I always find myself reflecting on the past year in the week following Christmas, and this one was no different. I’ve been keeping a daily gratitude journal for a few years now (one New Year’s resolution I’ve actually managed to keep), and every year, I think of a title that encompasses my hopes for the year to come. My first year was “The Year of Gratitude,” (which proved an accurate descriptor—this practice has made me much more aware of my blessings), and 2014 was titled “The Year of Progress.”
Oh, bittersweet irony. I should not have tempted the fates by calling 2014 “The Year of Progress.”
Last January, I had resolved to make true progress towards reaching my life goals in the coming year: taking major steps towards writing and publishing a book (or two or three books—I was very ambitious when I made these resolutions) and becoming a self-employed author so I could teach part-time on the side. I also had ambitious plans to get my epilepsy under control and better manage my stress and get my act together and finally grow up and be the adult I’ve always dreamed of being.
It didn’t exactly work out that way, though.
Progress? It’s hard to see any as I reflect on this past year. I look at my health and see only regression. I thought that quitting teaching would lighten my burden of stress, which would, in turn, quiet my epilepsy, but that has not happened.
My epilepsy has actually grown worse, despite several attempts at medication. My driver’s license was officially cancelled in September. I am having seizures almost daily. They are milder, but a recent MRI showed scar tissue in my brain from them nonetheless.
Progress is measured by met goals, which imply a measure of control over our circumstances. We work to achieve our goals. We believe that we can strive to better ourselves or change certain things. But no amount of discipline or hard work is going to change the fact that I have epilepsy or that I am facing some terrifying and life-altering treatment options (brain surgery among them).
As my goal this year was to become an author, I spent quite a bit of time writing, but not as much as I would have liked—I participated in NaNoWriMo for the fourth consecutive year (November is NAtional NOvel WRiting MOnth—participants write 50,00 words in 30 days), and this was the first year that I did not meet that goal. I came in at a measly 41,021 words. Every other year that I did this, I was teaching (some years full time, one year even overload) but I was still able to finish easily. This year I had unlimited time at my disposal, but my brain was just too tired to work at that pace—I had several seizures in November, and seizures are exhausting. I do have plans to finish the piece eventually, but I lack the mental stamina I once enjoyed. So I didn’t exactly write the proverbial “great American novel,” much less publish one. Even though I had resolved to make a writing career for myself this year, the only efforts that I dared to make public are these blog entries. I have yet to seek a professional audience or publication for my work.
Last January, I sincerely believed that 2014 was going to be my year. And then, three weeks into that month, I had a seizure while I was driving, which changed the trajectory of my life, completely redefining the meaning of progress for me.
I did everything in my power to make this “The Year of Progress,” but I did not progress at all in the way that I had hoped.
I guess, if nothing else, I did gain a lot of good writing fodder through these frustrations and setbacks and experiences, which may eventually become a means towards the progress I wish to see. (One can only hope.)
I do plan to keep another gratitude journal in the coming year, and I’ve decided to call 2015 “The Year of Patience,” because I feel like that’s what I really should have learned this year.