On this last day of December, I went down to the lake, frozen and covered in a blanket of snow. Of any place to end the year, I needed to be there, if only for a moment. As I looked out across the wintry expanse, I felt all the shifts and changes that brought me here – brought me home.

The bookends of this year stand in stark contrast to each other. January’s winds carried in an optimism for new opportunities and a fresh start. Eager and determined, I stood ready to take on the challenges that would better my marriage, my family, and myself.

But like winds that change their course, so too did my life’s path. This year ushered in gales that brought me to my knees. Unprepared and fearful, I painted a mask of assuredness in the face of others. All things must pass, as George Harrison sang. So would these days, I hoped.

The strong winds prevailed throughout the summer. I barely remember June and July except for my visits to various doctors’ offices and the emergency unit. My clothes hung sadly on my diminished frame. I felt anxiety from the moment I woke up until the time my mind finally quieted and let me sleep. Panic attacks became a normal part of my day, and the medication only made them more heightened and frequent. I’ve lost count of all the times I sat at my work desk, praying that the most recent attack would lessen before anyone around me noticed.

August came and with it brought the annual Crawford vacation to Oxtongue Lake. 25 years full of memories of sand castles, canoe trips, bonfires, and family music jams. On a quiet afternoon near the end of the week, I sat near the water. I realized I hadn’t felt anxiety or panic in two whole days. I felt like a version of myself in years passed. That small moment by the water was the defining moment of my year. Every part of myself – mind, body, and heart – told me where I was in my life was not where I needed to be.

Autumn winds brought whispers from a place beyond this world. At night I fell asleep with a gentle voice in my ear whispering “ondendi.” Ondendi: she is gone from a certain place, absent from a certain place (Ojibwe). A comforting whisper telling me it was time to go and find my place.

December winds brought me clarity in what matters most in life. For what makes a good year is not the blissful events that happen, but the trials that push us to become more than we ever thought capable, else wither into shells of who we could have become had we not feared the course. These are the moments that define our strengths, and teach us to be gentle and kind. They are the ones that test our relationships, and bring forth the reward of a new intimateness that is patient and unshakable. They are our worst of times, but our best of times. They are the moments that bless us with an honest gratitude for the simple wonders in life we so often forget to revel in.

Today on the lake the winds were quiet.