This is my favorite time of year. I'm the first to admit that I've bought into the Christmas season wholly : hook, line and commercialism. It's hard to believe that in just a few days, I'll be packing up to return to Boston for the holidays. The end of 2016 is like completing a long, difficult hike. We're all at the top, gasping for breath, and hoping like hell that the next leg of the journey isn't another steep uphill climb.
This year. Man, this year. It was a dumpster fire for me and for so many people I know. At many points, I was convinced that 2016 was determined to keep me down. "This year is ruining my life," I told more than one person. There was even a point where a small part of me wondered if there was anything to be gained by seeing the year through. Why bother getting out of bed when the real world kept kicking the shit out of me?
I expected to be limping out of 2016 - no broken hip pun intended. And in some ways, these holidays are just as difficult as I imagined. I had to duck away at a Christmas party to compose myself recently when I remembered, suddenly, the giant hole that was missing from the celebrations and from my life. We are still very much struggling through the year of "firsts" that come along with losing someone special, and there are times when the happy glint of Christmas tree lights make me want to cry until my sides ache.
But despite 2016's best efforts to keep me down, I'm exiting this year having learned the importance of remembering two main things : to move. And to be grateful.
I firmly believe that fitness is of utmost importance. It teaches you what you are capable of, showing you in clear physical measure your emotional and physical strength. There are layers inside all of us that come out on a long, contemplative run, or through grinding in a particularly difficult cycling class. It teaches you to set goals, to chase accomplishments, and, in my case, to make peace with my body. For a long time, I would stand in front of a mirror and flinch when I met my own eyes, only cataloguing my flaws. Now I'm so busy being excited by the fact that I'm standing at all, it's hard not to simply appreciate the strength it took to get here.
So - physically moving is important. But so is moving emotionally.
We should all resolve to move in 2017. The best way to honor yourself and your community is to do so. Move in support of the causes that move you. Move to make the creative dream lurking in the smallest corners of your brain a reality. Unhappy somewhere? Move.
Life is so fragile. I learned this twice in 2016, in sharp, gut-wrenching detail. But I moved forward. I pushed myself through the darkness. And now, looking back on the moments when I was teetering on the edge of a dark collapse, I realize that moving was my only way out.
Moving in 2017 for you doesn't have to look like what I hope moving in 2017 will look like for me. But believe that you are capable of it - because if 2016 has taught us anything, it's that the world is too uncertain to stay rooted in one steadfast moment.
to be grateful
I'm leaving this year grateful for many things that barely registered on my radar last December. My health, my health insurance, the health of my loved ones. The gift of time with those I love. My body now functioning in ways it didn't for much of 2016. That my brain never stopped functioning the way it should.
That I have a chance to kick 2017's ass the way 2016 kicked mine.
This year, my parents and brother are all getting experiences for Christmas, not physical items. (Sorry, Christopher. Better luck next year.) I learned this year that there is no time to hesitate in being with the ones you love. Every text message, every phone call, every lazy Sunday with people who care about me - those are the experiences that you can't buy back once they're gone.
There is gratitude to be found in small things, too. I am grateful that I can run again. (I'm grateful that both my mom and I won the Cherry Blossom 10 miler lottery!) I'm grateful that I now forget to lead with my right leg when I'm walking - and even more grateful that it no longer matters which leg I favor.
It's a little embarrassing to think about how many things I took for granted before this year. I want to do everything now. I also want nothing more than to be with my family. When I walk into a room with them, it is so filled with love that sometimes it knocks the breath out of me, a little. I hope that for you, too - from someone, something, some place.
The world would be a better place if we all tried to reframe with a little more gratitude. No one will ever be a perfect person, except probably my grandmother. But I've found that every night, sitting for a minute and thinking about what I'm truly thankful for that day, has brought me happiness that, for a few dark months, I thought had forever left my life. Things like a long run in below freezing temperatures. A bottle of wine in Napa, split with my mother. Baby giggles and light kisses from the tiniest members of my family. Friends that will provoke an ugly cry by buying your groceries for you when getting to the store is an impossible physical task. A really fucking good book.
2016 was a doozy - we can all agree on that. But I have never felt a holiday season where I've been this appreciative of all that surrounds me, nor this determined to tackle the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead.
So, thanks, 2016. We're just about done with you now, but if what comes out of this year is a new desire to move and to live with gratitude - well then you weren't exactly the complete wasteland I thought you to be.