Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017: A Year of Gratitude

Let's face it. 2016 was a difficult year for many people. To put it mildly, I am less than excited about the incoming presidential administration, and I have seen this year's election divide friends and family like never before. (But this post is not about politics.) This year also saw the passing of far too many people—fellow CHD warriors who left us too soon, music and entertainment icons, and some of our closest family members and friends.

On stage at the Lincoln Center
April 2016
And even though I, too, am ready to put 2016 in the history books, I would be remiss to not remember and celebrate the year's many highlights. For me, the past twelve months have actually been filled with some pretty amazing moments and experiences:
  • In January, I celebrated the 2-year anniversary of my second open heart surgery.
  • In April, I performed Carmina Burana on stage at the Lincoln Center in New York.
  • In May, I performed Carmina Burana on stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
  • In July, I joined the Camp Odayin family as a residential camp counselor.
  • In August and September, I took a career break and traveled to Europe to hike the Camino de Santiago—800 km across France and Spain over 31 days.
  • In October, I went on my very first cruise to the Bahamas with a good friend.

Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
October 2016
We live in a world where it's so easy to focus on—and get consumed by—the negative. Far too often, the mainstream media, our social media feeds, and even our daily interactions with others are overrun with negative news. And I don't pretend to be above it. I've certainly fallen into this trap from time to time.

But as 2016 comes to a close and I look forward to the new year, I am making a very conscious effort to focus more on the good things—to make 2017 truly a year of gratitude. Encouraged by Becky Howell, holistic success coach and one of my best friends since college, and inspired by the 365 Grateful project, my intention is to take some time each day to focus on the positives and to celebrate and be grateful for all the good things in my life. I do not expect 2017 to be all flowers and trees, nor do I intend to be oblivious to any tough realities that may come my way. But my goal, a New Year's resolution if you will, is to be more intentionally focused on the good, on the positive aspects of life.

Anyone in the CHD community—whether patient, family member, or friend—knows that life with congenital heart disease is not easy. But one thing I have learned from, and gotten to love about, so many of my friends in this community is that the time to live life is NOW. We are all on borrowed time, whether or not you have a chronic health condition. None of us knows when our time will be up.

I used to be afraid of death. And while I wouldn't say I'm looking forward to it (In fact, I hope to NOT have it visit me any time in the near future.), I believe that my CHD has actually allowed me to accept and (to a certain degree) embrace my own mortality. I believe that it has given me a reminder—perhaps disguised as a kick in the pants or an unexpected cycling accident—to be happy right now. I believe that it has given me the motivation to take a leap of faith earlier this year, quit my job, and hike across a foreign country—simply because I wanted to and I knew that I could. And I believe that it has given me a genuine appreciation for life—for the here and now—that many people unfortunately feel unable to attain.

So wherever you find yourself on life's journey at this moment and regardless of where you want to go, I hope that you, too, will take the opportunity to experience and embrace the positive in all that comes your way. Here's wishing you peace, health, and happiness in 2017 and beyond!

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