What lessons did I learn this year? Well, several fold - but it all surrounds something called happiness. Or, to put a finer point on it, choosing happiness.
I learned this year that I'm not invincible... even if I'm choosing to be invincible... I can't be. I'm still human and therefore not only flawed in a myriad of ways, but also boasting a good amount of mortal weakness as well. That's probably why we love hero's - they rise above the "natural man" and do extraordinary things. They give us hope in our own potential. Of course, each of us struggle with things that perhaps someone else doesn't. Thus the need for patience and kindness towards each other - because don't we want others to be patient with our weaknesses? Oh that golden rule - always swooping in and making its point! And here's another point - because I'm not invincible, I have to choose my happiness. Chew on THAT gem while I explain myself...
Here is how I'm not invincible and thus, must choose my happiness:
1. An overall positive environment is essential to my living a good life
2. It's okay to choose my friends
1. I used to think I could handle any sort of situation because I've always been a very rational/logical person. I used to think I didn't let emotions get the better of me nor would I give up on anything just because it was "hard." There's pride for you. I've never dropped a class or given up or quit because the pressure was mounting. A very "do your worst, for I shall do mine!" sort of mentality. How very heroic - or so I thought. I thought giving up on anything was a weakness - and I wanted to be strong! Committed! See things through no matter what the odds! I would've gotten that ring to Mordor! Won the Hunger Games (or die... cause that's uh.. the rules)! Survived the Zombie Apocalypse! This seems like a good thing - doesn't it? Well, turns out, sometimes strength is knowing when to let things go - to know when it's time to choose a different route, to weigh your options and go down a path less traveled.
Strength is choosing your happiness by sometimes choosing to walk away. After all, happiness IS a choice, right? It's something we can choose to feel despite the circumstances around us. Easier. Said. Than. Done. But that doesn't make it any less true. Thus, my realizing I require an overall positive environment to live a good life. Positive environment can be defined in a lot of ways - physical environment, mental environments, spiritual environments, etc. When I say positive environment - I mean the aura, "vibe", overall "feel" of my physical surroundings need to be more positive than negative for me to truly thrive. I think most of us are like this - I just didn't think I was one of those. It's intrinsic and extrinsic. It's knowing the only person you can control is yourself. It's realizing that as much as you resist being effected by those around you - it wears you down. At least, I found out that despite my best intrinsic efforts - I was wearing down... slowly and steadily... wearing down. I found out that though I was trying my best to intrinsically "choose" happiness in a very negative environment, I was starting to slip. My surroundings were unearthing my intrinsic limits... turns out there actually was only so much I could take. I wasn't invincible after all... and was beginning to very acutely feel it. I was letting the vapors of gloom seep into my soul.
This environment was effecting every faucet of my life. What's crazy, is I didn't realize it until I was finally removed from that environment - plucked out of shadow and into the light. In this negative environment, I didn't want to participate in anything that I used to enjoy - I was always too exhausted to even stomach the idea of going for a run or being creative in any capacity or writing (see blog disappearance), discovering new hobbies or even summoning the energy to plan a nice relaxing weekend away. Everything around me was heavy - and I was having a hard time lifting anything "extra" beyond getting up and going through the steps each day. All my strength was laser focused on being patient... patient patient patient... controlled... and conquering the "natural man" of not giving up. I was battling my own weakness - my own lack of capacity to be surrounded by misery and choose happiness. I will tell you, most days I won that battle, but it didn't leave much left for anything else. Misery loves company - and I was beginning to be it's weekly lunch date.
In the end, the seams started to break, the rafters were buckling, and something needed to give... or I was going to join the ranks of Prozac dependents! Oh sunshine pills - cast thy rose colored glasses over my toiling soul! (Andrea original. Take that Shakespeare)
And then... give it did... but not in the nervous break down sort of way. I was mercifully removed from that environment and wouldn't you know it? Suddenly, I wanted to... well.. don't take this in some morbid "red flag" way... but I wanted to LIVE again! Not trudge through, but I suddenly got the energy to do those things I enjoyed doing and what's more, I even started setting meaningful goals again! Rather than seeing a goal as yet another burden I didn't have the energy for, I saw it as something exciting and attainable! The past month has been one of the brightest spots of my year! I had NO idea how deeply that negative environment was truly effecting me physically, mentally, emotionally, and physically until I was suddenly beyond it and saw a bright sun shining onto my world. It is bittersweet to be taken right to the very edge of your capacity... and even a little beyond it... and be saved by the tender understanding of an all-knowing God. And I tell you Internet, that's exactly what happened to me!
I also learned, there are things that you can't change - situations that just "are" - but having had this experience - I learned that I can choose how to contribute in the most positive way - to opt in or opt out of situations or scenarios that effect the little individual circle I'm standing in. Choosing to with hold rather than react.
Which leads to...
2. It's okay to choose my friends
I always feel I've had a proclivity to become friends with anyone - and in fact- felt it was my Christian duty to be friends with one and all - no matter who they are, how they live, and what they choose. However, I've learned this year that I do not need to be blood-binding friends with everyone - that I don't need to automatically add every enjoyable conversationalist to my inner circle of comrades to let them know that I see them as my fellow-human. No, there is a separate internal "safe space" that I am not required to let everyone into. My Christian duty is to be kind, patient, charitable, generous, tolerant, a good example, sisterly, and all those other positive attributes that emulate the Christ in Christian, but I don't have to be every one's best friend - and I don't have to give up what's most important to me to accommodate less important things. I simply can't be every one's best friend and maintain my positive environment - or maintain the highest standard of who I know I am. Some influences and relationships, because of human weakness and capacity, just can not be - they can not go on. I've learned this several times this year in sometimes very painful ways. It's a tricky thing - human existence - but I think I'm starting to grasp a few things surrounding my little piece of existence.
I've also learned to prioritize my relationships: God, family (i.e. spouse when that happens), and good friends. That's how it lines up for me - so if family or friends are getting in the way of my relationship with God, then they must be cut loose. If friends or even other family members are getting in the way - or to put it more softly - negatively effecting my relationship with my spouse (you see the optimism already? It's almost PRESENT tense! Woah.), then they must be adjusted, distanced, and unfortunately if necessary, cut loose. I hope that doesn't sound too harsh. It's definitely a very difficult situation to navigate and many times, a sorrowful decision to cut someone loose because the relationship is not jiving with what's most important to me. I CAN choose happiness in the "have to deal with this for awhile situations" - but I also have a choice to put myself into certain situations and in relationships that would effect the balance of happiness in my life. Now that I know I'm not invincible - I can make more informed choices. You can only walk with someone so far, before you have to stop and let them carry on alone. I guess that's why God is God, because He is the only one that can walk with you the whole way.
2012 was a tough year -but a good sort of tough. No one wishes hard things to happen, but WHEN they do, you can be certain that you'll eventually look back and understand why it was how it was. I feel those kind of years are some of the greatest gifts life gives us. No year is a waste if you can say you're a little better than you were the year before.
So long, 2012! May I remember the lessons you've taught me and may 2013 be one of those really smooth sailing sort of years filled with sunshine and roses! And... dates. Good dates... ;) That lead to engagement and marriage. HURRAY!