career to begin my dream job and had one success after another. Unfortunately, I lost that job six months later and then another one two months after that. I was unemployed twice in four months because companies ran out of money. That year, I met so many incredible, talented women all over the country. Women that had impact and made a difference. I decided to start my own company and stop relying on the machine to make a living.
In 365 days, I went from having two incredible jobs right in my wheel house to being unemployed. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to harness the successes I had that year and make something out of nothing. I learned to trust myself and my instincts. I laughed and made some great friends. I took time to spend with my family for the first time and made a decision solely based on my desire to be a good mother.
And, now for the sixth. The past 365 days
The first time I realized that I am a passionate advocate and fighter. It was one year ago that my teenager spit up a blob of blood in a Wal-Mart parking lot. We've been searching for answers ever since and have spent countless hours at the hospital, in doctors appointments and quite honestly, doing a lot of things that neither of us enjoy. Rosie was diagnosed with POTS and the medications caused a host of other ailments. We've had lots of setbacks yet I've learned to stay focused and positive. I've learned that I have a lot more patience than I ever thought and that when it comes to healthcare and education with a chronically ill child, that you have to fight all the time.
365 days. A lot can happen and yet, nothing at the same time. This year felt a few year's long as it slowly snaked along. It's hard to believe that we have no answers. I also can't remember what life was like before the blood. I've become an avid researcher, tenacious fighter and I won't quit. I've also discovered that I have a knack for keeping myself and my child focused even when it's so easy to get sidetracked.
There is one thing in common with all these years. Each one was filled with 365 days of adversity and I had to find a way to adjust and overcome. With each one, I took those life experiences to not only survive, but to grow as a person. Looking back, it's a lot of really crappy stuff, yet I never became bitter, angry or depressed, all of which would have been normal reactions. I tried to channel my energy towards the positive, even when it was hard to find. I should also add that I'm 100% flawed like everyone else, I just try to use my strengths instead of my flaws.
We all have years that completely overwhelm us. Each one of us has problems, challenges and things that bring us down. We all have choices in how we handle those things. You can choose to settle or fight for more. You can be a victim or choose to be a victor. You can give up or believe that there's always a bright ray of sunshine somewhere. And, if you need help to get there, there are lots of people along the way willing to listen or lend a hand and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention, there are medications to help as well if needed. It's up to all of us to choose what we can do with 365 days.
So, what do I plan to accomplish in the next 365 days? I'm going to continue the fight for answers. I'm also going to continue to write frequently about chronic illness issues in the hopes that I can help others. I'd love to publish a book. Rosie and I would love to put together some kind of campaign to educate others about Invisible Illness. At the same time, we'll be tackling school re-entry. While this doesn't sound like a lot to do in a year, I'm certain that we'll have lots of challenges thrown our way because that's what life's like. A lot can happen in 365 days.