It has taken me a while to get a grounding on my thoughts as the new year approached. I have found myself searching for the words and thoughts that best convey my feelings. I am not one for setting specific resolutions. For me, despite cautions about looking back, it is important to revisit how I feel about how the year went, and what I might like to feel like this year. It is a time to identify my growth and achievements, but also to focus on my struggles and look for inspiration and motivation. Of course, Walt Disney provides my guiding wisdom and captured my sentiments so well in this quote: We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. I have referred to this quote a few times in this blog. It resonated when I was beginning to reshape my life as the depths of grief subsided. It continues to resonate as I choose new paths that I hope will lead me to fulfillment.
The past year had professional and personal highlights. I traveled, made strides in my writing, brought awareness of the needs of student family caregivers to my school. I made new friends and am at peace with shifts in friendships. Retirement is within reach, which makes the stress of teaching and our education system somewhat and sometimes more manageable. I have expanded my support group and workshop offerings, which is creating a whole new intriguing path. When I get nervous about the reality of my next steps, I remind myself that Walt Disney said, “Fantasy and reality often overlap.”
I have been thinking about the film Up, and when Ellie wrote to Carl in her journal, “Thanks for the adventure – now go have a new one!” I have opened new doors and continue to do so, I have had new adventures, and I have created a new life for myself. Lately, however, I find myself thinking that in many ways I am only standing in the doorway, not willing to fully step through into new adventures.
Although I have such a wonderful network of friends and colleagues, I still struggle with feeling very alone. Ironically, I am very independent, and grateful to be that way. If I want to go somewhere, or see a show, I am perfectly comfortable going by myself. Maybe even too comfortable. However, I am caught off-guard when doing something as simple as strolling, by a sense of aloneness. Yesterday, walking through the first snow in New York City, I immediately recalled how I would record these events for Ben when he was homebound. I even brought him snowballs. I whipped out my phone and recorded the snowfall as I always did. And I cried. I don’t know if that feeling will ever go away. At least, it doesn’t paralyze me as it once did, which is good.
My memories fill my days. They also fill my apartment. Once again, I ordered my photo calendar of Ben’s and my favorite Walt Disney World moments. I thought about creating a new 2024 calendar that featured my new memories. I thought I could even combine some of my favorites from the current calendar with photos I have taken over the past several years. Ultimately, I could not do it. It was not really that I felt disloyal to Ben either. It was that I could not stop keeping those memories alive and, basically, keeping our relationship alive. I still use our photo blanket, our photo shower curtain, and a bathroom filled with our Walt Disney World photos. Only recently did I start to really look around my home and what surrounds me. Can I really say that I want to find a new romantic relationship when my old one literally pervades so much of my current life? Would I be attracting love into my life without really being open to it? In the Pixar short, Carl’s Date, I related so strongly to Carl’s insecurity about finding love again. I felt like I was also looking for guidance, connecting to how he still acknowledged Ellie and had the support of Dug when he stepped forward. But he did step forward, and so will I. (Click here for my post about this.)
This year, I have made a great deal of progress with my writing. I have always loved to write, but it was my experiences in caregiving that led me to start this blog and stirred my passion. Ben and my dad, as well as a host of memories, were front and center of my writing endeavors. My book, which is now almost ready for submission, is based on this blog. A couple of years ago, I decided to pursue my long-held dream to write children’s books. After all, as Walt says, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Though Christopher Robin has taught me that I am braver than I believe, I do not consider courage to be my strong suit. Still, I have taken writing courses, joined professional writing groups and learned a lot. I did find the courage to allow a small group of trusted people to read my book and children’s stories. Still, I stop short of seriously taking the next steps. I know that it is fear of success as much as fear of failure. This year, my intention is to walk through that door and see if I can at least get closer to having my fantasy of being published overlap with reality. I do know that all my loved ones believed in me- often much more than I believed in myself. Mufasa tells Simba in The Lion King, “So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you. And so will I.” Ben, my dad, my mom, my grandma and my aunt Eleanor are a part of so much of who I am and what I do. I will always strive to honor them in my actions. I just need to fully accept and find a way to place them in my heart while acknowledging that they are not here.
So, 2024 will be the year that I apply some faith, trust and pixie dust to pursue a better balance between past and present that will let me not just open doors, but fully walk through them, knowing that I am on my own but bolstered by so much love.
I wish everyone a peaceful, curiosity-filled 2024.