When it has been a year: 5 things I learned in 2017

I love me a good fresh start just like any self-respecting Type A, INFJ, enneagram 3 and a New Year is prime time to do some serious navel gazing and where are we going from here pondering. Also a softie at heart I revel in all the look back and reflect type exercises too. Our family has a yearly tradition of writing our top ten lists on New Year’s Eve. I personally love finding the good, the blessings, the wonder, and I find it connecting to hear what stood out for the people I love too.

Not a shock to anyone who knows me even a tiny bit but 2017 kicked my behind. 2017 kicked my husband’s behind. 2017 was a year we will never forget, even when we wish we could. During the top ten family list making, several events popped up that I had already forgotten about – a bunch of situations that in a normal year would have stood out for their ‘badness’. But this year they disappeared into the cobwebs of my brain crowded out by much bigger situations. Despite all the hard things, I remember 2017 almost exactly like this:

2017 was a good year. It was a year I saw my children thrive and continue to believe in love and goodness. It was a year we celebrated Aaron’s 40th birthday and our 19th anniversary and surprise! we still love and like each other very much, and to me that is no small thing. It was a year I got to jump off more things into water with the ones I love and what else could I ask for, after all that was my hope. It was a year I found Jesus my constant companion in the midst of not doing, in the midst of having to be helped, in the midst of fear, anxiety and sickness. It was a year I came to fully believe that even if the worst happened, I trusted God for good. It was a year I started to reclaim who I am at my core and how I want to live that out.

2017 was a year I survived, a fact I am damn proud of and looking back there are some things a survival year has taught me, recorded here so just like our annual top ten lists, I don’t forget.

1. You can do hard things (even when you don’t want to).  This phrase is a bit cliche these days but it is also true. We don’t know what we are made of until we have to make it through something hard we haven’t chosen and then trust me, you can do more than you ever guessed about yourself. This doesn’t mean we always jump up and down with glee over these ‘opportunities’ for growth, or feel immediate gratitude for being drawn closer to what really matters through suffering. What it does mean is that even if we wouldn’t wish this situation on our worst enemy and we are perfectly happy to remain shallow if we could pass this by, when push comes to shove, by relying on God and those who love us we can do this really hard thing.

2. Healing takes longer than you think it should. I could write a whole book about this but if you have been through a trauma like potentially loosing health, life, safety, a loved one, it takes time to heal. Physically yes, but also emotionally and mentally. See a counselor, pray, go to yoga, spend time in nature, move your body – it’s all steps in the right direction but it is still slower going than you would like it to be. Most other people won’t understand this and will expect you to be ‘normal’ pretty ASAP. Hold onto your healing path anyway.

3. It is okay just to survive. There is a movement in the cancer online world to call oneself a cancer ‘thriver’. I swear I wanted to sucker punch someone each and every time I read that. Look, this shit is hard and getting through something that will kill you if left untreated is not in most people’s ‘thrive’ zone. There will be other times you can thrive, other times you can do all the things you see other people not currently going through crises doing. Just getting through cancer or another traumatic season – I’m giving you a gold star all the way.

4. It is okay to say no. Most people I know fall into two categories. The first are people who are okay with taking help and these people also seem to be better at self-nurturing, boundaries, and saying no. The second is people who are not so great at taking help, self-nurturing, boundaries, and saying no. I was in the second category and am trying to slowly move myself more into the first category. I had to say no a lot this year, I took a lot of help this year, I set boundaries and placed a lot of self-imposed limits and sometimes it was really hard. No, scratch that out, each and every time it was really hard. But…BUT I did make some breakthroughs and learned I cannot be all things to all people and even if people might feel mad or sad or excluded I can give empathy, but it is not my job to do their emotional work or meet each and every persons’ needs. (This itself was several counselling sessions of material.) I remind myself of this often because it is still my primal instinct to change what will be best for myself and my family to make everyone else like me, and to try and do all the things because that used to be easy for me. If you are in the second category like me, know the world will keep on turning even if you say no, set boundaries, take help. It’s uncomfortable at first (or maybe forever) but there is more room for authenticity and wholeheartedness which in my opinion is a decent trade off.

5. Everyone needs more grace. Including myself. Having spent much of this year in survival mode has made me act in ways I haven’t always felt proud of. In survival mode things often feel scarce, like there isn’t enough to go around and I am at my absolute worst when I am operating from that place. I have said and done things or not done things I wish 100x over I could undo. I couldn’t do everything I actually wanted to do (not just felt I should) because I didn’t always have the energy to. I try to use this as a guidepost for myself when other people do things I think are douchy too. Most likely they are feeling scarce because of a hard thing or a past hard thing just like I am. So I keep reminding myself, more grace, grace all around.

I’d love to hear what you learned in 2017 too.

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This entry was posted in Cancer, God's love, Life in the 30's, Living with purpose. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to When it has been a year: 5 things I learned in 2017

  1. Sarah says:

    The year after diagnosis is really rough. No matter how good it is, it’s rough. I found the year after that even harder. Still amazing. One of the best I’d ever had, but so much harder than anything else I’ve ever dealt with.

    For me, 2017 was a year of cleaning and cutting. 2018 will see more cleaning and cutting, but also a lot of building.

  2. Marilyn blair says:

    What I learned in 2017?…I read your blog post shortly after you posted it and your question has been rolling around inside, asking me…my learning is very slow…
    More than 5 years ago a very wise woman gave me some advice in response to a situation I shared with her…she told me “Sometimes we need to live with accusation…” Obviously at the time I didn’t get it. I prayed about it a lot…and also did many foolish things to try and “fix” the situation.
    I know God loves me but because I wanted relief, didn’t trust Him enough to let Him look after it…He let me have my ways to try to fix this and was always faithful…as a loving parent is when we watch our kids try to make their own way when we know a better way but give them the freedom to try it their way.
    At the beginning of 2017 our pastor spoke of learning to live “Unoffended lives”….to not let our hurts take up residence in our hearts…to not “take” offence. It sounds like a contradiction…at first.
    But in the light of Gods sovereignty…in the light of His goodness…His faithfulness…His LOVE…ALL
    circumstances that come into our lives have to pass through His permission.(Romans 8:28)
    So if I am to be offended by whatever, I am offended by my Heavenly Father who loved me enough to send His Son to die for me…and there it ends. I am completely undone…what does Peter call them? “Light and momentary troubles….?” At the time they are anything but….but in the light of our Almighty Father Whose love stretches past the horizon…I can do this…to live an “unoffened life”…to live with accusation…with peace and joy. For it was for our freedom that Christ died.
    I’m still learning how to walk this out and I expect it to be a process as most good things are. And I trust Holy Spirit to be with me in all the steps forward, just as He has been in the past.
    I expect it to be a Happy New Year…no matter what it brings…because He loves me❤️.

    • Leah Colbeck says:

      I am crying over your answer. God has given you such wisdom I know through hard things too. This should be a sermon or a study for all of us younger people to read – I still usually want quick fixes and answers but am growing to trust in God’s plan too. And the idea of living accused but unoffended with peace and joy – already gave me a lot of freedom and peace this week. Thank you.

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