The year’s end is always a reminder to look back at the previous months and acknowledge the events that crossed our path. As a woman moving into her seventh decade, I have much more time for reflection than I did as a younger person. I also have more events, feelings, and memories to ponder. When we’re young, we’re too busy living life: raising families, establishing partnerships, managing careers, and seem to have less time for reflection.
Reflection is about evaluating or meditating on the overall trajectory of our life. It is more than simply recounting our experiences, but about honoring and thinking about how our experiences shaped us, or even changed the person we are and how we live our life. To reflect means to stop and think about our past, ponder it, and understand it so that we can move forward in a desired direction.
Personally, this past year was met with frequent challenges. It started out calm, but in August I nearly lost my husband of forty-five years. Despite receiving three vaccine shots, we both caught Covid-19 after a family trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. My husband and I have two different internists; mine immediately started me on a course of Paxlovid, but my husband’s doctor did not. My husband wound up having severe complications from the virus, which was magnified by a pre-existing blood clotting disorder which landed him in two emergency surgeries. As a result, he spent his seventieth birthday and our forty-fifth anniversary in the hospital. Thankfully, after three months, he’s now beginning to heal.
Later in the year, my beloved Spunky–my best friend and 17-year old blind and deaf Maltese Poodle who was otherwise healthy–developed pneumonia and went downhill quite quickly. On the eve of December 1st, he was having difficulty breathing and was unable to get comfortable while sleeping on my bed. The following morning, I picked him up to cuddle on my lap and that’s where my buddy for all these years took his last breath. While it was painful losing Spunky, I felt that his gift to me was choosing to die in my arms. It’s been a difficult few weeks since his passing, as he was a constant part of my daily routine. We needed one another. I didn’t realize how grounding his company was in my life until he was no longer with me. I made an altar in his honor and thanked him for waiting until my husband got better.
A week after Spunky died, I learned that my 92-year-old mother had metastatic breast cancer. She refused to have scans and said, “Why have them, so that I get bad news?” She’s quite savvy, as she used to work in a hospital. Consequently, we have no idea what stage she’s at or how much more time we will have with her. She lives on the opposite coast and I made an emergency trip to see her when I found out. Even though we’ve had a challenging relationship in the past, I decided to let that all go in favor of enjoying our time together. I even bought my mother her favorite lobster dinner; my father taught me to always leave people on a good note, as we don’t know if we will ever see them again–such wise words.
As I continue to reflect back on 2022, I cannot help but wonder how all of these losses have come together and how often in life occurrences happen in threes. Rather than spending too much time focusing on my losses, I’m trying to focus on honoring all my blessings. This past year a new grandchild came into the world, giving me a total of six grandchildren. What a magical blessing that is. I am relatively healthy and continue to honor my life-long passion of writing. I’m also musing on the two mandala courses I participated in, and how healing and fun they were. I’m feeling blessed to live in California, and no longer have to deal with severely inclement weather (well, at least until an earthquake hits).
Spending time in reflection offers us the opportunity to gain perspective on our lives and consider what really matters. It also gives us a chance to tap into our priorities, and assists in better learning about and understanding ourselves. To begin the reflection process, you might want to consider taking a journal and pen and reflecting on your year: what happened, what you learned, what you are grateful for, and what really matters to you.
Diana Raab, PhD, is a memoirist, poet, blogger, speaker, and award-winning author of nine books. She’s been published in over 1000 publications. She frequently speaks and teaches on writing for healing and transformation. Her latest book is Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Program for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life. Visit: dianaraab.com.