The excitement {and relief} of the New Year

Or: “How Mason Ball jars, Superman poop and the wisdom of a brain-injured husband helped me see the new year in a whole new way.”

Photo courtesy of:  christmasstockimages.com

Photo courtesy of: christmasstockimages.com

Perhaps it was the psychological benefit of knowing 2012 was behind us, but I slept last night for the first time in a very long time.

I am honestly and truly looking forward to 2013…it’s a reset button for a renewed spirit, much like a good night of sleep can do for a weary soul.

On New Year’s Eve, Dan and I stayed up past his bedtime to ring in the new year together. There was no party to attend, champagne to drink, or fireworks to send off into the night sky. It was just the two of us, comfortable in our own skin, reminiscing about the year as a whole. As we lay on the living room couch with the sounds of the celebrations of the world around us in the background on the TV, I broke into conversation. I really needed to know the answer to this burning question…

“Dan, are you glad 2012 is over?”

“I suppose. 2012 wasn’t that bad. We have our home, our family and each other. What more could you ask for?”

I sat there and thought about his words. They took me by surprise, but then again, I was not surprised at all. Dan has a knack for seeing things to its absolute core.

I had a flood of both good and bad memories in my mind as I reflected on the year. We had many triumphs, yet many obstacles placed in our way. For every obstacle or uncomfortable memory, I had a good one to offset it and create balance. What I didn’t have was the ability to just see the good and narrow it down to one complete and happy sentence like my husband had done. Was it the lack of short-term memory from his brain injury that allowed him to be so concise and so hopeful? Had he forgotten the bad, or was it something inside him that could only remember the good?

Either way, I wanted that attitude of gratitude; one that could only see the good and release the bad in a flash.

Don’t get me wrong. I think I have an exceptional ability to focus on the positive and to buckle down through the negative and drive on. I just wish the negative didn’t remain as much of a memory as it does. Yes, it gives me perspective to savor the good when it happens, but it’s like an apparition that you can only see through the corner of your eye. It’s there. You get a flash of it. Then it disappears until the next unexpected moment, startling you each time it makes itself known. You can’t control it. It comes and goes as it pleases, haunting you and shaking you out of our own perception of reality.

How Mason Ball jars woke me up to my reality

In 2012, I set my mind to learn how to can food for long-term storage. I couldn’t afford to go out and invest in a full-on canning setup, so I scoured FreeCycle to find canning supplies. I dragged Dan into town, much to his dismay, to meet a kind gentleman who had a case of used canning jars. I tried to ignore the fact that he worked at the county dump and likely recovered them from a heap of trash. I took them home and sanitized them. I bought a Blue Ball book on the basics of canning. I put the supplies in my tiny kitchen, at which point Dan said, “So, my guess is these will never be used. They are just going to take up space.”

Offended to a degree, I knew he was right. I knew deep down inside that this was a project I’d never get around to doing. My life is too complicated to just stop and do something new. My days are filled with other critical tasks, and getting through each day is a monumental task when the going gets really tough. There was no room for trivial dreams and aspirations. I had created a ’round-to-it” in my life. What I needed was to turn it into a “square-d’way”.

Recipe found at: http://lostindrawers.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/rainbow-cake-in-a-jar/

Recipe found at: http://lostindrawers.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/rainbow-cake-in-a-jar/

Trying to save face, I decided to get creative with my jars to show they had other uses. I used them to drink my sweet tea. I even made a batch of rainbow cakes in a jar, finding they were perfect for baking at high altitudes. We pooped rainbows for a week after eating them.

It brought back a funny memory from our early days of our marriage. Our oldest son, now 21, was about 5 years old at the time. There was a neat little ice cream shop down the road from us who sold multi-colored “Superman” flavored ice cream. He loved that stuff, but we discovered it created multi-colored results long after it was eaten. I’ll never forget the day that he came running out of the bathroom, pants still around his ankles screaming “MOM! I have SUPERMAN poop!” Sure enough, he had a swirl of red, blue, yellow and green to be proud of.

Oh, how memories come when we least expect them, and how they can linger!

Drake, our youngest son, now asks me on a regular basis “Mom, why do you drink out of the jars instead of using a glass?”

My reply was always the same: “Son, it saves me from having to buy new glasses. These are utilitarian. They have value for this purpose!”

What I really needed to say was this: “Son, they are a reminder that my life is full of hopes, dreams and good intentions. If I didn’t find a use for them, I would wither away with guilt for not seeing those plans through.”

At least the rainbow cakes I made in those jars triggered a funny and memorable moment from days gone by. It’s funny how life and memories work. Even the best memories tend to have an element of poop mixed in.

Turning my round-to-its into square-d’ways

I found a new use for at least one of those jars, inspired by a photo I found on Facebook around Thanksgiving. It was a jar much like this one that I made, which was a triumph in itself:

Put all your memories into a gratitude jar for 2013

Put all your memories into a gratitude jar for 2013

Crafting something out of nothing has been a wish of mine for a long time. I have bins of crafting supplies and no real talent in which to use them, let alone time. I dug out the bin to find some card stock, ribbon, tape and a colorful pen. Then I grabbed one of my dusty jars.

On the card I wrote:

Starting January 1st, write good things that happen to you on little pieces of paper:

  • Surprise gifts
  • Accomplished goals
  • Tranquil moments
  • The beauty of nature
  • “LOL” moments
  • Memories worth saving

Then, on December 31st, open the jar and read all the amazing things that happened to you in 2013!

<3 Torrey

I placed the jar with a stack of little squares of paper next to it in the center of our dining room table. Each night I hope to have everyone in the family focus on something good that happened in their day. As the jar fills, I’ll empty it into a Ziplock bag and save them as I go. By 2014, with a family of 4, I should have more than a thousand notes of gratitude to read through.

It’s not that I don’t have the ability to make good use of the jars. It’s not that I don’t have the ability to craft something out of nothing. It’s not that I don’t have the capacity to focus only on the good in life.

It’s a matter of giving myself permission to do all of the above, and do it every day if I want to. Today was the first day to make that happen, regardless of what anyone else needs.

It wasn’t so long ago that I wanted to use these jars, after all.

In one day and in one sitting, I realized I made a round to-it into a multitude of square d’ways.

Booyah!

What are your ‘not-so-long agos’?

Listening to Dan’s response to my burning question last night, I got to thinking about his clear and concise statement of truth. After spending the last 8-or-so years living in a chasm, I can honestly say I love my life. I love my husband, my family and my home.

And I think what I really love the most — which is a more recent event than anything over the past seven-to-eight-odd years — is that I love myself. On top of it, I like myself. And I really REALLY like the people in my life. I even like the ones who are no longer in my life — by their choice or by mine. They did me a favor in the end, and for that I am grateful. I adore the people who are left behind to surround me and support me every day so I can do what it is that I love.

Like y’all.

It wasn’t so long ago that my blog didn’t exist. Crazy for me to think of, really — my life without the one piece that’s allowed me to see so many dreams come true, or to share the human side of me: the imperfect parts of me, the impetuous side of me or the dreamer who rises to the surface of life to inhale the deep gulps of air that keep me buoyant, who will eventually get to where she needs to be.

Photo borrowed from the ‘pocket full of sunshine’ Facebook Page

So this week, as you do whatever it is that you’re going to do to welcome in the New Year, maybe you’ll think about things that weren’t so long ago. Then maybe you’ll put them together with the things that are for you today — those shiny, precious, smile-inducing nuggets of life. Just take those nuggets and fill up the pockets of your winter coat with them, no matter how threadbare it is, then say to hell with the gloves, shove your hands in deep, twiddle your fingers among all the choices of those nuggets, and go wandering around town with an ear-to-ear grin on your face as you think of the not-so-long-agos and how they can be carried with you today.

They’re never out of reach, those not-so-long-agos. And they’re probably the things that got you to the things you love so much right now — both in your present and your future.

What were you doing not so long ago? Whatever it was, you don’t have to leave it behind. It’s right there waiting. And what I’ve found through this past year, condensed into a moment of reflection of today, is that it’s all right there asking to be appreciated …recognized …appreciated some more …then acknowledged.

And most importantly, remembered.

About The Author

Torrey Shannon

My name is Torrey Shannon and I am a writer, author, blogger, movie consultant, speaker, veteran's advocate and Blue Star Mom. I am also a full-time caregiver and spouse of a wounded warrior. My husband survived a gunshot wound to the head in a gunfight in Iraq in 2004 after serving in the Army for more than 23 years. We spent three years of his recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He has severe PTSD and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Dealing with the invisible wounds of war first-hand allows me to bring a human element to the problems our military communities face. Blogging gives me the chance to do what I love the most: write about life after combat and help create awareness and solutions for military members and their families. When I am not writing here, I freelance for a variety of publications and media outlets and am currently writing a book.