the best gift of 2013



New Year's Eve 2012.  I was standing outside just before midnight. It was a tradition. I closed my eyes and I asked God to help me make 2013 memorable in a good way. (I once asked God to help me me make a year memorable and 2009 turned out to be the worst year of my life. So, now I'm more specific.) 

A year later I realize that this was indeed one of the most memorable years of my life. I grew up this year. I started thinking of the world around me. For the first time in my life the thought of delighting someone else trumped my own pleasure. This year, I got it

I think every year has a theme. You may not know it when you start the year off but when you look back and start piecing things together, you might find that yes, indeed, the theme this year was Growing Up or Learning How to Budget or Becoming a More Spiritual Person. The problem with lessons or themes however is that most often these lessons are hard earned. One doesn't just say "Today I am going to grow up!" Unfortunately, circumstances usually happen that make you grow up like losing a parent or suddenly finding that you are alone and it's sink or swim time. The good news is that the lessons learned the hard way are the ones that stick with you. At the time, the experience of learning this lesson can be unbearable/painful/awful/soul-sucking but here's the thing: you get through it and then you are on the other side and you can say "I survived this. I did."

Four years ago when my world shifted in its axis, I knew I could never, ever be happy again having lost our babies, my job, my self-confidence. My world imploded on itself. I remember laying in bed thinking "My life was unimaginably incredible and now it's ashes. What the hell did I do to deserve this?"

Yes, I made the decision four years ago to move forward, to restart my life in a different direction but it honestly wasn't until this year that I realized that every single awful thing that happened in 2009 HAD to happen to get me to this exact moment. I have friends and new friends who read this blog who email me "WHY IS THIS BAD STUFF HAPPENING TO ME AND HOW CAN I MAKE IT STOP?" I tell them that I know it feels awful and it seems like life will never be the same again. You have to just get through each moment and you will come out on the other side. Life may not ever be exactly the same (especially if there was someone in your life who is no longer there through death or    by choice) but you do get happy again. One day you will be happy again. It will come as a shock and you may even feel guilty that something makes you smile, but life does get better. I promise you that

I think back on those first few days of trying to heal in 2009 after losing the babies, almost losing my life, having my position as a celebrity reporter at MSN eliminated. It was too much all at once. I was tender to the touch. Sunlight hurt my eyes. I couldn't imagine why all this was happening. Sure, I tried hard to get my life back on track. Slowly, I started getting back on my feet but it wasn't until this year that I understood why my life was unfolding this way. 



Earlier this month I was in my office, at my old high school, where I am the Director of Advancement. Two of our students were standing in front of me with a Christmas present. It was a scarf that they had handmade me in The Happygirl colors. As I read the card, it was as if the world had suddenly become technicolor. The reason that everything had happened as it did was because THIS was where I was supposed to be. If the mess that was 2009 had not happened I would not be standing in my office, looking at these two bright, sweet, kind young women whose generous gift was more than just a scarf. It was a sign that my life was on the exact path I was supposed to be on. Of course, I do have moments when I close my eyes and think of what our daughters would be like now. I will always ache for them and hold them close in my heart. What would they like as three year-olds? Where would I be at MSN now? Would we have moved to the London office? Los Angeles maybe? It's easy to get caught up in what your life could have been. It's a slippery slope though and when I start thinking about it, I can easily find myself in that sad space that's immensely hard to pull myself out of. So, when the "what if" thoughts pop into my head I have to change my thought trajectory before I fall down the rabbit hole of sadness. 

Which is why the scarf was such a gift. It wasn't just a scarf. It was a sign that the GIANT leap of faith that I took in September was the right choice. It was such a random thing, this job. I wasn't looking for a new job. In fact, I quite liked just being The Happygirl. But then one moment at our high school reunion, an insightful young priest suggested that I might consider a job as Director of Advancement. I said no, since we live in Seattle but the universe is funny that way. The more I said no, the more it became clear that this was something I needed to do. I loved my high school, I did, but it was 2800 miles away.  I tried to say no, I did say no but the more I thought about the job, the more I realized that the skills I learned at Microsoft were something I could parlay into helping my former high school. Every negotiation I took part in, every class I took at Microsoft, every skill set I learned set me up to perform in a role where I could help an exceptional small school plan for its future.

On paper, it didn't make sense. The job was 2800 miles away. How would this work? My husband and I sat on the deck at sunset. We talked through the whole thing. How. Would. This. Work? I told him it felt like a calling. I couldn't walk away from this. It was a feeling as strong as falling in love. As logical as we tried being about it ("So you're going to commute to Massachusetts then?") it didn't make sense but something inside me couldn't let it go. I had to do this and so with Larry on board and the school willing to take a chance on someone who would be commuting cross-country, I took the job.  

And then synchronicity happened. Over and over in the past few months incidents happened that had me believing that I was exactly where I should be. There was that perfect sunny, crisp Sunday spent driving to the apple orchard after Mass in the church I grew up, dinners with friends who have known me since I was six years old. There was one elderly woman I met who told me a story I never knew about my grandmother. Every connection seemed to vibrate with the feeling of "You're on the right track." However, it wasn't until that moment in my office with the students that I had that "A-ha" moment of clarity. As logical as I tried to be, it was my heart that knew best. What I learned is that when faced with a decision that looks illogical on paper, close your eyes and listen to your heart.

I hope that this year, you have had this kind of gift as well. I have always believed that life is about the "moments," those little moments that make you smile, that you can go back to and say 'That was the moment I knew. . ." Tonight, I will follow the tradition of standing outside, closing my eyes and asking God to guide me in this next year, to help me make it memorable in a good way. I wish that for you as well. 

Thank you for going on this Happy adventure with me this year. You mean the world to me. Every email, every comment makes me realize that we are all on this adventure together. There is so much to learn from each other, in this great big beautiful universe of ours. I am so lucky to be on this journey with you. I wish you so much happiness in 2014, happiness + unimaginable joy. 

All my love. 

-HG