By BethAnne Kapansky Wright
As we say goodbye to 2016 and welcome 2017 into our grasps, it is my reflection that 2016 was a difficult year for many.
The worst, some have said; and I feel that. So many tragedies, so many losses, so many hits to our hearts on global, humanitarian, environmental, political, cultural, relational, emotional and personal levels. This year we have grieved individually and as a collective.
However, in the wake of so much turmoil, strife and negativity, my heart feels called to a kinder, more peaceful perspective as we part ways with this year. If we are here to grow our souls, here to learn about love and here to evolve our hearts and spirits and minds, then 2016 has come with many opportunities to do just that—no matter how difficult and challenging those opportunities have been.
My year began with losing my brother last January. My only sibling, just a year apart, gone at 39; we were meant to bury our parents together, not the other way around. Sometimes 2016 hurt so badly it pained to breathe. Every loss since then hits the heart of that pain. At times, the halls of the past year have been dark and cramped, disorienting and senseless, difficult to walk—sometimes crawl—through.
Last winter and spring, as I grappled with the worst of my grief and an abrupt rupture in a timeline that felt unacceptable to me, it was hard to remember the hope of light.
I knew somewhere beyond the cover of clouds that shadowed my heart, the sun was still out there. Many days, I struggled to find it. Those months are a blur of sad and gray and slush and hurt and getting out of bed and making myself do life, even as an internal part of myself cocooned, curled up in the bereaved thickness of grief’s hibernation. Spring into summer was like slowly waking up from a terrible crash and realizing the dull, ugly surreality of my reality.
It ached in ways I couldn’t put into words. Ached from the death of winter’s decay. Ached with the slow warmth of summer’s new life. Ached with a bittersweet mixture of love and loss and everything in between until I couldn’t tell where one ended and the other began.
As the summer stretched on and the sun did its medicinal work, bringing healing light into my tired insides, the swift shift of the season and flowing life around me brought new awareness. I began to experience and become fully awake to how absolutely finite life is. There is no greater teacher on Life’s brief, glorious wisp than Death. In that sense of finality, I began to see how sacred is that wisp, how sacred is the journey, how sacred is the all of life. Because we are here—here in the beautiful, difficult, finite, possible space of this place.
It means we have chances. Choices. Possibilities.
What a gift is the light of our own possibility. Inherently holy and hallowed, precious and cherished, prayerful and revered, sublime and divine. What a privilege to be present to embrace the Opportunities that are our lives. My deepest dark of 2016 was found in the loss of my brother; my brightest light found as I learned to come to terms with his cessation and open myself up to the truth of my own being in a way I’d yet to fully realize.
That opening has made everything sacred. From the most heightened to the most mundane, from the beautiful to the awful, from the sorrow to the joy. It has all become a chance to embody each moment I am given as best as I can. To be full in my grief. To be full in my love. To own and stretch and delve into whatever emotional experience I have on each given day. To embrace the presence of a moment, whether I like the moment or not. To live more courageously, honestly, boldly. To simply sit still and belong to this world.
To see the sacred in the whole of our lives.
We were never promised life would look a certain way. We were only promised a chance to make the most of what comes our way. Promised our own spark of self. Promised soul growth. Promised a chance at humanity and a chance for the evolution of our hearts. Promised opportunities to learn about love in all its diverse forms.
As I look back at the moments that composed this year, I see great pain there, but I also see the gifts.
It has been a gift to love and struggle and rage and joy and grieve and heal and find good and find bad and exalt and complain and be beautiful and be human and be seeking and be challenged and just be in the space of this time. Honoring those gifts is the only thing I have found that brings peace to the pain of losing my brother. I honor him through the living, the loving and learning to be and bring whatever light I can into this place.
As we move in to 2017, I offer the thought that the though the year may have been hard on many of our hearts, we are still here.
As long as we are here, we have the gift of possibility. The gift of growth. The gift of hope. The gift of falling deeper into love. The gift of reaching and lengthening and evolving into bigger, more nuanced beings. The gift of hurting when one of us pains, celebrating when one of us joys. The gift of carrying our losses in our hearts and letting those losses strengthen us in love and affirmation of our own humanity.
The gift of continuing to strive to embody the peace, change and grace we so wish to see in the hallowed halls of these precious, sacred, finite days.
BethAnne Kapansky Wright is a Clinical Psychologist in Anchorage, Alaska who enjoys writing, illustrating and creating. She specializes in dealing with women’s issues, life transitions, trauma, grief work and finding healing in our relationships, especially our relationship with our self. She believes in authenticity, intuition, the power of love, finding laughter and joy, and learning to be more fully human. She is the author of the poetry books Cranberry Dusk (Blurb, Inc.) and Freebird Fridays (Golden Dragonfly Press), and the grief book Lamentations of the Sea (due out January 2017, Golden Dragonfly Press). She can be found on her site sunshineinwinter.com.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak