It was early in the morning, and my goal was to find the bow of the ship and have a Leonardo DiCaprio/Kate Winslet moment. I wanted to stand at the railing while the sun was rising, feel the ocean breezes, and take in the endless sea.
I wanted to feel like I was flying.
Except, it didn’t happen that way.
If you’ve ever been on a cruise ship, then you know how easy it is to get turned around, especially if you’re walking down an interior corridor without a visual reference from a window. That morning I left our cabin, walked up several flights of stairs, turned a corner here and went around there. I walked a long time until I climbed some iron stairs to a heavy metal door, opened it, and stepped outside to the bow of the ship.
Except it wasn’t the bow. It was the stern, so instead of watching the ship cut into the waves, I was watching the wake it created as it sailed to Cozumel.
And just like that I felt a little defeated. The very next day we would be celebrating New Year’s Eve, and the fact I was standing at the back of a ship instead of the front struck me as more than a little ironic considering the past year. It hadn’t been a good one for me.
Last January, with high hopes and a milestone birthday to look forward to, I embraced 2017 with enthusiasm, hope, and excitement. I felt great mentally, physically, and spiritually. I had plans, goals, dreams … but none of them materialized. Not one.
In March, after three months of gathering birth certificates, filling out applications, and setting a date with the Italian Consulate in Miami, I had to abandon my dream of legally claiming my Italian heritage and applying for dual citizenship. In the end, due to the political situation and my husband’s security clearance, I had to let it go.
Then, one month later I was diagnosed with PVCs (premature ventricular contractions). While considered benign, I was having so many that they put me on medication, and just like that I went from taking a daily aspirin to now taking a pill twice a day and having to give up any and all caffeine. I was now someone who had a cardiologist. Suddenly, turning fifty didn’t feel empowering, but scary – a sign of bad things to come.
There were two trips to Little Rock, Arkansas to help our son get settled in his life there, trips which were successful in that we got everything done, but also fraught with tension, frazzled nerves, hurt feelings, and tears. Some of these issues still linger and I don't know how to make them go away.
There were discussions on where to send Timothy for high school, discussions in which I felt one way and my husband and son felt another and so it continued for several months until, in the end, I realized I was the one creating strife by refusing to not see another way. So I relented, and while I was grateful for the peace of coming together, I also felt a little defeated and more than a little tired.
It was a year of self doubt, and I questioned whether I was a good enough mother or if I had done enough to give our sons what they needed in this world. Then, returned articles, rejected essays, and a publishing dream in constant limbo made me wonder whether I should close down this blog or if I needed to stop writing altogether.
There were spiritual hardships, too. At church, in the Adoration Chapel, or at my kitchen table I prayed asking for clarity and direction, only to be given answers which I thought were promising but, in reality, resulted in more confusion and doubt. Truly, if I had to describe my spiritual journey during 2017 it would be like this: muddled, foggy, obscure, alone.
To be sure, there were moments of grace -- an unexpected trip to Colorado, a spring break in Washington DC, nighttime walks with Timothy, Friday lunches with Joe, day trips with friends, shopping with Jonathan, an afternoon in an art gallery with my guys -- and I held on to those, recognizing them as gifts they were meant to be.
So that morning on the ship, as I stood at the stern instead of the bow, as I looked backward instead of forward, I thought about the past year and Let It Go. I gathered broken bits and pieces of my heart and my soul, wrapped them with strings of hopes and dreams, and tossed the entire package into the sea. I then turned around and went down the iron steps. I turned a corner here and went around there; I went up several flights of stairs. I walked a long time until I came to a heavy metal door which I pushed opened … and this time stepped out onto the bow of the ship.
I stood at the railing. I watched the sun rise, felt the ocean breezes, and took in the endless sea.