Better Boat

We've just entered a new year, but not just a new year, a whole new decade. As I get older and watch  more of these milestones slip past, I find myself reflecting on all the life I've lived and what the future might hold. On New Year's Eve, I felt moved to take a walk down memory lane and sat down at the computer to watch home movies from when my kids were little. Having been so focused on the more recent (dark) past, it was therapeutic look back into the happiest of times and realize that there is so much more to me and my story than what the last year can show.

Like most people, I've been eagerly awaiting the countdown to 2021. It seems apropos to turn the page and step into a brand new decade because anything less would seem anticlimactic at the end of such a hellish year. We are all yearning to start anew and turn our faces towards the sun after nearly twelve months in the dark. For me, 2020 was the most difficult year of my life. While the pandemic presented unique challenges and detours for us all, I found myself walking down paths I never dreamt I would. I took so many unfamiliar steps last year that I began to lose sight of who I was or how to get back to her. At year's end I am still trying to map out just how I got from where I was to where I am now. 

I am trying more and more, however, to focus less on how I got to where I am and just be grateful that I am here. Partly because my mind holds random college lectures in perfect detail, and partly because I look to science for answers, I am reminded of a topic I learned about way back as a freshman at the University of the Sciences. In chemistry (thermodynamics to be precise) there is something called a state function. Without getting too complicated, state functions describe the state of a system without being dependent on the path the system took to get to that state. In other words, a state function describes the current state of a system irregardless of past states. I apologize for boring you all to death, but I find comfort in the parallels life can often draw to science. 

When you think about it, state functions are really just chemistry's version of mindfulness, no? Taking stock of your present state without dwelling on the past can be a valuable tool in moving forward to a new, healthier state. I'm not advocating we all forget where we've been, but I do think that at some point, we must divest ourselves of past hurts in order to increase our emotional bandwidth for the present. One of my resolutions for this year is simply to live in this year, not the last one nor the one after this. Striving to reserve my harsh internal judgement, I will allow fond visits to the past and try to look towards the future with cautious optimism.

I think after a year of constantly bailing out a sinking ship, caution is to be expected at the start of a new voyage. 2020 was a storm that had me flailing and floundering to stay afloat and I very nearly went under. Luckily for me, I was tethered to a man who refused to let me drown. He buoyed me when I was too tired to swim and breathed life into me when I couldn't seem to get enough air. In the days since, he has helped me to rebuild myself. He has helped me build a sea-worthy vessel, one that I think is stronger than before, despite the tempests it has seen. One that is capable of turning towards the horizon and setting out with a fragile, but renewed hope.

Hope is something we all need as we move into this year. 2021 has the potential to be hard, sure, but it also has the potential to be great. Just as I looked back on our home movies to experience the beauty of my memories, I urge us all to remember the dichotomy which life often presents to us...the good with the bad, the beautiful with the ugly, and the reward with the risk. Sometimes we need to experience one side of the coin to appreciate the other, but often times I find we just need to know that the better side of the coin exists in order to survive the bad. So, here's to hoping that we're not just flipping the calendar, but flipping that coin and heading for much calmer seas in much better boats.


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