I have never done a year in review, mostly because the last few years I wanted to forget entirely, going over painful reminders was like slicing open wounds that were healing— but this year I felt like I wanted to look back if only to see how far we’ve come, to remind myself that even though life is far from perfect and harder than I ever thought imaginable, we made it through.
I use to get to the end of the year and wish I could do a year in rewind, re-write the story, live more fully within the moments I let slip past, or a year in fast forward, wiping my brow and exclaiming “phew! Glad that’s over.” This past year was a year we chose to savor— in a way 2020 to us was a gift, a gift of togetherness because the year before was the most horrendous year of our lives, and being together was not something I thought we would be blessed with.
I haven’t talked much about my husband's illness this year, partly because it was too hard to show up on social media and stay positive amongst such hate last year, as I’m sure you can relate. We were all faced with the raw versions of ourselves, and seeing once hidden versions of friends, family, and strangers alike proved taxing and saddening.
For us, 2019 was far harder and so we decided to make 2020 ours, no matter what the world decided.
We started the year with Radiation treatment starting the day after Christmas and well into the New Year, something we fought tooth and nail to get him— and he weathered it like a champ. There was a day that he called me into the bathroom, I assumed he was about to have a seizure, (which in the shower is my nightmare, trying to move a convulsing 180-pound wet man is nearly impossible, trust me, my back and my chiropractor know well) as he was taking a shower, I found him standing there with chunks of hair in his hands— and at that moment he needed a different kind of support.
No one really prepares you for the “in sickness” or “for worse” part of your vows, or maybe you assume that “for worse” will be something else entirely, “and sickness” will not touch you until old age. No one tells you what it is to shoulder your entire household, no one teaches you how to be a pillar so that your family can lean meanwhile your knees are buckling— but you do it. You would be surprised at the things you can do when you have no choice, you can do anything when the option to turn around and change circumstances is no option at all. But you know what? No one tells you that you can create “for better,” but trust me my friend, you most assuredly can, when you let go.
There were days that I got through on my hands and knees, days filled with breakthrough seizures that triggered my grief,
There were days where we laughed so hard we cried,
There were days that all we did was soak up the joy our children so freely exuded,
Some days/most days were spent in the garden,
most days he spent in bed, or on the couch, his mind and body wiped,
some we pent under the big oak tree,
but every day was spent together, something I’ll forever be thankful for.
2020 was the year I dug in.
It was the year I created something from nature, from my garden every day, growing my little shop from the ground up, learning, failing, succeeding, rinse, and repeat. It was grueling, but everything worthwhile is, so they say, and at the end of the day my garden, the one that saved me all those years ago, now sustains us all.
I planted the garden, my garden, for me, it was a love letter to myself, a pillar of strength that returns every year without fail,
it’s the place I spoke and often cried out to God for help,
it’s where I learned the lesson of letting go,
it’s where I learned to savor life,
Life— it fades just as quickly as my poppies bloom, if you look away or wait, you’ll miss it.
Each turn of the season taught me more and more.
Time marched across a painted sky, and we chose every day to look up in awe.
I want to tell you something about seeking joy, just because it’s something I choose day-in and day-out, does not mean each day is filled with butterflies and rainbows, quite the opposite— seeking joy means that taking the time to stop and look up means you might just see a butterfly or even a rainbow you normally would have missed because you‘re waiting to experience it on the days you scheduled joy.
I don’t know what 2021 will have in store for us, some days his neurologist's words ring in my ears, “it’s only a matter of when the AVM will rupture again,” while others are spent far far away from those thoughts.
What I do know, is come what may, joy will be there.
I share our story, not for pity's sake, but to provide a soft place to land for those who face hardship as well, no matter what that hardship looks like for you.
Always stop and smell the proverbial roses, it will make all the difference, it’s what makes a life well spent.
All moments may not be joy-filled, but I promise you can find joy every day,
if you seek it.
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