Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Yes, I know that Christmas is over... give me a moment & I will explain the tree, or at least the ornaments on the tree, which really have very little to do with Christmas & everything to do with the year that led up to it. So if you are cringing at the thought of reading a post about the holiday now that it is over, you are safe. If it seems odd that I am incredibly apologetic right out of the gate, let's blame it on my best friend who has spent years corralling my Christmas spirit into the weeks between Thanksgiving & actual Christmas. It cannot be discussed or even alluded to indirectly before or after the aforementioned time frame or you will pay for it with in the very least, a noticeable eye roll & in the worst-case-scenario a torrent of profanity. So please consider this first paragraph to be my "this is not a Christmas post" disclaimer.
We have a household tradition that involves buying an ornament to remind us of important events that happened over the last year. For instance, the year we adopted the boys we purchased a flying pig ornament for obvious reasons. Some years the ornament is very straightforward- in 2009 it was a house... because we bought a house. In the bottom left corner of the photo you can see the "our first Christmas together" heart.
Some years the ornaments don't really mean anything to anyone but us. The "I didn't feel the need to apologize or wring my hands when someone called me an artist this year" paint-filled palette is just above the heart. We picked out that ornament the year I actually started to remember that I really did (& still do) want to be an artist when I grow up. I still smile when I put it on the tree each year as I think of all the art from the last year & what is hopefully to come in the next year.
On the right side of the photo you see the "My name is Ron Burgundy & I am not homeless, I am your cat & you just don't realize it yet" cat ornament. He really is a clear example of the law of attraction- from his perspective, not ours. He was so convinced that he was supposed to be our cat that he would run in the door when we opened it to bring in groceries & then stroll around as if we wouldn't notice that we suddenly had 2 cats instead of one. Can't you just imagine him sitting around outside somewhere thinking "they are my family... that is my house... they are my family... that is my house..." This plan clearly worked for him (see here, here & here) because he's had his own Christmas ornament, food bowl & electric blanket ever since.
This year we purchased the sassy hot pink owl in the middle. We picked out an owl because we feel a little wiser than we did this time last year. (before any of you plan to point out to me how NOT wise I am when I post the next "Confessions of a New Parent" you can save it. I freely admit that my lack of parenting skills will be providing you with a sense of "at least I'm a better parent than she is" for years to come.) Regardless of my parenting challenges, we learned a lot this year & unfortunately learned a good bit of it the hard way.
We learned the importance of surrounding yourself with kind people. This is a bit of a given with regard to friendship but this year we realized just how important it is to work with & for kind people. I'm fortunate to have been in a really good professional environment at both of the "grown up" jobs I have had, but everyone isn't so lucky. Sometimes people tell you what you want to hear & then show you down the road who they really are... & when this happens in a professional environment it is especially difficult because most of us are not in a position to just walk away. No potential amount of money is worth spending a third of your life with someone you can't trust or someone who isn't kind or honest. Speaking of honesty...
I learned the importance of taking care of myself & how many people really have no understanding of depression. It still doesn't seem real to me that Robin Williams is gone, but the thing I found almost as shocking as his death was the question I kept hearing from people. "What did he have to be sad about?" Before I continue, it is important for you to understand that I am not any sort of expert on the topic of depression, I am just talking about my experiences & conversations I have shared with friends. Depression is not the same thing as sadness, although the words have been used interchangeably often enough that it seems to make sense to many people to use them that way.
You don't have to have a "reason" to be depressed- you don't have to have a specific event in your life that you can point to & say "that is why I am depressed" although that certainly can happen. Maybe this is why it can be difficult for some to understand that many of us are just predisposed to depression. I know this because I fall into that "predisposed" category. This is normally more information than I am comfortable sharing, but if it helps one person it was more than worth it.
To be very clear, I have NEVER experienced depression to a depth of someone who is even considering causing them self harm. I have never even experienced depression to the point that I couldn't get out of bed, but I do know what it is like to not remember the last time I laughed, or really even smiled genuinely. I know what it feels like to be unable to look forward to anything without worrying that something terrible will happen to prevent it. I know what it is like to have no appetite & no energy & to feel like everything takes 10 times the effort to just get by. I know what it feels like to experience all of these things & not have a "thing" to be "sad" about.
It has only happened to me twice in my life that it lasted long enough for me to feel like I needed to be medicated for a while- other times when it has happened for really brief periods I just refer to it as "the black cloud" to close friends. (I used to just call it "the cloud" but no more. Thanks a lot, Apple. When I am already feeling down, having to say that extra syllable is just what I need.) The few times it has happened there wasn't really a specific event that caused it, although I'm certain the last time it was exacerbated by the first "lesson" I mentioned in this post. The whole point of me sharing this is to hopefully make it easier for you to find someone to talk to if you feel depressed or maybe for you to have a little more compassion if someone comes to you to talk.
The third "big" thing I learned this year is that I am a little braver than I thought. Sometime around my 40th birthday in October I decided to sign up for a 3 day art sale that would occur a few weeks before Christmas. It may not seem like much to you, but it was a very big deal to me & I am proud of myself for doing it. The sale went really well & it actually felt good to try something new.
2014 was definitely a year of learning some things the hard way, although I have to admit (grudgingly) that it was worth the pain or discomfort or stretching of my comfort zone to learn all of these lessons. It is just a lot easier to see now that it is over. Hopefully, as a result of all of this, I will be a kinder, more caring & braver person... & maybe even a little wiser.