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A year ago, I wrote this: May 2017 be a year of that which we need most: honesty, growth, good health, kindness, love, laughter, and gratitude. May it be a year to remember, in the best of ways.

And here we are, 365 days later, with 15 hours left in this year. I thought, by now, that I would have something coherent to say about the last 12 months, which have both flown by and which have moved at a snail’s pace. Yet here I am, uncertain of where to begin, unclear on how to frame this year. I’m writing this as a reflection; my intention is to write again tomorrow, with my eyes firmly on the new year.

For now – when I look back, I know that there has been a lot of pain this year: in our country, in our world, and in my own neighborhood. But there has always been pain; part of what I’ve learned in 2017 is that I was blind to some of it. And there have always been people who need help, and ideals that need defending; I just wasn’t as involved as I should have been.

2017 changed me, I think, in lasting ways. I’ve long been told that I can be too serious; this year, for once, I decided to embrace that. I don’t have the energy not to; that energy needs to go to supporting those around me. That energy needs to go to the larger world; that energy needs to be focused. Surprisingly, in accepting that tendency towards seriousness, I have also found greater access to joy.

I’ve become a more engaged citizen this year, both in terms of communicating with my representatives and in working to educate myself on topics where I am deficient. I read incredible books: The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson; Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson; Evicted, by Matthew Desmond; Sing, Unburied, Sing, and Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward; The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead; and Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi.

I have tried to be more loving towards myself this year, which is a great personal challenge. I lived up to my ideas of traveling: once a year to Paris, once a year to somewhere new. My travels took me to France, the UK, Norway, and across this country, including Hawaii. I didn’t save as much money as I thought I might; I didn’t go broke, either. I gave more money away than I have in the past; I’ve questioned what I wanted to buy, and why, and more often than not, spent that money elsewhere.

A friend died suddenly this year, which shook me. Losing him reminded me that I want to take full advantage of the time I have with the people who make my life whole. I don’t want to make excuses for not loving fully.

I lived my days with my spouse and our dogs, as I navigated the words “wife” and “marriage,” which feel new, still, even as they have grown more comfortable. I listened to people who are hurting; those who don’t know that others –including me – care about them brought me to tears.

I tried to do well at my job. I tried to bring light into others’ lives. I found joy in my nephew; delight in my friendships; strength in my family; gratitude in my husband; peace in my words; wisdom in the words of strangers. I made all sorts of mistakes.

Standing at its conclusion, I don’t know how to make sense of 2017, but I know that it is a year I will indeed remember. The tasks ahead of us, in 2018 and beyond, are daunting, but I am ready for them.

I do not anticipate that 2018 will be a year for relaxing. I imagine, like these days that are leaving us, that it will be one for the ages. My hope, the one held most closely within this optimist’s heart, is that it will be one of the best.

Wherever you are, whoever you are, please know that I am standing in gratitude in these last hours of the year, sending all love to you and yours: today, tonight, and always.

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