Tomorrow is December 1. It seems improbable that we are almost at the end of 2016. This year – for all of us – has been characterized by extremes. Extreme highs – the joy of watching the US olympic team bring home gold – and extreme lows – the polarization of the national election.
For us too as a family, we struggled with extreme highs and extreme lows. I was so sad to move from our home in northern Virginia to Texas – a state so totally unfamiliar. A place that – for me – evoked foreign images of cowboys, guns and country music. But we also rose to that challenge as a family, and with that, comes happiness. It may have taken three-quarters of a year, but we resettled and are grateful. In the end, experiencing the joy of a new place, a new adventure, and new beginnings.
I’ve reflected quite a bit on what makes the difference between the highs and the lows this year. How do we make a good situation out of a bad one? How do I make a happy life in Texas when I didn’t want to move here? How do we change the game, when we don’t like the hand we have been given? How do we swim upstream in a culture or community that we perceive as antithetical to our own thinking? How do we figure out how to mend the wounds of our country’s political divide when all we want to do is tune out?
For my life, it came in a pretty simple answer. I resolved to say yes. Yes to questioning all my assumptions about Texas. Yes to trying new experiences, even if they would result in failure or make me super uncomfortable (both happened). Yes to meeting new people, even if they weren’t quite like our friends back home. Yes to getting more help with the kids, even though I was certain I could do it on my own. Yes to moving forward and trying things out. Yes to cowboy hats and jeans, huge highways, mutton busting, bible-study, monogramming and yard signs.
And here is the thing. When I said yes, things got a lot better. This fall, when I opened myself up to the possibility of new ideas – of new experiences – I started to like Texas. I may not ever be a true Houstonian, but I can appreciate this large red state for what it brings to the table. And I sure am happier.
So – if at the end of 2016 – all you want to do is curl up and tune out, I understand. I felt like that in the middle of 2016. But maybe now is the time to start listening, to meet people outside of your comfort zone, and question your own assumptions. I assumed Houston would be full of cowboys. I was really wrong.
If you felt blindsided by this year, and especially this election (as I did), my advice is to say yes. To listen, to hear and to try to understand – and maybe we have a chance at bridging the extremes in 2017.