As 2017 comes to a close, I find myself, like many others, reflecting on the past year while looking forward to a new year of possibilities. Looking back, 2017 was very good to me…and to my daughter. I can say with certainty that it was a year where both of us grew and changed for the better.
At the close of each year, as the countdown reaches zero and we welcome a new year, confetti fills the air, lovers share passionate kisses, and the song, Auld Lang Syne is sung by all. This song, based on a poem by the Scot, Robert Burns is a reminder to remember and hold dear in our hearts the old friends of our past. It makes a toast to the year ahead with hopes of health and happiness for the future. I can’t seem to listen to the song without thinking about my mother and sister, both of which are no longer with us. The song brings to mind all the happy memories we shared as well as the many life lessons they taught me over the years.
In the short 15 years I had my mother on this earth, she taught me how to love with all my heart and soul. She showed me the importance of empathy, kindness, and family. While I’ve lived more years without her than with her, we are cut from the same cloth and I am fortunate to have her admirable traits woven deep within my core.
My sister and mother at my sister’s college singing recital, 1984 Fredonia, NY
My only sibling, my older sister, was also my best friend and second mother from the age of 15 on. She taught me more lessons than I could fit on this blog. Among the most important, she taught me to believe in myself and to never give up, no matter how hard the fight. As a high school music teacher, she taught her students so much more than scales and breathing techniques. She pushed them to be their very best and she inspired them to reach for their dreams.
My daughter and sister in the summer of 2014
Me, my daughter, and sister. Christmas 2014 in Little Rock, Arkansas
At the close of each school year, my sister would gather all her graduating seniors in her chorus room and serenade them with the song, I Hope You Dance. Her students loved to hear her sing and were genuinely touched by the message she sent to each of them as they were about to head out into the real world–to live their lives without fear and never sit out any opportunity that life may put in their path.
Upon my sister’s death a few years ago, hundreds of past students attended her services. On the last night of her wake, these students, joined by my daughter, returned the favor and sang the most beautiful, heart-felt version of the song back to her. Anyone who was there that night will tell you that they now have a special connection to my sister’s memory through this song. For myself, when I hear it, I know it’s a sign from her, telling me to keep taking chances and going after my dreams and to never “sit out” any opportunity that life brings me.
So, inspired by the upcoming new year and the important messages my sister continues to send me to “dance,” I have included 4 lessons that I have learned in 2017 that I will carry with me into the new year.
1. When given the opportunity to do something amazing…do it!
2017 was a year of travel with trips to Florida, London, Paris, and Aruba. Although these trips altogether were expensive, the benefits certainly outweighed the monetary cost. Experiencing a great deal of loss within a short period of time teaches you to seize the moment and make as many wonderful memories with loved ones as possible.
So, when the opportunity to meet cast members from the Harry Potter movies comes up, grab your wand and head to Florida..even if it’s just for a day and a half. When a friend from your college days invites you to stay with her at her flat in London and suggests a few days in Paris, renew your passport and dust off your high school french. And when your week to visit your late sister’s timeshare in Aruba arrives, pack your bikini and sunscreen and finally head to that “one happy island,” even if it’s a place that had been too painful to visit in the previous two years.
2. Take care of your body…it’s the only one you’re going to get.
2017 was also a year of committing to my health. I began the year at my heaviest weight ever and within 6 months dropped almost 80 pounds. It was a strict program but I was dedicated to looking and feeling good and being around a long time for my daughter. One year later, I have more confidence, energy, and a completely new fabulous wardrobe!
3. Put yourself first by finding out (or recalling) what makes YOU happy.
In 2017, I started to put myself first. By recalling the things that used to bring me joy, I found myself again after being lost for a really long time. My priorities still include the well-being of my daughter but I have learned how to balance my responsibilities as a mother with my responsibilities to making myself happy. The biggest joy that is back in my life is writing. This blog has become my saving grace, reminding me to never stop doing what gives you joy.
4. Don’t be afraid to love again…there is someone out there for everyone.
This year I was finally ready to enter the dating scene again. After a bumpy and very hesitant start on a couple of online dating sites, I am hopeful that I will one day meet my Mr. Right-be it online or the old-fashioned way. Last month, my friend set me up with a great guy visiting from out of state and we had a wonderful time. It felt so good to talk, laugh, and feel attracted to someone again. The date definitely helped relight a flame that had been extinguished for too long. Although the idea of dating as a single mother in her 40’s is scary, I am excited about the future and the possibility of finding love again.
I hope you all have had a wonderful 2017 full of love, adventure, and many lessons to learn from. My wish for all of us for 2018 is that we “dance” and “never lose our sense of wonder” when it comes to this amazing journey called life.
Dedicated to my beautiful sister and guardian angel, Michelle. ♥
Peace and love ☺♥