Reflecting on a Year Gone By Brings Me Gratitude

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by Alyssa Silva |

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Like many others at the turn of the year, I enjoy setting aside some time to reflect on the past 365 days. I’ve never been the goal-setting type at the start of each year, so reflection serves me well.

For me, setting goals far in advance can be overwhelming. I’d rather break them down into weekly or monthly tasks and start my new beginnings when I feel ready. Even so, I love how the new year encourages us to pause and reflect.

My reflections each year are always different, but the foundation usually is the same: What went right or wrong, how much have I grown, and what were my small and big wins, lessons learned, lowest moments, and highest peaks? This year, there was a lot to cover.

I laugh when I think about this time last year. I remember kicking off 2021 with a false sense of hope that it would be the year to redeem myself after an awful go at 2020.

I was going to be vaccinated! I’d be safer out in public. I’d bring back my caregivers and no longer be stuck at home. I’d see friends without care, and masks, which cause me difficulty breathing, would be obsolete. And I’d be able to celebrate the holidays with my big fat Portuguese family again.

The world would finally be flipped right-side up! Until suddenly, it wasn’t.

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Sure, I got three vaccinations. I let my guard down a bit and ventured out more than I did in the previous year. But cases of COVID-19 fluctuated in my area while I continued to struggle wearing masks, so I felt uncomfortable going to many places. New variants left me concerned about my weakened body, and even after all the chaos that occurred, I still wasn’t able to celebrate the holidays with loved ones.

Although the situation likely isn’t that comical, humor in adversity usually gets me through, and last year was no different.

It’s humbling for me to admit that 2021 didn’t meet my expectations. The hopes I have at the beginning of each year are something I want to see realized by the end of the year, and when it doesn’t happen, I feel I’ve fallen short.

But as I spent the last several days reflecting and digging deep into my emotions, I kept noticing a recurring theme of gratitude. The person with those expectations isn’t the same person today. That person has grown. She’s found courage. She has overcome loss and faced new challenges, and she’s better for them. Maybe her year didn’t pan out as originally intended, but there were so many reasons to be thankful nonetheless.

I don’t always approach life with this mindset when it’s happening in the moment. Sometimes, gratitude is hard to come by when I’m simply fighting to survive and missing the value that will one day come from my experiences. I’ve learned and relearned this lesson time and time again. But with reflection comes gratitude, for the growth I’ve experienced, the resilience I gained, and the faith that remained throughout my journey.

Without pausing to reflect on the past year, I wouldn’t be able to make peace with some days, learn from others, and find joy in the rest. Taking these mini revelations into 2022 has allowed me to drop the need for expectations and be open to everything that comes my way.

Perhaps it won’t make sense now, but come this time next year, I’ll be full of gratitude once more.

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Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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