"Remember when I was young and so were you
And time stood still and love was all we knew..."
As we forge forward through these summer months and partake in celebrations from weddings to holiday celebrations to graduations and backyard bbq’s, there are other days of significance that impact many of us - myself included. These particular days might be a happy reminder of a special moment. They may also signify a life event, a day when your life was forever changed and, yes, these days can also be a symbol of a particular loss. Whether on a personal level, a national level or even a day that the entire world recognizes - they are there and they exist for a reason. I’m talking about anniversaries.
Quick lesson on the term anniversary
I know it’s summer and learning is on the back burner but knowledge is power so hear me out. By definition, an anniversary is the annual recurrence of a date marking a notable event. Thank you Merriam Webster! What this tells us is A. it happens every year and, more importantly, B. it marks a notable event. Notable. Remarkable. Distinguished. Prominent. Important. Of Significance. When you dice it up that way, anniversaries encompass major moments in our lives. And whether you mark those particular days on the calendar or simply make mental note of them, they play a bigger role than what we realize.
Different types of anniversaries
I touched on this real briefly but I think it’s important to take a little bit more of an in depth look. Because it’s our natural tendency to think anniversaries are simply for those that are married and celebrating another year with their mate that they thrived or survived - in some cases a little bit of both. But anniversaries are NOT just for us old married folk.
Let’s be brief on this. I’m talking birthdays and weddings. Yearly we celebrate our day of birth, the anniversary of that day, as well as the calendar day of our union to another person i.e. wedding, marriage, what have you. We are all well versed on those anniversaries so enough said.
I know there’s a few of you out there saying - isn’t a birthday and a wedding a life event? Technically, yes, but I’m talking on a broader scale. Events such as buying a home. Changing a job. Graduating high school, college, etc. Often times we don’t celebrate these events in the way that we do birthdays and weddings but many of us do recognize them consciously. Think about it - how many of you have said “Can you believe it’s been five years this week that we’ve lived here?” Or some variance of that sentiment.
Definitely not celebratory, we do recognize the anniversary of a loss. Whether it’s the loss of a person, pet, a relationship - those losses are a part of whom we are and we honor and recognize those important anniversary dates. Sometimes those losses are celebrated - such as the one year anniversary of the finalization of a divorce, loss of significant amounts of weight - but often times they are moments that we are tied to that cause us temporary sadness, reflection, reason to pause.
Why are anniversaries important
Why all of this talk about anniversaries? Why are they important? What do they provide and why do they matter? Allow me to share my wisdom.
Anniversaries give us a virtual timeline.
Anniversaries are truly a virtual timeline of our life. Think back old school when you used to have to do a timeline of historical events. Isn’t that really what the anniversaries in our life are all about? They give you a step by step look back into your own history, what changed you and shaped you, how you got from point A to point Z. These anniversaries allow you tell your own story and whether you realize you do it or not, our anniversaries define who we are.
"Remember when we vowed the vow and walked the walk
Gave our hearts, made the start, it was hard..."
Anniversaries allow for change
One of the most important impacts of anniversaries is that they bring about change. I don’t care who you are, where you live or how fabulous your life is, every year that goes by, those 365 days, they carry with them change. Whether it’s big changes or small changes, you are not the same person, wife, coworker, leader that you were last year. Anniversaries allow you to peer through the looking glass of the previous calendar days and say wow - look at how far I’ve come or wow - I need to reevaluate and get my you know what together. Change is necessary for growth - personal, professional, financial, spiritual. Make sense?
"Remember when old ones died and new were born
And life was changed, disassembled, rearranged..."
Anniversaries grant moments of pause
This is the one most important to me and I think it’s the one that we take the least amount of time to embrace. Think about the most important anniversaries in your life. How often do you take time, one year later, five years later, twenty years after that date - how many of you take the time to stop and pause? Think about where you are, how far you’ve come? How important this day, this anniversary is to you? How vital it’s significance? Think about someone that is celebrating their fifth anniversary of sobriety. How life changing and AWESOME that anniversary is. Where they are now. Where they might be if they hadn’t had that day to begin with. Those days - man, they are IMPORTANT. Stopping to pause, reflect, embrace the good, bad and ugly of how you got from there to here, no matter the setbacks, it is worthy of your time.
"Remember when the sound of little feet was the music
We danced to week to week..."
How can we acknowledge these anniversaries?
Lots of ways that we can acknowledge anniversaries and remind ourselves of their importance. I have a few ideas that I’ve either done myself or thought might be worthy of such a significant day.
Write it down.
Whether it’s a card, a journal entry, what have you - mark the anniversary with written words. For those of you that catalog much of your lives with social media, use it as a way to express your thoughts. Facebook an entry about what the last year has meant, pay tribute to the day, the person, the importance. Sometimes just getting the words out has a much greater impact than anything else and it also gives you something tangible to look back on a year from now.
Throw a party.
Anyone that knows me knows that I love a party and throw a pretty mean one. Get your friends and family together and celebrate the anniversary that you are honoring. Doesn’t need to be grandiose or over the top unless that’s what you’re wanting but a party is a great way to say “Hey, I love this day! It means something to me!”
A bauble or trinket.
Who doesn’t love a little bling? A little something special that signifies the day. A three stone anniversary ring, a new band with your loved one’s name engraved on the inside, a pendant with your favorite picture of your pet - the options are endless and run the gamut from inexpensive to let’s say Tiffanys. Honor that anniversary with a little bit of sparkle and shine!
Release balloons or paper lanterns.
I love this and have in fact done it many times. This can be combined with a party or a small group or can just be immediate family. A beautiful way to honor the loss of a loved one, a way to celebrate a union, it’s an affordable and unique way to create a memory on that particular day as well as create some sort of tradition.
Stop and pause.
It’s my theme this year. Stopping and reflecting and taking in what the day means. Instead of bustling around and coming up with a way to say I remember this day, spend some alone time and just internally reflect. Close your eyes and recall that day as best you can. If it’s the anniversary of a loss, look back on your most cherished memories. Cry. Remember. The emotions, the feelings, it’s all a part of the journey and give yourself permission to feel it.
"Remember when thirty seemed so old
Now lookin back, it was just a steppin stone..."
Anniversaries in my world
I have a few right now that are in my world and encompassing my life. I just had my 19th wedding anniversary - lucky Rob! I’m quite the catch in case you didn’t know. We did not celebrate in any big way but had dinner out with friends and with the goslings. And it was perfect.
This is our second 4th of July without my nephew. And where the 4th was always a big holiday with our family and we always went up to Seeley Lake and he was always a part of that - this year not a single one of us went. And it is not perfect.
I am coming up on the 2nd anniversary at the end of July of the loss of my Otis. And I do have my Gus and I love him but make no mistake - he is not Otis. And even though it is two years later I still miss him so much. And still smile and sometimes cry when I hear the song Wagon Wheel.
We’ve had graduations and birthdays. Anniversaries of school ending and childhood coming to an end. A one year anniversary of a significant change in position at work for my Rob and on the cliff of the 18th anniversary of when he graduated from the State Police Academy. And yes, it has been life changing.
I am moving forward in this next year with a smaller circle of friends. Yep. Whether the change occurred within me or within someone else or maybe it's just circumstantial - but my circle is down a few. Yet here I stand - accountable, strong, deeply rooted in what is important to me. My social calendar isn't quite as full but my heart and my life still is. And I am okay.
I am not the same person I was a year ago. Certainly not the same person I was when I got married and each person and animal that has touched my life and then left has impacted the person I am right now. I can look back on those times and at times I do (sometimes too much) and I can pinpoint, create my timeline and know this is why I am where I am.
What I’ve learned
I’ve learned that marriage is hard. Far harder than what everyone tells you. And that there is a lot of give and take and that sometimes you are always the giver. And God it sucks to give when your tank is empty. But you give and give again.
Love is finite. And infinite. And sometimes we take for granted that what we love and what we cherish is always going to be there, ours to have and to hold whenever we want and oh-that-so-is-not-true. Love can be a fickle beast and sometimes she takes when it isn't hers for the taking. Finite. And I have learned that when you think you have nothing more to give, when you're broken and defeated and lost - unexpected compassion, a little love can turn things around in the blink of an eye. The power of love knows no boundaries. Infinite.
I’ve learned that kindness is often times considered a weakness. And that there is no greater strength than being kind.
Anniversaries have taught me that even in the depth of the storm there is light. And no matter how dim the light may be - trust that it is there.
Each year brings me the realization that forgiveness is the driving force behind much of life’s challenges. And that true forgiveness, when given with an honorable intent, is humbling - both for the giver and the receiver.
I’ve learned that I’m an awesome parent. And a really bad one. And that it is okay.
And, most importantly, each anniversary is causing me more and more to stop and pause. And revel at how far I’ve come. At how much work I have to do. About what I have to be grateful for and what I am still taking for granted. That I am a hot mess and friggin awesome - all at once. These anniversaries serve as a constant reminder for me to do my best to live my life with purpose.
Anniversaries - they are a huge part of our life. Big. Please take just a moment - remember when that person walked into your life, when you chose your health over the high, when you hugged them, held them for the last time. Look back on where you started, how far you’ve come and what lies ahead. Take the day, the anniversary of that day and think - what do I want my timeline to look like a year from now. Honor, remember, cherish that day, that anniversary.
"Remember when we said when we turned gray. When the children grow up and move away.
We won't be sad, we'll be glad for all the life we've had.
And we'll remember when."