Last January I chose the word GROW as my guiding word for the year. I never new how painful – and beautiful – growing can be.
In many ways, this year was a year of failure. Time and time again, I felt like a failure at my job, at home, and as a writer. I am slowly learning how to fail fast, to fail without despairing and to move forward with a new plan after each failure without punishing myself. Every failure was disappointing and painful, but every failure also pushed me to grow.
This year I grew as a parent and began to learn how to mother a tween. I wrote about motherhood and feminism, and I treasured the little moments with my kids. We played a ton of board games this year, and on Saturdays I began asking if they’d like to come to the grocery with me instead of feeling relieved that I could go by myself. (Note: my kids are 9 and 7, old enough to pretty much behave in public. When they were younger I totally dumped them on my husband to go grocery shopping!) I watched my son grow into reading after a scary teacher mama fear that he would always struggle. I watched my daughter have her own year of growth, and we talked about things like drugs and alcohol and puberty and feeling forgotten about and being a good friend.
This year I grew as an ELD Coach. The old way of doing things wasn’t working, so I had to make a new plan for this year. And then I had to trash that plan and make yet another one. I am learning how to empower the teachers I work with rather than treating them like I am the expert handing them expert knowledge. I am thrilled to see teachers be inspired and encouraged and working to try new strategies for educating their English Learners. Sometimes it feels like my job is more problem solving and relationship building than anything else, but I’m learning that that’s how a coach lays the groundwork for growth.
This year I learned about privilege and examined my own canon. There is a lot of injustice in our world, and this year I was acutely aware of it. I learned more about refugees and considered how we all sometimes want to push through boundaries that keep us in.
This year I began to write more about my missionary kid childhood and connected with other third culture kids. I was even interviewed for a podcast on being a TCK! I think writing my spiritual memoir really helped me dive into my past, which is such a scary and yet lovely thing.
As a writer I published nine essays and four poems this year, as well as several guest posts on friends’ blogs. I also had, as well as I can count, 38 rejections. After two years of work, I completed my spiritual memoir this year, and right after that I hit a wall with the Christian writer/blogger world. I sort of let go of my incessant trying to break in to the spiritual market and put my memoir away for a little while. Ever since then, I have felt so free. I reclaimed my poet self and began writing poetry again, even pulling together a chapbook. I also wrote 20,000 words toward a YA novel during NaNoWriMo!
I don’t think I ever mentioned it on the blog, but this year I claimed Mother Maria of Paris’s quote as my personal motto: “Every person is the very icon of God incarnate in the world.” Even as I struggled to even believe in God this year, I embraced the idea that all are made in God’s image. Every day as I interacted with people, I silently remembered these words and tried to look for the good in everyone. Just remembering those simple words and Mother Maria’s influence changed me on so many levels.
I started my year moving toward the edge of the map, and I ended my year holding a map for the dark. This year, growing didn’t mean finding certainty. Growing meant letting go of certainty, piercing light, and cliche truths in order to embrace the darkness of unknowing. I end the year with no “how to” list or important life lesson to give you, but I know undoubtedly that I have deeply changed this year. Some change is so internal that it’s hard to put words to. Maybe this year was sort of like all the work and growth that goes unseen beneath the ground when a seed births roots and shoots.
I end this year considering the words of poet Louise Gluck, from her poem The Wild Iris, in which the speaker is an iris flower rising from the earth:
You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:
from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.