New Years Day 2017.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity...It was a complicated freakin year.

In the last 14 months, I lost my Dad, my Aunt, my dog and a friend. I’ve watched friends and family go through some very hard times. I’ve had health problems and had to make big changes in my life. I’ve learned a lot about life and about myself. I’ve made some new friends, reached out to some old friends and gotten even closer to the ones I love. It’s been a big big year.

So I’m thinking a lot today. Was it a terrible year or was it just life? The ups and downs, the births and deaths, the constant change the engulfs us all?  I guess the answer is really my choice. I get to decide what 2016 was to me. Do I embrace the pain or the love? I’m going to go with the love.

I could list all the ways I am blessed but this blog entry  would get really boring really fast. I definitely will not list the crappy stuff. No one wants to hear that. We all have our own pain. I think I want to share some things that helped me and changed me for the better this year. Maybe something will end up helping you too.

Helping my Dad through hospice and being there every moment until he passed changed me. I would not have done it any other way.  It was so hard and so sad and the most important thing I’ve ever done. Death is not a thing to be afraid of. Living a life with regrets or bitterness is what we should be afraid of.

Kindness. Quiet, under the radar, unspoken little pieces of kindness. It is such a high. Let other cars merge in  front of you. Smile and wave. Let people with kids or small orders go in front of you in the grocery store. Help an old lady load her groceries into her car. Take the arm of that old man going down the steps at the diner. Hold the elevator for people. Forgive someone that has hurt you. You will feel even better than they  will. Enjoy other’s successes as if they were your own. Share their joy. If there is someone you don’t like, I bet you just don’t know them well enough. If you really knew their story, you would change your mind. Small kindnesses add up and before you know it, you’re surrounded by a big old pile of love.

Get to know people. I was at a neighborhood party last night. I came home and thought, what interesting and sweet people! Do I live in some strange “nice people only” neighborhood? Then I thought of the pharmacy department at the hospital where I work.  They are family to me. Is it an “Only Amazing People Can work Here” department? I think the common thread is this, the more you can connect with people, the more you can’t help but care about them. There is an endless supply of incredible people all around us everyday. You just have to open your heart to find them. How cool is that?

If you have an opportunity to learn to meditate, DO IT. People tell me all the time that they have tried and just can’t do it. Take a class. It’s the best thing I’ve added to my life in a very long time. It’s not hard. You just have to learn it and practice. A class is way better than any book or audio. And there is something about meditating as a group that makes it even better. I can’t explain all the benefits here, but trust me it is an amazing life tool.

Don’t ever miss a chance to say I love you. I tell my friends, my family, well a whole lot of people. It feels really good. I feel like love comes in all sizes and flavors but it is still love. I love my co-workers. I love my neighbors. I love my cousins and I love my friends. So I tell them. Yes. I have had some awkward moments, but they get used to it after a while and I hope they eventually look forward to hearing it. I like saying it. I think it makes my heart grow the the Grinch heart in that cartoon.

I can’t get this all done all the time. But when I do, my spirit lifts and the hard times get just a little bit easier. Chronic pain fades a bit. People that are gone become a gift, not a loss. Life seems safer and warmer. God seems to be holding me in the palm of his hand.

I wish you all these things in 2017.