Small wins are the currency of 2016. The days my mailbox is empty of medical bills. The gluten-free pumpkin bar on the menu at the restaurant. The fading yellow of a lingering IV bruise. A perfect logic game. I find myself reflecting on 2016 and 23 as if the year is winding down, as if it’s time to neatly package my existence into a few profound lessons or moments, the kind I might look on in a year or when I’m 30 and say, “Well, that’s nice.”
This year is a lot messier, though, as itty-bitty moments of significance clutter my mind, surfacing unexpectedly. I often come back to the moment the doctor walked into my hospital room with two units of O+ blood, particularly as I prepare for my follow-up with the hematologist next week. In that moment, I faced the fragility of my fierce independence, trading it for the reality of a body that I felt had betrayed me. “I’m trying to get into law school, why do I have to worry about this shit?” I thought.
But since then, I’ve been more in tune with the physiology of giving and taking. I’m taking the summer off several regular volunteer obligations. Giving is more effective, more meaningful, I’ve learned, when I have the physical energy to do it, when I give myself time to heal.
It feels more real, too, as I work through the physical and emotional toll of illness and recovery, high scores and sudden drops. Like many things, I think I expected reflection and self-revelation to follow some orderly timeline, the kind that reveals itself around birthdays, New Year’s and expected 20-something life events.
Weird, little nuggets of wisdom have defined my year so far. For instance, there is no nightmare like that in which your mother catches you eating contraband Pillsbury cinnamon rolls on a Saturday morning (gluten guilt dreams are real, you guys). Thank your nurses. Quit feeling guilty about every damn thing already, and stop apologizing for how you feel.
There are six more months of 2016, and I’ve finally quit lamenting this year and the glacial pace at which it has sometimes passed. Instead, I await six more months of small wins, inevitable gluten-free baking screw-ups and the most important test I’ve faced to date.
I feel at peace in my little 2016 jumble of memories, moments and lessons. They’re not organized, alphabetized or color-coded; they simply exist, and I think I’ll let them be.