2012: Pain, Discipline, Buoyancy

It’s eleven days into 2013, and I’m on my third draft of my 2012 in review/resolution wrap-up post. I can’t seem to find the right tone. So many of my posts lately have been serious, with good reason. But in real life, I tend to be all about wit and snarkiness and sarcasm. I like to think you readers like me for both the seriousness and the snarkiness.

The unfunny truth is that 2012 was really terrible for a lot of people. The last Sunday in December, my dad’s church always has an open-mic sharing time, and two days before welcoming 2013, I heard tales of God’s goodness framed in ungodly pain: cancer diagnoses. Spousal abandonment. The death of a far-away husband. Saying good-bye to children and parents, maybe for a semester or maybe forever.

Then there is my own pain. A few days before Christmas, my baby sister lost someone who once meant a lot to her. And a few days before that, a Connecticut town lost too many children in a heartbeat. A few days before that, my small town lost a beloved pet store. And a day before that, two Portland families lost parents who went to a mall for Christmas shopping.

When I list those things, see them lined up, I feel far from snarky. All I feel is sad.

But I’m finding more and more that as much as I’d like to pretend otherwise, life—and love—is pain. As the years pass, so does health and good fortune. And while life is pain, pain is not the final word; what overcomes the pain is joy and hope. Life is finding buoyancy in a weighty world.

I know that’s a lesson I’ll continue to learn, year after year. Buoyancy. But last year, about this time, I had an idea of what I hoped to learn: discipline. 2011 was all about bravery; 2012 was going to be all about discipline.

Well, I was pretty proud of my bravery in 2011, but my post reveals that I didn’t think I would be very good at discipline. I put in a lot of caveats, a lot of reminders that sometimes discipline looks different, that I would fail occasionally. I didn’t really expect to be successful, and I didn’t really know what that would look like. More trips to the gym? A novel finished?

Spoiler alert: I didn’t finish a novel this year.

I think, though, despite my wishy-washy nature, I did become more disciplined this year. Almost by accident. And I think it did change me—again, almost by accident.

I was disciplined when I finished a book before a book club meeting, even on months of insanity.

I was disciplined when I graded my students’ papers within two weeks, even if that meant no contact with real humans for a full day.

I was disciplined when I ran outside in the summer, a period of time when the sun was long and high and I felt strong…ish.

I was disciplined when I made choices that reflected my priorities and desires, even if they didn’t make sense to others.

I was disciplined when I made deadlines and worked hard to do so, even if I was nervous about the results.

And I was disciplined when I said “yes,” even though I was afraid.

Before I wrote this, I was fully ready to count this resolution a bust. To admit that I didn’t make it, that I tried and I failed. Now, looking back over the year, I can’t.

Sure, I didn’t run any marathons. My trips to the gym were sporadic. I watched a lot of television. I ate more Kraft macaroni and cheese than any adult should. But that’s not my definition of discipline.

Discipline to me means continuing to figure out—and chase—on a regular basis how to be a strong and independent woman, one grounded in faith and dares to change. I can’t say I’m good at it, but I’m trying. And that’s what discipline is, isn’t it? It’s showing up. It’s giving it a shot, over and over again. Buoyancy.

I’m still figuring out what this whole discipline, adulthood, life-goals thing is all about. I’m still figuring out life. But after 2012—in which the world didn’t end but for a lot of people, it felt like it might as well have—I still have life, and I am determined to live it well into 2013.

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