Resolutions and Revelations
Every year, a few weeks before Christmas, I haul a big, blue tub of Christmas decorations down from an obscure closet shelf and prepare to be festive. As I’m shimmying my way into the holiday spirit by dancing around my living room to jazzy carols on Spotify, I merrily unpack the items of Old Blue and smile, remembering each ornament’s meaning.
The glass palm tree from my best friend of nearly 20 years; a reminder of those tattoos we got in Vegas that time…
My colorful plastic collection of Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer characters, an homage to my favorite claymation movie…
The shiny, miniature airplane my dad bought me as a joke when I missed not one but TWO flights trying to get home to my family for Christmas during a snowstorm…
As the tub slowly empties and my home fills with cheer, I anticipate finding one special container. It’s nondescript; a simple cardboard box. But it’s contents are priceless to me.
In 2006, after three years of dating, my boyfriend died suddenly in a tragic accident. A few months prior I had thrown him a surprise party for his 30th birthday and he gave me a diamond promise ring for Christmas. The holidays were filled with joy in those days.
Not long after my boyfriend died, I found myself in a dark, cold depression. I had thoughts of suicide, and even a plan. After coming close to carrying it out, I took a trip abroad that changed my life. I had what I call a “Shawshank Redemption” moment when I realized there is so much adventure worth living for. I made a decision then to “get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.” I chose the former.
Living was easier said than done. I had to work hard at mending my broken heart. But, with great loss comes great perspective. Although I often felt like an outsider because of my experience, I decided to use it to enrich my life. I had to muster the energy to get out of bed, brush my teeth AND my hair. I had to stop crying and start sleeping. I had to share about the ache in my soul so it wouldn’t consume me. I had to be of service to others to find relief in giving. I had to be present in each moment and remind myself to keep breathing. And I had to survive the holidays without wanting to kill myself. Literally.
The List is a tradition I started many years ago. The idea came to me when I was packing up Christmas decorations one bleak January morning. I found myself feeling sad, lost and lonely as I obsessed over the worries in my life. It had been a hard holiday season without my boyfriend and I had felt like an actor putting on a show. As I boxed things up I thought, “Will I live in constant fear of tragedy striking again?” “How will I get out of all this debt?” “What will I do about my miserable job?” “Am I destined to live like the Incredible Hulk, doomed to wander the earth alone forever?” “ What the hell am I DOING with my life??”
Drastic times call for drastic measures. I sat down and wrote out all the fears I wanted to be resolved in the New Year. That somehow didn’t give me the comfort I sought. So, I flipped the scrap of paper over and made another list. This time I wrote down everything I was grateful for over the past year. Looking back over all the positivity that had graced my life, I couldn’t help but feel buoyed by hope. Surely, if I had made it this far…
I grabbed a photo of my late boyfriend, who I think of as my guardian angel, along with two ornaments I’d been given to celebrate his life. I gently packed them away with my list and said a prayer to the Universe to help me through the next year. One year later, I had forgotten all about that box until I was begrudgingly unpacking decorations again. As soon as I saw it, I started to cry. As I held the photo and ornaments, I read The List. I was amazed that many of the things I feared had been resolved, sometimes in the most unexpected ways.
This year, I open the white cardboard box and gingerly remove layers of tissue paper. I pull out four things: A picture of my late boyfriend sitting by the tree our first Christmas together, a delicate blown glass heart with a pure white feather inside, a silver scroll with a prayer inscribed on it…and The List.
For the last 11 years, I’ve continued the tradition of writing The List. I don’t believe in resolutions, but I do believe in hope and gratitude. To me, The List is a revelation. Evidence of my growth through the years and perspective on what matters most. It reminds me that no matter how dark life can be, there is always light to lead the way, even if I can only see one foot in front of me at a time.
Consider the past year and the one to come. What’s on your List?
Saylor is the Marketing and Communications Manager for a global SaaS company in Denver, CO. She loves mentoring others on their career journeys, running her marketing consultancy, Anchor Element, and getting her fill of all the adventure this life has to offer.