So, it's New Year's Eve. The last day of the worst year in my life. I cannot even begin to tell you how relieved I feel to have made it to this day - or how much I am looking forward to that midnight ball drop. For some reason, the switching from 2013 to 2014 is symbolic to me. Like stepping out from a dark tunnel into the bright light of morning. Almost a cleansing of sorts. The muck and grime of the last year will be washed away, flowing from me in dark, winding rivers. Not to forget, but to break free. I feel like I am breaking the chains that 2013 had shackled to my ankles. Chains of guilt and hopelessness, of despair and fear, of regret and broken promises. Chains that bound me and kept me down. Chains that prevented me from finding my way back to the light.
I'll never, ever break free of my love for my daughter...and of course, I wouldn't want to. Moving on from 2013 does not mean I leave her behind. I will carry her with me for as long as I live, nestled inside my heart like a bird inside a nest. I will always ache for her. There will always be a piece of me missing. Always. As I watch her sister grow, I will wish she were here too. Every day and for the rest of my life. What I want to leave behind is not my memory, but my pain. Not my love, but my fear. As much as I hate this year with the fire of a thousand suns, I have to admit that it has taught me many things. Here are 13 things I learned in 2013.
1. I became a mother in July 2012. February 2013 did not take that away from me - it just changed my perception of what a mother is.
2. My heart is bigger and wider than I ever knew it possible to be. It is full of more emotions than have names.
3. It is possible to break over and over and over again without dying.
4. Strength is something everyone has, it is just not always recognized as such. Those showing true strength just think of it as survival. No one person is stronger than another. We all have the ability to survive, but it is our choice to do so.
5. My friends and family come from the best stock on planet Earth - and I wouldn't have come nearly as far as I have without them. My husband and I are definitely not perfect, but we are perfect for each other.
6. Loss colors everything in your life, and your view on everything changes. Forever.
7. A mother's love is not only eternal, but is unbreakable beyond imagination. It stretches across universes - a grasping hand always reaching for her children. If you want to fight to the death, make a negative comment to a woman about her child.
8. People don't always know what to do with someone else's pain. Even though giving them the benefit of the doubt gets old and often exhausting, it's the right thing to do. Continue to educate the clueless with how to handle grief with care in hopes that through inadvertently hurting you, they will be better prepared for the next person who needs support.
9. In contrast, sometimes, some people aren't worth the fight. Sometimes, it's time for them to leave your life to make room for the ones who deserve to stay. And that's okay. Holding onto the tail of a bird who desperately wants to fly away will only bring you bloody scratches. Let them go.
10. When it rains, it pours. And pours. And pours. And pours. When you are soaked to the bone and drying off seems impossible, learn how to live dripping wet. It won't be easy, but the sun will peek through those clouds one day. Hang on - and keep your head held high.
11. I am a better person because I am her mother. I am a better person because she died. That's a really hard sentence to write because it hurts to admit it, but it is true. Obviously, I would never have chosen this path. Obviously, I would much rather have her in my arms today, a happy, bouncy ten month old. But losing her has forced me to find parts of myself I didn't know existed. I am a fighter. I am a warrior. I am a badass. I am hardened and softened at the same time. I wish she were here, but I am proud of the person I have become in the face of her death.
12. Life isn't fair. Life has a sinister way of kicking you when you're down by continually shoving other people's happiness in your face. It's hard to be happy for someone who has what you so desperately want. It's hard to hurry up and wait. But, letting go of resentment towards people who are smiling when you can't is like letting go of a lead weight as you flounder in the ocean. It frees you to float away from unnecessary struggle - and lets you focus on swimming back to shore.
13. Kenley Evelyn Wood is my first great accomplishment. She is more than my daughter. She is my heart and soul. I am the mother of star dust, connected to the universe with a tether of light and love. Her DNA still courses through my veins, and will continue to do so as long as I live. Nothing can sever me from her. Not time. Not space. Not death. She will live through me and in the hearts of the people who love her. 2013 stole her life and her body, but it didn't take who she was. It never will.
So, goodbye 2013. I can't say I'll miss you. I look to the new year with hopeful eyes and an open heart - and I wish all of you the same.