Do Hard Things

I don’t like to admit it but this time of year is hard for me. There are layers and layers of memories stacked on top of each other like pancakes. Some are crisp and clear. Some are indistinct and mushy. Some are so sweet and lovely and some leave a bad taste in my mouth. Some of the dearest and some of the most painful memories of my life are all crammed into about 8 weeks on the calendar.

This time of year,

8 years ago I was falling love with the man I would eventually marry. It was lovely and magical and unexpected and everything I could have dreamed and more. It felt like the best gift I had ever been given.

7 years ago we got engaged on the weekend between Thanksgiving and my birthday. We were both so happy and excited for the future that we couldn’t stop glowing for days.

6 years ago we celebrated our first married Thanksgiving by inviting a bunch of people over and cooking our first turkey. We planned to make it a tradition and host Thanksgiving as often as possible for as many as our home could hold.

3 years ago my then-husband began the process of leaving me though I was unaware until several months later and even now I don’t really know all that transpired in those months. I was not part of the decisions being made about my life. All I knew at the time was that everything felt strange and confusing and out-of-place.

2 years ago I had the hardest conversation of my life and agreed to my soon-to-be-ex-husband’s terms of divorce. I cried and prayed for days before we met not knowing how else to prepare for a conversation like that. But then when we finally spoke, I felt the deepest peace.

1 year ago our divorce was finalized on the day of our engagement anniversary. I felt immense relief and freedom but also so much loss and grief. I felt drained of everything that had come before but hopeful and expectant for whatever would come next.

It is overwhelming to process all of these memories that fall within the same couple of months. Our first date was the night of the first presidential debate in 2008 and the air feels familiar. The time the sun goes down each day is the same as the year our life began to unravel. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and my birthday is a week later. I look forward to the celebrations but also dread the residual grief.

This time of year rolls around and my heart and spirit feel weak and kind of fragile. I look for opportunities to create new, happy memories. I try to be gentler with myself. I lower my expectations for what I can accomplish because I know my soul is working hard to keep processing and healing.

But if I’m honest with myself, I just want to have it all resolved. I want to have all the whys answered and all the details clear so I do not have to keep processing complicated grief. I want good and bad memories in separate tidy baskets when most of life does not actually sort that way. I want things to be black and white but they are often truer in gray. I am learning to be comfortable with uncertain but it is hard to do.

When I am ready to just throw up my hands and give up, I remember the words a dear friend repeats often, “You are doing hard things. It is so important to do hard things. Hard things can sometimes take a lifetime but they are still worth doing.”

I know we are all doing hard things – processing complicated feelings, loving those who are difficult to love, taking good care of ourselves and our people, reaching out with empathy and understanding to those we don’t agree with, grieving, hoping, and trying to continue moving into greater wholeness. It’s difficult. The road is often hazy and unclear.

But keep going – doing hard things is worth it. And it’s so important.