When a gal steps onto the cold, steely platform known as a bathroom scale, the last thing she should hear in her head is the voice of Dr. Dre.
Well, I’m peepin’ and I’m creepin’ and I’m creepin‘…
But that’s what happens every time I lug my body onto that tiny square and watch the scale creep, the way it’s been doing since the beginning of the 21st century, when I gave birth to Baby Number One.
As with all things I’d like to change, I sigh, roll my eyes and vow to “start on Monday.”
How many times have you failed at sticking to a diet?
How many times have you vowed that Sunday would be the last day you gorged on fast food and ice cream, donuts and movie theater candy?
How many times have you made it to Wednesday, only to fall off the wagon again?
This is the year for wagon falling, amiright?
I mean, if ever we were going to latch onto something for comfort and escape, 2021 would be the time. The big 2-0 sent us reeling.
I don’t even have to use the word most to quantify that statement, because if you were alive in 2020, then one way or another, you were reeling.
Maybe a job was lost. Maybe a loved one died, or you caught THE illness that shall not be named on this website.
Maybe schools closed and you not only had to teach your own children, but the children in your classroom, as well.
For me? It was all of the above.
The year started innocently enough. Sure, I was aware that I would turn 40 in August. That wouldn’t be fun.
I dreaded turning 40, to be quite honest, because I was continuously replaying all the coulda, shoulda, wouldas in my head like a scratched record that wouldn’t catch the next beat.
My first baby of four, Baby Haehae, we’ve always called him, would be graduating.
My second baby, my daughter Ry, would be skipping into senior year after the summer, and it seemed like only yesterday I’d dropped her off at pre-k. She, too, would soon leave the nest.
My other kiddos, another son and daughter, Bear and Nims, would be heading to middle school. I knew from experience just how fast those years would fly.
But it was January and I wouldn’t think of those things until I had to. They were part of life. The great circle. The way it was meant to be.
2020 Was the Year from Hell
Then, in March, while vacationing at the beach, we were suddenly asked to leave.
An illness, the hotel said, was spreading quickly in the United States, one we’d heard about only peripherally in the months before.
We came home to my principal telling us to hang out for a week. It might soon blow over and we’d be back at school. But one week turned into two, then three, then four.
A month into the pan, my husband, Clayford, lost his job. He didn’t just lose it, but lost it without a paycheck or severance, thanks to the cutting of the WARN ACT in California, where his company was located.
My son’s senior year? Ruined.
Our plans for renovating our house? Over.
My school year? Online teaching was a disaster from hell.
Our first dog died. A loyal collie named Mollie. Our beloved family pet of 15 years.
After the dreaded turn of 40 that followed Mollie’s passing, I hoped life might return to normal.
Along the way there had been some bright spots.
Our family had grown closer. We’d spent hours watching movies, going on walks, playing games.
We were not just coping, but happy.
The Earth seemed happier, too.
The trees whispered, “thank you.” Their lime leaves, with the bright bursts of white and pink flowers attached, sent sweet fragrances dancing to and fro as I walked on windy days.
The sky appeared as blue as it had ever been.
It was as if our temporary home had needed the break just as much as we did.
Clayford eventually got a new job, an even better one than before.
We were able to venture into public places again by summer.
We’d made it through a rough eight months but we were all still here, and we were thankful. We hadn’t lost our home, cars or each other. Many people couldn’t say the same.
We realized the irony of life, that some have showers while others see the sun. We were grateful that for this season, we’d gotten the latter more than the former.
We started school that fall, excited we could attend. There would be staunch mask rules and constant temp checks, but we’d manage and some normalcy could return.
How wonderful it was to spend Thanksgiving with extended family! We were careful.
Around the table we said we really felt like 2021 would be the turning point, a light at the end of a long tunnel.
We enjoyed Christmas in Disney World.
I lamented that it would probably be the last we’d spend as a family of six. I knew that once Baby Haehae started college he wouldn’t be dying to make these trips.
We had a good time, even if the atmosphere was off. It wasn’t quite the Happiest Place on Earth.
I wrote in my journal while we were there that I didn’t feel we were out of the woods.
“I don’t know why I feel as if I left a burner on or the fireplace going,” I wrote, “but I know something isn’t right. Something is yet to come.”
Strength was the word that kept popping into my thoughts.
And over and over again, every time I’d open my Bible, listen to a sermon, read a book or clean to a podcast, that word would appear.
Our family tiptoed carefully into the new year. We weren’t who we used to be. Another piece of innocence had chipped away from our once strong shoulders.
Our caution was smart. No sooner had January come than all hell broke loose.
Why 2021 Was Harder than 2020
A family friend passed away, a man every person loved to be around. He was larger than life, and his passing shocked his community.
Not a week later, a former classmate, a woman my age, with two small kids and no known issues, was next.
Later, our school staff and students began dropping like flies.
The illness had hit our doorstep.
On a Tuesday in late January I got a headache. Next came a cough.
By Saturday I had high fever, and on Sunday, the diagnosis came.
The afternoon of my diagnosis, our family received the news that my beloved nephew died by suicide, leaving behind two little ones.
I’m not at all ashamed to admit that the light of hope I’d carried into the new year was greatly diminished, maybe even completely snuffed.
If it hadn’t been for that word, strength, that had continuously stood tall in the back of my brain, I might have crumbled.
I did hit some bumps along the way.
Whereas I’d prided myself through 2020 on how well I’d been able to handle my drinking, a thorn in the flesh that had dogged me throughout the years, by 2021 my problems with having “just one glass” had blown through the roof.
Since ninth grade, I’d abused my body in times of crippling anxiety with substances like food and alcohol, trying to fill holes that could not be filled by me.
After a particularly rough night, I let my anxiety get the better of me. I awoke the next morning, laid in my bed and cried.
Getting Healthy at 40
It was then that the idea of celebrating my strong months suddenly popped into my head. It was almost like an afterthought, an “I should have been thinking this way all along” type of thing.
Why didn’t I have a marker to cherish each month I’d been good to myself? A way to remember where I’d come from and where I was going?
I’d long believed that life was not about the destination.
Life was the journey that made us who we were. It was the places we traveled, the people we met, the parts of our hearts we opened.
What if there was a visible way to celebrate that?
Month to Milestones
I love writing. Years ago, I enjoyed keeping up a successful blog. I’ve written for newspapers, magazines. I even pen novels for fun.
Creating anything of value is special.
Words and art are snippets of our hidden souls that we share with an outside world.
And so, it was in my bed on a morning that I should have been wallowing in utter self-condemnation, that instead I set out to make my dreams a reality.
Month to Milestones is the culmination of that dream.
Join me as I travel this road of health and happiness, celebrating my milestones, as well as yours.
Though I’ve only just begun– and maybe you have, too– I already know, it won’t be the destination that makes our feet stay the path.
It’s the strength we’ll discover in ourselves along the way.
I hope you’ll join me, too.