Isn't that a great couple of words? Annus horribiles....horrible year. Ever had one? Ever had a year where it seemed like the dark cloud followed you all around? Pipes breaking, bills late, cars needing work, teeth needing work, and maybe even throw in some hemorrhoids for good measure. Sounds like a bad year....well I have had 10 of them.
Ten Annus Horribilias in a row.
In the last ten years 3 of my children graduated from high school, 2 graduated from college, 2 others entered college, we were sued 3 times, I taught seminary for 8 years, became a relief society president, both of my parents passed away, my mother after a protracted illness, my father after a short one, my husband left his career and started a new one....the new one didn't work...so we started another one and it hasn't gone anywhere yet, 3 of my children went on missions for my church, one amazing pet died, but we found 2 others, the economy of the entire country collapsed and along with it the value of our home and all of our retirement savings.....all of it, and if that isn't enough, I started a rather intense menopause chapter. Ten years all over the place.
So right now some of you are thinking I am way ungrateful. If you have your health and family nothing else is important. You would be right. Count your blessings....I get that. Until now all I have been able to see is what I lost. Every security blanket systematically vanished, and I was put in a place of extreme personal discomfort. We hate losing our security blankets don't we? It is way easier to trust money in the bank and a good job than trusting the Lord. One is tangible, the other isn't...
I didn't waste the last 10 years wallowing in self pity, actually the last 10 years have been the most productive of my life, even if they have been the most painful because I lived through my worst nightmare and survived. I did the best I could....but now my best is going to improve. When you know better, you do better. I am going to celebrate the victories, learn from the mistakes and move on. And I am going to do whatever I can to help other people celebrate their personal victories, identify mistakes....and move on.
It's time to forgive myself and stop wondering what life would have been like if we had made different choices. We did the best we could...
I feel the best place to to find answers to serious life questions is with people who are at the end of their lives. I want to live my life without regrets and most of all I want to stop living beneath my privileges. I went online and found the 5 biggest regrets dying people have... the commentary in bold type are my thoughts....
1.I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way.
Me: I am going to figure out what my dreams are. It is a shame I just plain ole got out of the habit of dreaming. How can that be good? Dreams are the stuff life is made of.
.2. I wish I didn't work so hard. This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
Me: Don't need to worry about this one....I am glad I followed my heart and stayed around my kids as much as I could, because they are "all growed up" now. And I don't think I have ever worked too hard. I give it my all....I just get to "all" a lot faster than everyone else.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result. We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
Me: Simple boldness without being rude, honesty.....authentic feelings. I don't have to apologize for what my heart tells me I am or what I believe. And when people withhold approval of my choices I will remind myself that I am being honest with myself and embrace my convictions. In short I want to become what I am capable of becoming, and be who I really am.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying. It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
Me: I am making a list of all of those people I have let slip through the cracks. Because I am not going to care how much money I have at the end.....but I am going to care who is there at the end. And the end of other folks too. I need to call my aunt and uncle, Patti and Roxane...and I want to treat everyone as though it is my last day on earth...
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying. Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness
Me: This is my biggest dilemma. I used to be happy all the time. I got up in the morning excited for the new day.....every day was "anything can happen day". The last 10 years I got up in the morning with the full weight of personal debt on my shoulders with no remedy, and no end in sight. But there is Gideon's army....God told him his army of 32,000 was too big to fight the Midianites...so he ends up with 300. The Lord's purpose for allowing such a small army to battle the Midianites was for Israel to not be able to boast that her own strength saved her. That honor would go to God but He would work through Israel. This has been my problem, I am trying to solve the money stuff....alone.....I know that "one plus God is enough". I am definitely Gideon's Army but I know He can solve my problems. Unfortunately giving up worrying about money is like tight rope walking without a net. Can I let go? I spent so much time being afraid!! So many vacations not taken....so much we didn't do. Even though I see how destructive it has been it is still hard to let go. I am working on this one the most. I should be able to find happiness in the most dire of circumstances. Why can't I "Be still and know that He is God"? Just trust....and be joyful and happy. I keep hearing in my mind, "everything will be all right". But believing it is so hard....I vow to
make that choice, the choice to be happy.
10 years of Annus Horribiles behind me, but I am not sorry I went through it....I am way better for the struggle.
Bad days come to an end,
Faith always triumphs,
Heavenly promises are always kept.