Opening Our Windows

As we approach year’s end, lots of us take stock of where we were at the beginning of the year, where we wanted to be throughout the year, and where we are now. We ask ourselves, did I do what I meant to do? Did I do enough?  Did I keep my promises? Did I meet my goals?   And the problem is, if we find ourselves answering anything close to “no” to any of those questions, some of us—me included—decide the year was a complete bust.  We feel we’ve somehow let ourselves down. That we missed our chance.  And we regret.

What thick and murky curtain regret can be. It drapes itself heavily over our windows, blocking  out any light and air whatsoever, convincing us it’s dark when the sun is shining, distorting our perceptions, muffling us, making us forget.   

A brisk early morning walk through Central Park a few weeks ago took me past a flock of white birds taking a rest on the Reservoir before resuming their flight south. As I walked by them, the birds arose in a magnificent flutter and I laughed aloud at the sight and sounds.  My laughter startled me—and I recognized just then that I had a great deal for which to be thankful and for which I can laugh. This moment set off a metaphoric pulling back of that heavy curtain and an opening of the windows.  

One year after my spinal surgeries, I didn’t end up participating in the year-end 5K run in Central Park I thought I would.  But I did join a gym in the fall, and am going 3-4 times a week for a level of exercise and fitness that’s making me feel terrific.

I didn’t lose all the weight I wanted to lose this year. But I have lost some, am fitting into favorite clothes, and am headed slowly but surely towards excellent health.

I didn’t write as many blog posts as I wanted to this year. But I wrote a few, I am writing one now, and I know I will write more—whenever I can.

I didn’t make the time to visit with my mentor and friend, Margaret McElderry before she died. But I am inspired by her spirit, her work ethic, and her editorial guidance and acumen every day in my work as an editor and consultant. I think of her now and I laugh—what a great gift, exactly what she would have wanted.

I didn’t get away over the summer as much as I wanted to, for the sake of work and who knows what else that occupies our time. But I had a spectacular, life-changing four weeks in Argentina this spring, walking among the penguins and standing beneath the largest waterfall in the world.

The car we loved died, leaving us stranded on the FDR Drive in the middle of Saturday night traffic.   But traffic seemed to slow just enough to allow us to get to the side of the road and our mechanic happened to be behind us on the highway and was able to push us to safety. We were lucky.

I didn’t want to attend my college reunion because my memories of graduation were so painful. But I walked those halls and paths with my family of friends and put the pains to rest, leaving behind what can be left behind to replace the pain with joy and pride.

I didn’t land some amazing position with a publishing house. But in less than one year, my own business is thriving, generating gratifying work, steady income, the attention of interesting new colleagues and publishing partners, and leaping into the sorts of business opportunities to expand, learn, and help that I never had within a corporate structure.

In the course of working with over 150 clients this year, I must have shared this statement with at least a quarter of them: “It’s a marathon, not a race.”   Whether it’s running, writing, taking care of our families, working—we need to do so at our own pace, thoughtfully, steadily and without reprimanding ourselves.  And today, as I ponder the year’s end and tear away any remnants of doubt and regret, I can see out my windows with an invigorating perspective—it’s been a year of healing, it’s been a year of exploration, it’s been a year of trying, it’s been a year of succeeding, it’s been a year of figuring it out.  And for that, no regrets.    I wish open windows for all this holiday season, and rewarding views.

(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC