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My “Dear John” letter to 2015

January 1, 2016

Ah, New Year’s Eve.  It’s a powerful time, isn’t it?  We’re supposed to celebrate the year that was, and make resolutions to make our lives even better in the year to come.  We say goodbye to the year in style – we party, and drink, and get all dressed up, blah blah blah.  Well, to be perfectly honest, I have absolutely no desire to celebrate this particular year.  Let’s recap 2015, shall we?

In no particular order:

In 2015 I left a job that I thought was going to be my dream.

In 2015 I lost the war that I have been waging on my body for the past 20 years, and gained so much weight that I don’t recognize myself in pictures.

In 2015 I lost my self-identity as a Cantor, and leader in the Jewish Community.

In 2015 I was single for the longest stretch of time since…well…since I was last this fat (I’m not equating single with fat… It’s just a statement on my comfort with dating!)

In 2015 I burned out both physically and emotionally.  I didn’t really get what burnout was until 2015. I get it now.

In 2015 I lost a lot of money paying for an overseas move that I didn’t anticipate having to make.

In 2015 I had to make some significant life changes, which included a loss of the independence and autonomy that means so much to me.

In 2015 I had to say goodbye to some really wonderful friends.

In 2015 I found myself taking work that is eerily similar to work that I was doing over 10 years ago.  You know…before my master’s degree and ordination.  Some may call this “humbling.”  I would add “embarrassing.”

In 2015 I failed.  A lot.  And hard.

Yes – some good, even great things happened too, but no… I don’t really feel like giving 2015 the fancy, glamorous, send-off that society seems to think I should want to offer.  Instead, I’m going to stay home, do my laundry, and then go out tomorrow.  Tomorrow I will celebrate all of the good that I hope will come in 2016, but tonight…tonight I will write my final break-up letter to this most challenging year.

Dear 2015:

We’re through.  I can’t even begin to tell you how glad I am that our relationship is finally over.  I know that, like all relationships, part of you will stay with me forever –  you have definitely left your indelible mark upon my soul, but for all intents and purposes, we’re done.  I can’t say that you were the best I’ve ever had…far from it really…but I can say that you taught me a lot, and for that I am grateful.

You probably don’t think that you left me with any gifts at all, considering how much you wrung out of me, but that just shows how little you really know me anyway. Every relationship – even relationships with a year like you, can teach us things.  I’m sure that you’d prefer that I just hang my head and walk away, but that’s simply not me.  You may have beaten me down, but you sure as hell haven’t defeated me.  Here are some of the lessons that this relationship has taught me:

Priorities mean everything – and not just what I say my priorities are – how I behave as well.  If I put work first, then I will never be able to be my best when at work.  Work should never be priority number 1.  Ever.  Work matters, yes, but not as much as people, love, joy, and health.  When those things fall by the wayside, work suffers, too…and then there’s just nothing left.  2015, you taught me that people who put their jobs on a pedestal and do their work so that they can be  “bigger, better, best” are, with very few exceptions, miserable people.  Work should be passion and joy, yes.   I should want to do well at my job and do great things, but not… NOT at the expense of the rest of my life.  Never again, 2015.  Never again will I allow that for myself.  Thank you for helping  me to come to that conclusion.

My body is not an object to be manipulated and controlled.  I know that I’ve written and spoken about this many times before, but you, 2015, you showed me once and for all that years of abusing my body, even under the guise of being “healthy” and “clean” and “taking care of myself” is only going to backfire.  Denying myself nutrients, obsessing about exercise, and analyzing every morsel may work to keep my weight down in the short term, but my body will find a way to rebel.  Big time.  My body will shut down,  it will stop working the way that I want it to, I’ll get injuries, and adrenal fatigue, and hormonal imbalances, and then the new weight that comes on will be nearly impossible to lose through the methods upon which I have previously relied.  Funny thing, that.  2015, you taught me that anything that isn’t respectful to my body will just end up pissing it off…and a pissed off body isn’t likely to do what I want it to do.  Thank you for finally convincing me to honour my body and take real care of it.   Thank you for reminding me that no matter what any “health guru,” or “weight loss expert,” or fitness model says to do, if it comes from a place of denial, fear, and manipulation, it’s just not ok.  It’s not easy.  It still makes me cry, and yet I am grateful that I can finally start to learn how to live fully and gently bring myself back to health.

Bullies are real, and not just on the playground.  Bullies show up in every facet of life, and, for the most part, are insecure frightened children in grown-up bodies.  Most often, they don’t even know that they are bullies, but that doesn’t excuse their behaviour.  I thought that I already knew a thing or two about bullies, but wow 2015, I didn’t know the half of it.  Even though things didn’t quite work out in my favour this time, I learned this year that I am strong enough to stand up for myself, and for others.  I learned how to identify the characteristics of a bully much more quickly, and I promise 2015, in my relationships with each new year that comes, I will get better and better at staying away from those people from the start.  They can be very charming, those narcissists… It’s part of their M.O. But it’s never worth it to get sucked into their world.  People are just pawns to them, simply tools to help further their agenda, and they will turn on anyone who no longer serves them.   Thank you 2015, for helping me to gain a deeper understanding of this personality, and for showing me that, no matter the outcome, I will never regret standing up to these people.  It’s always worth it.

Dorothy was right – there really is no place like home.  More than that though 2015, I have learned that home isn’t just a place; it’s the place where my people are. I’ve lived in some cool cities and had some amazing experiences with awesome people, and yet I’ve been happier in the past few months being with my “tribe” than I have been in a very, very long time.   Sure, I don’t know where my career is going, and my living situation is less-than-perfect,  but I can’t imagine how I could have recovered from the relationship that you and I had without being here.  My family is here.  My friends are here…and the ones that aren’t, the true friends, remain close enough to me that it’s as if they are here.  I am  comfortable, and grounded, and while I feel beaten down by you, I also feel more myself than I have in years.  I’ve even made more new friends and connections is the short time that I’ve been back than I did in most of my time away. I have learned that the most important peopl in my life don’t judge me for the difficult times that I’ve had… I’m the only one who is doing that.  I’ve learned that being happy is more important than being “successful” – and who really gets to determine what “success” looks like anyway?   I think that I’m starting to understand that happiness IS success…or at least a very important first step.

So, 2015, I’m pretty happy to let you go.  Actually, 2015, I think that I’m pretty happy in general…or at least am on my way there.  Hunh.  I guess I have you to thank for that as well.  I see what you did there, 2015…maybe you’re not the bad-guy here at all…maybe that thing I always say to everyone else is actually true for me, too… Maybe I am exactly where I need to be, at exactly the right time.  Maybe you were the exact relationship that I needed in order to get where I am, and where I’m going.  Thanks 2015. While I hope that 2016 is a little bit gentler than you were, I’m grateful for the lessons that you taught me, and I know now that I’m better for them.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Wishing you all light, love, and gentle lessons in the New Year.


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  1. kathyjimenez permalink

    Our 2015 was eerily similar…even down to having to cut ties to our particular faith community and find a home in a new one. This was no small thing…I had to leave people that I had grown up together with, worked together with…for nearly 29 years. But, like you, I would not give up any of the lessons that I’ve learned by walking through that fire. It was the year of growth, but would not have come without the pain. I pray for a “lighter” 2016 for you, and for me.

    Let me tell you, I had never been more happy to leave a year behind in my entire life.

    All the very best Cheryl,

    • Thank you Kathy. I really appreciate your words. I’m so sorry that you’ve had to endure such difficult times as well… I wish you so much happiness and peace in the days and years to come! (And I love seeing the pictures that you post of your gorgeous family!!)

  2. I think your official motto should be, “when life gives you lemons, get a PhD in the cooking and cultivation of lemons.” It was a sucky year, but hey, you made use of it anyway. Happy 2016!

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