November 1st marked one year since I put my life and career on pause and moved back to my hometown to . . . re-evaluate. Day-to-day, the year has crept along at a pace only those who have lived in a truly small small town can understand, but the months and seasons continue to sneak up on me. The weight of summer’s humid air lifted from my shoulders so slowly I hardly noticed it leaving. A late summer drought slowly leeched the color from the hills of trees, taking them from lush, saturated green to the washed-out golden-green of a faded polaroid, then seemlessly to the rust autumn tones with no announcement. It was all very stealthy–so stealthy, in fact, that I only appreciated the transition from subconscious memory as I glanced at the hills in late October hoping to take in the beautiful fall foliage, but instead found a treeline of dark skeleton arms up-stretched, groping horrifically at the grey clouds overhead. The hills had donned their ghastly costumes in time for halloween.
I’d like to say that I’ve taken advantage of the slowed pace this past year to do all the things I never had time to fit in my busy schedule before. The truth is, although being back in Ohio has brought me physically closer to more of my friends and family than I was before, this has been one of the loneliest years of my life. I don’t mean lonely in a sad, pitiful, woe-is-me way, but in the sense that I have spent a lot of time alone–getting to know myself, trying to know my true desires, and learning to love myself in a more deep, genuine way than ever before. That’s not to say I spend my year doing yoga, sipping herbal tea, writing in a journal, and meditating on daily affirmations. This year has definitely had its share of dark-and-twisty moments, and in these times I may have over-indulged my loner tendencies; when things got frustrating or looked bleak I was definitely too quick to pull into the fetal position when I should have been reaching out. I suppose that’s something else I’ve learned about myself–well, not so much learned as accepted: that I’m horrible at asking for or accepting help when I need it. I’m not sure this is something I can fix overnight, or even over the course of a year. But a year of relative solitude has illuminated how strong and independent I can be through many of life’s challenges, and how much easier other times are made by the help, encouragement (and yes, sometimes the mere presence) of others.
Now it’s time to reconnect with all those I’ve shut out for too long. There have been so many calls and messages left unanswered and relationships neglected, that re-integrating seems daunting until I realize that all the people I’ve missed the most (and I have missed them sorely all the time I was pushing them away) have been cheering me on from afar, whether I could hear them or not, whether I would acknowledge them or not. There is no such thing as too-little-too-late in their eyes. And I can be a much better friend, daughter, sister, colleague, etc., to them now than a year ago.
In case you hadn’t guessed, this blog falls into the category of things I’ve pushed aside but missed achingly. I’m sure this past year would’ve been a little less dark-and-twisty if I’d been more faithful about laying fingers to keyboard instead of composing a million and one blog posts in my head where they collected dust or sat and festered. I know I’ve written similar posts making similar promises in the past, but here’s hoping something’s finally changed this time.