My dog died the week before Christmas this year.
Shaggy – a collie/labrador retriever mix – had been our family pet for the past 12 years. Laura and I brought him home before we even had any children. Over the years, he grew from a rambunctious puppy (who once tore all the insulation out from beneath a crawl space of a house we were renting) to a lively companion to a perfect child’s playmate to a faithful old friend. Every time we went outside, he was there.
And then, one day, he was gone.
I remember at the beginning of the year 2011 telling a good friend of mine the following words: “I really feel like God is saying to me that 2010 was a year of tearing me down, and this year is going to be the year He builds me back up again.”
Looking back on 2011, I have to say that if the events of the past year were meant to build me up, I think I’d rather go back to being torn down again.
Circumstance-wise, there were, literally, millions of people who went through tougher circumstances in 2011 than I did. There was the usual run of floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters which left a path of destruction, heartache, and loss in its wake. Evil tyrants all over the world continued to oppress their subjects, even to the point of death. Here in the United States, statistics showed that there were those had gone jobless for so long that they eventually just lost hope and gave up looking for employment altogether.
We all tend to live in our own little snow globes, though, and it’s usually the things that happen to us on a personal level that shape our perceptions of how a year has gone for us. It’s also these personal experiences which can shape how we view the larger events going on outside our own worlds and enable us to view them in ways we wouldn’t have before.
For me, 2011 could be summed up in one word – loss. Within the first three months of the year, my dad and my grandfather passed away, and my wife’s grandmother died during that same time period as well. The losses, though, actually went beyond merely the physical realm. I lost my enthusiasm for my job. I lost some relationships. I lost my joy, and I lost some faith along the way, too.
In short, you might say I lost myself in 2011.
As I head into 2012, I’m starting to realize the only good thing that can come out of losing yourself is the opportunity to truly find yourself again. New years always seem like blank slates, just waiting to be drawn or written upon, but this feels like something different. This feels like the opportunity to finally get to the bottom of some things, to maybe take some chances, to breathe a little life into areas which have known only death for so long now. This year may not be so much about finding the new, but simply rediscovering the old, polishing it up, fixing the parts that are broken, and rebooting the system.
My dog died the week before Christmas … but I was offered a new puppy the week after that.
Here we go again…