It is still 2013 in this room where I type these words, but by the time you read them the clock will have ticked over into 2014.
I conclude my Release posts with part 7, a significant number to me, and at a time of reflection and renewal.
One year ago I was unemployed and frantically seeking opportunity. That which I sought remains elusive. Although a topic for a different post, it is a sad reality when experienced teachers like myself find ourselves being laid off. It is even sadder when we cannot find new employment due to our experience level and the pay requirements to which people like myself are supposedly entitled.
Now, I will prepare to file taxes for a year in which I earned income from nine different sources. The combination of those nine do not equal the one income I held previously as a full-time educator. Yes, 2013 was a very depressing year, both economically and emotionally. But I don’t type tonight with a depressing story. That is no longer interesting to me, so I doubt it will be interesting to you.
I write with joy. I do not feel it, but I know it’s there. A year ago I set out to accomplish the goal of providing for my family. Despite bringing in a little more than half the income I once earned, that goal was accomplished.
It is said that adversity brings triumph. Nowhere does it say that life will be fair, easy, or even go according to our own plan. Good things are built out of bad. Sometimes the old cannot be repaired so it must be destroyed and made new again.
I found myself networking as much as possible and discovering several part-time employment opportunities, all of which were low on the pay scale, but vey rewarding in their own way.
In March, my grandmother, Velma Hamm passed away just three weeks shy of her 93rd birthday. She was to me, like a patriarch. Although the mother of my father, she held the patriarchal position in my mind due to her strength, resolve and courage to endure over 30 years of life as a widow on the farm that was the heart of her husband’s livelihood. Her loss is as deeply felt today as it was a month before she passed, when I witnessed her suffering and her inability to retain mental clarity. The dementia worked quickly, taking its toll in just over 18 months from my first observation. The cancer that was found near the end worked even more quickly, completing its macabre task in around two months.
The farm endured. Each time we went back to her house, I felt her presence despite her residency in the assisted living facility for the final sixteen months. Just being there is all I needed to know she was still alive despite her discarded non-working shell.
I hated to see it all go at the auction, but sale provided my extended family with a little bit of much needed financial security, temporary as it may be. Now at the end of 2013, I can reflect back on the moments where I felt the world was collapsing but in reality it was being built up again into something different.
Many of us can see that a decade ago we were different people, yet we frequently believe that a decade in the future we’ll be much the same as we are now. I have become a different person for a continuous period of time lasting over three years. I am not the same as I was at the end of 2012, nor any year before that. I hope and pray I won’t be the same in another year, or five, or however many I have left. I hope I am different tomorrow than I was today. I believe a new year is not a time to celebrate, or to make resolutions. It is a time for renewal, whereby we reflect on our past and look to the future. I often fail to simply reflect; I dwell on the past, always looking back for where I went wrong. I am learning to look forward and to see where I may have opportunity to become better.
Actually, I disagree. It’s OK to look back, just don’t stare.
You have to look forward in order to cross the rusty old bridge that terrifies you. Like running a gauntlet or a trial by fire, you have to see whats on the other side, know what’s there and realize that sometimes the only way is to go forward when you think you can’t. Besides, that bridge is stronger than you think it is. It might not carry a truck, but it will carry you.
On your way across, you get to see things you’d have missed otherwise.
Sometimes you come to a tunnel which may have a light at the other end but it’s so bright you can’t really tell what awaits you.
But around the next corner you find something like this:
…and you’re reminded of what was once a stable platform of reverence, a reminder that speaks volumes about how our world has diminished the sacred and elevated the profane.
You seek an escape because you wish to run away to someplace better, without all the problems you face. I have chased that idea for far too long. It’s that nagging thought that maybe you’ll be happier somewhere else, with someone else, in some other house, with better possessions. When I fall for that, I try to recall the line, “grow where you are planted.”
Unlike a tree gripping a boulder, we have the freedom to move around in small increments. Like crossing that bridge earlier, you never know when the sun will shine through the trees at just the right spot, and a specific moment. Hopefully when that happens you’ll have the sense to stop the car, grab something that can take pictures and snap away.
Live simply. Enjoy life. Don’t wait for the moment to find you. Seek the moment yourself. Sometimes you might have spiritual help. Although I love all of my family members deeply, I shared a spiritual bond with this woman like no one else. I have no other words to explain it. I pray that someday in Heaven, I’ll get to know her husband whom I’ve not seen since I was five. I want to see them in their prime, and I want to hear their stories. Even at age 90, she was a beautiful woman, radiating Christ’s love. I will always maintain that it was her very existence which finally convinced me to be baptized. I’m so thankful she was still of sound mind and health back in 2010 when I plunged under the water, by the hands of one of my best friends, on Mother’s Day.
On October 19, 2013, the very last remaining physical items of her Earthly life were removed from our lives. In her kitchen, she kept a decorative pot on the window sill with a plant of some sort. Forgive me, I’m not a botanist.
The pot was sold, plant and all. As the sun was setting on what began as a dreary rainy day, I received final confirmation that it was truly all over.
I will never forget that which ended in 2013. There are others with similar stories out there and I’m aware of some that are more recent. 2013 was a closing chapter in many ways. I’m just getting started though. This is only a beginning, and I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings, for better or for worse. May I be changed into something better, renewed, restored, made new out of the broken pieces. I pray the same for you all.
And now, the past is released.