A dozen days in 2014 and you’re only just getting around to bidding goodbye to 2013, Anna?
Yeah, I know, it’s a travesty.
Social media and news media seemed to mostly cram this reflective farewell into the busy week between Christmas and New Year’s. I was by turns nostalgic and tormented during that time — what did 2013 actually hold for me? what did I do? who the heck was I? — but read a blog post that helped me allow myself a little extra time to reflect and then post about it. So here I am, with both feet in the New Year and glancing over my shoulder at the old. What was that year all about?
A married girl living the single life
It is decidedly weird to be married and not living with one’s spouse for an extended period of time, which was the case for us basically 10 out of 12 months of 2013. I could not be more relieved to have gotten the majority of this tour of duty out of the way. In some ways, it was worse in the anticipation. But honestly, there were times that felt just as bad in real life as I’d anticipated it feeling – this might be a first for me (realistic expectations? what?!). The few weeks right around our 2nd anniversary in May were the worst, I think. I remember feeling so emotional and lonely all the time. And then it got a little easier. I’ve learned that marriage is about living the mundane little things of life together and so when you’re 10,000+ miles apart, you talk about the mundane little things of life in lieu of sharing them. And it’s pretty mundane sometimes. But when I got frustrated about this initially, he gently reminded me, “hey, isn’t this small stuff important in our life together?” News flash: Living apart does not automatically push your daily sorts of conversations onto an ethereal and deeply meaningful plane. Living apart mostly seems to mean that you get to practice caring about stuff and hearing about stuff you can’t really picture and you’re not really part of.
On the bright side, sometimes it’s fun to be independent. And I imagine he probably didn’t mind missing out on some of my fun emotional roller coaster/mood swing moments. Instead he could hear about it afterward (“yeah, I was a little upset yesterday”). I can rush around in a flurry without disturbing his peace and quiet.
On the difficult side, I can’t reach out to grab his hand when I feel frustrated with him to remind myself to settle down and that I love him. And when he’s feeling down or lonely, I can’t do anything except say, “I’m sorry, love.” No hugs, no back rubs.
A motherhood internship
Seriously, who gets this kind of opportunity? I’ve had copious practice changing diapers, packing a diaper bag, buckling and adjusting car seats, and running errands, cooking and cleaning with a tiny companion. I’ve discussed nap schedules and introducing solids and teething and discipline techniques. I’ve been sent to pick up diaper rash ointment and teething medicines at the drug store. And I’ve watched and learned as my sister and brother-in-law have tried many different ideas to help my niece sleep longer or have taught her the preliminary essentials of good behavior. I’ve seen how terribly tiring and difficult the journey of parenting can be sometimes and yet how much joy this small human brings to the world. I don’t think a person ever feels ready to become a parent. But now I do feel somewhat prepared.
Community is messy and beautiful
The first several months of living with my sister and brother-in-law were especially messy, although now we find ourselves in a very natural rhythm with each other. I am deeply grateful for this God-given chance to know them on such a deep level. If I had lived alone this year, I would have been able to be selfish all year if I’d liked. But living with family has stretched me to practice setting boundaries while giving me ample opportunity to give and love in absolutely simple and practical ways all the time. I imagine this will smooth the transition into living with my husband again as well. I will miss the fellowship, the sharing of burdens and also the access to my sister’s wardrobe (!) when I move.
A different way of doing church and living faith
I knew coming into this year that it might be a little challenging and strange living with an Orthodox family. I did not anticipate that Zack and I would embrace Orthodoxy and decide to become Orthodox. I am still surprised by this, I think. At first, I just went to church with my family because I had no friends and didn’t have anywhere else to go. It just seemed practical. Then I took a bit of a step back in the summer. I still had a lot of questions, but I felt somewhat less interested than I had. And then fall rolled around and I continued going, more of my own accord. And for the first time in a long time (years?), I actually wanted to go to church.
Zack wanted to become Orthodox after attending church just 3 times and talking with Father Justin for an afternoon while he was home on leave in October. Then he tossed the ball into my court as he often does. Even though I’d been here for virtually a year at that point, I was thrown off balance by his sudden change of heart. Yet “is anything impossible for God?” I recognized that this could very well be the answer to a prayer I’d been praying since we’d met and I couldn’t justify any alternative other than joining God where He was working and walking with Zack into Orthodoxy.
This has changed the dynamics of our long-distance relationship by giving us prayers to say together, a spiritual book to read together and discuss. I can share everything I’m experiencing with Zack and he wants to hear about it. He isn’t surprised or concerned when I describe going to church several times a week. He’s just sorry to have missed it all. I never in a thousand years anticipated this as an outcome of this year.
And a few more things…
I started a new job in April and struggled with it and against it all year. I’m still don’t really like it and find it frustrating and hard, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately that it’s time to move on from not liking it. Looking back, it’s been a unique blessing this year, giving me a lot of flexibility alongside a decent income that I couldn’t have had otherwise.
I climbed a big mountain. I went on several road trips, collectively driving through Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona, and New Mexico. I planted a garden and grew tomatoes successfully, maybe for the first time in my life. I realized that I love having friends over for meals and know that I want to do that more often.
Wow. What a year.
There were many things I didn’t get done that I expected to or wanted to, but after listing all of this out, maybe I understand why I felt so busy.
More reflections on lessons learned and in process to come…