It is the next to last day of 2013. It’s been an odd and beautiful year in many ways. So very different than what I expected.

On more than one occasion I asked myself the question how did I get here?, until I realized it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I AM here.

I may not always be quite sure where this river is taking me, but I am continually reminded that even in tumultuous flow, the river will always find its way.

It did. It is. I am here, on this river, in this Now.

And for now I am very grateful to simply be floating on an emerald and grass greened island with porcelain blue waters and a quiet sky who has covered itself with cumulus swirls of whipped cream.

A bit of rest on a warm plot of land spilling over with life, is very good for the soul.

In really no particular order and in very haphazard, eclectic fashion I have been jotting down a few notes on the things I have learned on this particular stretch of the river that wove itself through 2013. I thought I would share a few as we all get ready to bid the year a fond adieu.

1. The people who are there for you, standing at your side when your sweet Dog tells you it’s time to leave this place and you bid Best Friend Godspeed, are the kinds of people you want to keep in your life.

When life is busy falling down, you pay close attention to who is standing for you and who has faded. It does give one a keen view on those who mean it and those who don’t.

Loss. The great bringer of perspective.

2. Celebrating one’s birthday with a cake party that included 5 different, glorious, wondrous, frosted cakes was just about the best idea I’ve ever had. Ever. Simply magnificent.

3. People need to find ways to create their own sunshine.

We can share, borrow, and shine our light with, from and onto others, but we cannot be another’s perpetual light if they are not willing to do the work of finding their own shine. And no matter how large the scope of one’s sun and great their ability to glow, the infrastructure of your star will start to crease and fold into a slow, melting collapse if you try and perpetually prop others up and light the way for them.

Shine bright for yourself, first and always.

4. It feels a bit astonishing and thoroughly satisfying to have your work accepted for publication.

It feels like a sad Charlie Brown Christmas tree when your submissions are rejected.

I much prefer the former to the latter, though both are needed and accordingly received as growing experiences in the world of words. I like to hope my words and writing have become stronger this year through this process and that will only continue as the river carries on into 2014.

5. Anybody can have a peaceful heart during times of peace. But the mark of true peace comes from finding peace during times of unease and unrest.

6. Pretty words mean very little when not supported with a foundation of matching action. I’m a words girl, but I have realized I will take sincere action and loyal language over butterflied promises that flit away at first fright.

7. There are truths written on each of our hearts. About who we are, what we are about, our understanding of our purpose in this world. They are not for others to understand.

They are for us to understand.

Sometimes we find people who speak the same language. They have similar truths. There is instant recognition of a kindred soul and fluid exchange of verbiage.

Sometimes we find people who don’t entirely understand those truths but still love us, respect our truths, and in turn, share theirs with us. The language is slightly different, but open hearts and the willingness to try and understand each other transcend barriers.

Sometimes though, I think there are those who see the world so different they have no desire to understand our truth. Oddly enough, these are the people we seem to get hung up on the most. Trying to prove ourselves, convince them otherwise.

But expending energy on that convincing, on trying to explain those truths to a heart who cannot hear? Is a waste of the precious breath that oxygenates our soul and is likely to lead to little but feeling judged, frustrated, and diminished. And before you know it, you’ll start to stray from your center and compromise your truth for the illusion of other’s approval.

I am learning, always learning, to take a deep breath for me and release those who would take my oxygen and hold it captive to fuel the voice of their own lungs.

This is an ongoing process to be carried over into the new year.

8. After a few seasons away, I have learned to love trail running once more. Really love it. And to appreciate the physicality of movement, the journey of miles, the discipline of training.

Besides, I figure between my cake and wine habits and my free spirited, don’t fence me in, creative self, a little bit of unstructured trail training structure keeps me balanced and in good cake eating shape.

9. You can’t lose love. Not if its real. It lasts for always.

10. See number 2. I just can’t reiterate this point enough. 5 cakes! Magnificent!

11. I miss my Best Friend. My sweet old Dog. Every day. It aches sometimes. But life will go on. And sweet new Pups will come along and make you smile despite yourself.

It doesn’t seal the ache. But it does cover it with love.

And love heals all.

So there it is. The lessons of 2013. Cake, friendship, writing, running, peace, loyal language, sunshine, being for oneself, oxygen, truths of the heart, dogs and pups, love, loss, and even more cake.

That’s a lot of learning packed into one tiny year when you think about it.

So happy next to last day of 2013! I hope your river is treating you kindly and carrying you safely along wherever you are. And I hope you make time for cake and love.

❤ BA, Pup, & Spirit of Dog