Year of Yes Revisited

Beach where DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley danced

2019 was the “Year of Yes“.

Or at least that’s what I wanted it to be. 2018 had been the year of cancer and death and survival. It was terrible, and all I wanted to do was fast-forward through the year. When 2019 arrived, I thought, “okay, it’s time to actually live this life I’ve been given.” And the way I was going to do that was to try everything.

Could I run further than the three miles I usually ran? Maybe just an extra mile, or maybe three or four more?

I could.

Could I let go a little, take a risk and try out a new man? And after kissing him, could I look him in the eyes? Could I let him have a tiny piece of my shredded heart?

I could.

Could I write more than this blog? Could I maybe even experiment with sending a book proposal to an agent?

I could.

It became a bit of an obsession, this whole “trying-new-things” endeavor. Whenever I felt scared, I thought about how the whole point of 2019 was to say “yes” more than I wanted to. So I did.

Sometimes, things went well. I got in much better shape and my summer travel with my kids reminded me that I’m still a very capable parent. My government classes were more dynamic and I finally had some fun with my friends on the weekend.

But there was a ton of failure in there too. The book proposal I sent to an agent was rejected, and the New York Times seemed to have a department of editors whose sole job was to respond “no” to me. I got my heart broken so badly that I thought I’d never recover. More than a handful of times, I’d be at an event that became overwhelming for me and I had to leave. I even got shin splints.

Trying new things has its limits, apparently.

So how was the “Year of Yes”? Was it a success or a failure?

I’m not sure. I’m glad I did it. I was so scared of everything a year ago. Moreover, I just felt So. Damn. Old. A year ago, I wasn’t even 40 yet, but I was already doing (and feeling) lots of things that people usually experience in their 70s and 80s. I was trying to re-claim the title of “widow” to show that it could also be for someone young, but really, many parts of my life just made me feel old and exhausted.

The “Year of Yes” helped me to re-set, in a way. I learned that I could do things – a lot of things – outside my comfort zone. I learned that I might still desperately miss Shawn when I was doing new things, but I learned how to sit with that in a way that didn’t make me vomit. I learned how to reconnect with a part of myself that I thought I had lost.

And for the first time in a long time, I felt young. Not always, mind you. But I had moments in 2019 when I realized that I’m not yet ready to shrivel up and die. I had moments when I felt like I might not be all the way done with my youth.

Over the New Year’s holiday, I was back at the beach with my friends Kelly and Paige. I spent a lot of time chatting with them, but like last year, I also relaxed by myself on the sand sometimes, just listening to music and staring at the sea. It was great.

There was one morning when we all went to yoga before I headed to the beach. For some reason, the pace of the class let my mind wander, and I thought back to January 2018. Fat tears fell on my mat for much of the class, though I don’t think anyone really noticed. I was exhausted by the end – emotionally and physically spent – and it seemed like even in paradise, I was still finding myself back at square one.

But the beach called, and later on, I was back listening to my vacation mix music next to the waves. As I sat there reflecting on the week, my song from last year came on: “Feels Great” by Cheat Code. It was the song that started 2019 for me.

Do you remember how it feels to be young?

Do you remember we could be anyone?

Do you remember how it feels to be young?

It feels great mothafucka, yeah.

I laughed a bit to myself, remembering last year when I danced in the waves to this song like a crazy person. I was at the very start of my “trying new things” year, and so back then it felt a bit scary to put myself out there, to laugh and to cry and to dance all by myself.

This time, when the music came on, I went to the edge of the water and kicked around the shore, dancing and skipping and feeling a lightness that I don’t always feel.

It was just like last year, except I didn’t feel crazy. I felt good. I cried a lot on this trip, but I also laughed a lot. I tried new things and I also spent time doing the same things I always do with my friends: laughing and talking and enjoying long morning coffees. So when I found myself dancing, I realized this: I’m not a crazy old lady, dancing on the beach. I’m just me – a widow, yes, but also someone who isn’t ready to relinquish the life I have left.

Moreover, I know one thing now: I can remember what it feels to be young.

And that, more than anything, makes the “Year of Yes” a successful one.

13 Replies to “Year of Yes Revisited”

  1. THANKS FOR PUTTING YOURSELF OUT THERE WITH YOUR BLOG. ITS BEEN HELPFUL TO READ OVER YOUR REFLECTIONS. I M GOING THRU SOMETHING SIMILAR, ABOUT 1 YEAR BEHIND YOU, I , LOST MY WIFE OF 30 YEARS TO CANCER BACK IN SEPTEMBER 2019.I M HOPING TO MEET SOMEONE LIKE YOU ONE DAY, SOMEONE THAT INTIMATELY UNDERSTANDS THE EXPERIENCE, TO TRUELY AND FULLY HEAL A COUPLE BROKEN HEARTS. GOD BLESS, M

  2. I love this! I am in the beginning of year 2 and I am just now starting to see things a little clearer. Although, I’ve had so many days recently where I feel defeated, I’m starting to hope again. I guess that’s a start. Thank you for sharing your journey!!❤

    1. Hope is a definite start! Good luck. It’s never perfect, and I know I’ll get down again about my life but…it’s certainly a good place to start.

  3. I started year 2 just a few months ago and I am not crying as much. When I do, it is still unexpected though. But, I feel content or even happy most days and I’m starting to make plans for myself and my future. It feels good to dream again, even if at times, I feel guilty for doing so.

    1. Yes – dream a bit, please! I, too, struggled with a lot of guilt in 2019. But it’s so great to see something other than dread ahead!

  4. Matthew Herrick says: Reply

    I can honestly say 2019 was an amazing year, as yours was. And that would not have happened without loss. It is very life affirming to be left standing after a partner has gone to rest. Grateful for all of it, blessed for all of it. Infinite chances to grow and give. Happy 2020 to all.

    1. What a beautiful statement: “infinite chances to grow and give” – I LOVE THAT.

  5. It seems to me that even your “ton of failure” was a sort of success simply because you were willing and able to take the risks persevere and because you have been such an inspiring exemplar for so many.

    1. Oh, thank you for such a sweet comment. And yes, as I tell my students and my children – I want some failure! It means you tried!

  6. I’m just starting out this journey of being a widow. My husband died in November 2019. I just turned 41. Last night I pretended to hear him say “I love you”, and cuddle up to me so I could fall asleep. I’ve been worried about feeling youthful in my middle age. I’m not ready to let go of that. Even though time hasn’t passed since he’s been gone, I’ve tried to keep telling myself I’m still young. Don’t get trapped in my mind. This post was helpful in reminding myself to keep thinking about what good things are yet to come, not just the lost future with my husband. Thank you.
    Sara

    1. I’ll say it too: YOU ARE STILL YOUNG. It’s so hard to feel that way, especially in the beginning, but as you navigate this year, just keep saying it. Eventually, you’ll feel it too, I promise.

  7. I’ve been struggling with seeing a way forward, and the pressure of being 35 and expected to start a whole new life with a whole new husband, if not in the next few years, certainly before I’m 40. I have to get a career launched, and I’m 100% decided to wait on looking for a man until that has been accomplished. I wonder what little things I can start saying “yes” to that will allow me to feel like I’m moving forward.

    1. Actually, that was my whole point of the “year of yes” – I wanted a way to move forward, and it felt like saying “yes” to everything could help. It did, I think.

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