Au revoir, 2011

New Petit Bateau rain hat

I spent the last day of the year wandering around Paris, looking (according to my brother John’s Facebook comment) like Paddington Bear in my silly new Petit Bateau rain hat. I’m scheduling this post to publish before midnight local time, as I get ready for a mysterious New Year’s Eve in my favorite European city, at the tail end of a surprise-filled, amazing trip. It’s not such a bad place to be.

So much happened in 2011 that, at times, I was overwhelmed – and not in a pleasant way. Who knew that good things happening can be so scary? Well, if I didn’t know it before, this year reminded me over and freaking over again.

Falling in love, being asked to join an amazing company, traveling to four new bucket list countries (South Africa, Russia, Senegal, and my favorite – Israel), being swarmed by beautiful children on a return trip to Sierra Leone; all these things, and more, knocked me for six.

“Expect good things, and wait,” I am often told. I mused on these words a lot in October, after I narrowly avoided death and ended up in intensive care with four blood clots in my lungs and part of my lung died. (That’s not me being dramatic; it’s medical consensus. As the admitting ER doctor told me, “We usually don’t find these things till we’re doing the autopsy.”)

I expected nothing good from this experience, which was frustrating and frequently humiliating. (Ever been on enforced bed rest? I hope you never are, especially if you get nauseous and the nurses don’t reach you in time to avert disaster.) But the truth is it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I grew closer to my best friend than I ever thought possible, was finally able to let people take care of me, and was on the receiving end of more kindness and generosity than I knew was there.

Afterward, someone in my life pondered how the situation had changed me and said, “Well, I think you finally realize how much I love you. But I don’t know why you didn’t see it before.”

So in 2012, I’m going to try to be more present and notice what’s in front of me. I shouldn’t need a near-death experience to appreciate this huge, weird, wonderful life. Sadness, heartbreak and emptiness are part of the human experience, and I want to be open to feeling those things too.

Living is feeling and feeling isn’t always fun. But it beats the alternative. In 2012, I choose life – and I hope life continues to choose me.

Me and @djbarker, Place des Vosges, Paris

The last time I was in Paris, my beloved friend Daniel (with whom I’ve been friends since I was a teenager) came over from London to see me. It’s not so long ago, but life is vastly different now. I waited and expected good things. But to borrow from Corinthians: My eyes had not seen and my ears had not heard all the good things that were being prepared for me. I would never have guessed how puny my dreams were compared to the reality that was on its way. I’ll see Dan in London in a couple of days, and he’ll remind me of this when I’m kvetching about something trivial.

Thank you to everyone who made 2011 such an unforgettable year. Even if I don’t particularly care for you (in which case you probably don’t particularly care for me), I pray that you get everything your heart desires in 2012 – even, and especially, love.

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One thought on “Au revoir, 2011

  1. Hey Jackie, I’m delighted to hear that 2011 worked out for you. I know it was touch-and-go for a while.

    I want to thank you because you singlehandedly saved me from disaster in 2011. We only met in person late in 2010. I began the year with a layoff that finally came after a “superior” spent the better part of a year stripping me of my self-worth. Without me ever asking, you helped me get back to work, and rediscover my talents.

    2011 was a great year for me. Thank you for helping me out. I will never forget it.

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