A number of huge expenses, plus a shift in income, allowed me to see the bottom of my bank account for the first time in years. My commitments extend not only to my expanded family, but also to the young people relying on Ventana Sierra, the nonprofit I founded in 2012. The worry surrounding my finances forced me into months of little sleep, which was not conducive to productive writing time. Words usually flow onto the page, but I found myself begging them to come.
On a personal level, I struggled to find and maintain necessary balance between work and family. That isn't new, but it was more important than ever because of the young children thrust into my life, not to mention the son who reached adulthood this month, and yet has not quite found his way. Philosophically, I understand that every child is an individual and develops differently. But when I watch this amazing young man floundering, I worry that I could have parented better.
My relationship with my daughter, long tenuous, disintegrated completely. I can no longer witness her single-minded self-destruction, at the expense of those who continue to love her despite her repeating the same negative patterns over and over. It's hard to give up on your child. But at some point you have to save your sanity, especially when so many others rely on you.
I had to help my fourteen-year-old German shepherd—the one I personally delivered so many years ago—through her end-of-life decline and into her final rest. Making the decision to say goodbye was extremely hard, but seeing her suffer was impossible. She was at my feet one last time when she crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
The year was capped off by a family crisis that could have ended a thirty-year relationship with someone I believed I knew inside and out. I was wrong, and that brought into question three decades of my life. Time I can never get back, nor can I change a single day. I often tell the readers who reach out to me that the past will always inform the future, but it doesn't have to define it. Now it's my turn to have to believe that.
In the wake of this life-changing event, I found order in shedding baggage. I cleaned out closets and cupboards, recycling or tossing all the stuff I haven't used in years. I gave away clothing I knew I'd never wear again. I replaced old lumpy pillows with new ones. I moved my teen into a bigger space, opened up shelves for the little ones' toys and games, and am making them all take pride in keeping their possessions organized and neat. I filed my stacks and shredded useless paperwork.
With the kids out of school for an extended winter break, I've found myself in the kitchen again, rediscovering my love for cooking and baking. The family has had to put up with some unusual dishes, as well as old favorites. A new puppy has brought us much entertainment and laughter, as well as uncompromising love that asks little in return.
If I said everything is right again, I'd be lying. Reordering and restructuring have given me a small sense of balance, but there are still big decisions ahead. What I know is I'm strong enough to make them, and they'll be the right choices for my family, my readers, and me. I'll have two books out this coming year, and I'll be writing two more, plus smaller projects, including a poetry collection. I found some damn good poems I wrote a while back and they made me remember my journey here. The good outweighs the bad.
So, FUCK 2014. Good riddance. I'm trudging out of darkness, reaching for the light, and determined to make 2015 my best year yet.