Archived Opinion

‘Everything ahead of me’ for 2018

‘Everything ahead of me’ for 2018

I have a tattoo on the inside of my right wrist that says, “Everything ahead of me.” I got it at a time when I felt so bogged down in an ever-present mire, life felt like quick sand. From my mom’s death to a marital separation, it was one traumatic thing after another.

The only way I could get through a day was to think of a happier, more optimistic future. Seeing the words printed on my body was a constant reminder.

Now the words on my wrist have a different meaning for me. After 16 months of heavy grieving, my feelings about my mom’s death have shifted from a dark melancholy to a somber remembrance. It’s still hard and oh, how I wish she was here on this earth, but I no longer feel paralyzed with sadness.

And now that my boys are adjusting to the separation and having two homes, I feel better on that front. There’s something safe and beautiful about a family unit, and it’s never easy to let it go, but sometimes it’s necessary for all parties to be happy and be the best parents and people they can.

With that on my mind, here we are at the dawn of a new year, a fresh slate of 365 days.

When I was a little girl, my family of four would watch Dick Clark on the TV, eat from snack trays, toast with sparkling cider or champagne and go around in a circle to announce our New Year’s resolutions. I can’t remember what my childhood resolutions were, but I’m sure they were things like.

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Do good in school.

Be nice to my sister.

Clean my room more often.

I no longer believe in resolutions. They feel elusive and too hard to conquer. Several years ago, I transitioned from resolutions to goals. Goals feel sturdier and more achievable.

When I look out at 2018, I feel excited, focused, ready for a solid year full of adventure, new challenges and memory making.

One main goal of mine is to complete a triathlon. I’ve been a runner for several years, but I’m ready to stretch my athletic prowess and take on biking and swimming. On the surface, this sounds like a health and fitness goal, but it’s more than that.

Taking on this challenge will ground many other aspects of my world. A goal that involves mental and physical energy and fortitude helps life in general feel balanced and fluid. When workouts become a “must” instead of a “maybe,” the rest of my day, week, month becomes more structured and productive.

I’ve already been dabbling in swimming and biking, and both are going well so far. My swim stroke is finally starting to feel comfortable and not so awkward. True training will start in the spring with the triathlon(s) being in summer and early fall. Until formal training begins, I plan to continue running, biking, swimming, interval training and doing yoga.

Admittedly, I’m a bit nervous about swimming in open water with hundreds of people splashing around me, but I guess it wouldn’t be a true challenge without a little fear involved. I’m sure I’ll be documenting my training journey through this column, so stay tuned.

Some of my other 2018 goals include travel, photography, reading more books, doing small renovations around my house, unplugging more often and being mindful of time spent with those I love.

For so many years, I’ve worried about my mom’s cancer, my marriage, the happiness of my children and other heavy things that are virtually impossible to control. I’ve always taken on the burdens of others. It’s just the way I am. While being this way has allowed me to develop many strong relationships, it can also be overwhelming and emotionally taxing.

It’s well known that the best treatment for any type of illness is prevention. You want to prevent lung cancer? Don’t smoke. Cirrhosis of the liver? Quit drinking heavily. A heart attack? Exercise and eat healthier. While sometimes these strategies don’t work to prevent sickness, they’re worth a shot.

Similarly, the best way to prevent emotional injury or debilitation is to build internal immunity. The goals I’ve set for this new year are strategic. They’re not only fun, but they will repair and bolster those parts inside me that are damaged, and they will hopefully help prevent future damage from happening.

The older I get, the more I realize how truly beautiful life is. It’s a journey and an evolution of oneself, but only if we allow it to be. I’m so eager to see what 2018 has in store. I look to this new year with a transformed sense of hope and purpose.

Happy New Year, everyone! And remember, everything is ahead of us.

(Susanna Barbee is a writer for Smoky Mountain News and Smoky Mountain Living. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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