What A Difference A Year Can Make

woman jumping ahead one year

The end of a calendar year is a common time to reflect. Some years we find ourselves celebrating highlights and accomplishments, while others might find us discouraged by a lack of progress. If you are feeling that you’ve fallen short in an area where you had hoped for change, here is a little story to encourage you, plus a few tips to help you achieve your goals in the upcoming year.

About three years ago, my daughter got an illness that kicked off a longstanding battle with tonsillitis. For the next two years she became sick with a high fever and throat infection for about three days each month. In addition, anything “extra” (a night out, a friend’s visit…) could trigger a siege. Over time, she adapted her life around being sick, limiting her activity to minimize her flare-ups. Some might wonder why she didn’t just have her tonsils out. The reason is that adult tonsillectomy is a serious procedure requiring weeks of recovery. Fear of pain, disruption, and the unknown were all powerful deterrents to taking action.

Last November, she finally went in for the surgery, and at this time last year was still recovering. Amazingly, in the year since the surgery, she has not been sick at all. While the process was very difficult, the results were life changing.

I know that many of my readers face challenges that seem large and overwhelming. Walking alongside my daughter taught me a few things about “large scale” change.

  1. You will probably come to a tipping point.

Momentum is a powerful thing. In the moment, it is easier to adapt and accommodate than to risk drastic change. Nonetheless, persistent problems have consequences that build up over time. Eventually, the negatives become so burdensome that something breaks. This could be an external trigger (e.g. an eviction notice, a lost job) or an internal realization (e.g. “I just cannot stand this one more day!”) In my daughter’s case, this was getting sick on vacation. After months of working hard and working while sick, she was really looking forward to getting a break. Instead, she ended up spending her vacation in a hotel room, feeling awful. This experience opened her eyes to the reality that she was not going to get better without surgery. When she got home, she told me, “I’m ready.” When you reach that moment, take advantage of it. Now is the time to act, and if possible, take a step that will make it hard to fall back into the old pattern. Think, “no turning back!”

  1. Resources will be required.

Longstanding problems tend to be complex and tenacious. When we are facing a big challenge, especially one we’ve been struggling with or avoiding for a long time, we need to rally others to help. Professionals, friends, spiritual leaders and family can bring financial support, perspective, skills and accountability to the situation. Not everyone in your life will be helpful, so be picky in assembling resources whom you trust to be on your side. Building a team is the #1 way to ensure success.

  1. New obstacles will emerge.

It is natural to imagine that once we begin tackling a situation it will be smooth sailing. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. In fact, once we start a ball rolling it will likely hit some bumps as it goes. Most people who have a tonsillectomy will suffer pain. My daughter had some additional, unanticipated difficulties that required multiple trips to the emergency room and additional medications. All of this made the journey extremely difficult. We expected she would be feeling close to normal three weeks after surgery. As it turned it, it was more like two months before she was really back on her feet. This type of “pushback” is frustratingly common. When we work toward positive change, it is normal to encounter criticism, complications, injuries, side effects and a plethora of other challenges. This does not mean that it was a mistake to pursue change, only that few roads are short and straight. Realistic expectations are helpful in keeping a positive mindset and battling discouragement.

  1. Progress will breed motivation, which will further progress.

Making the decision to pursue change isn’t easy. The fear of failure and embarrassment constantly keeps us stuck in neutral. The good news is, even tiny bits of progress can be hugely motivating. During my daughter’s recovery, in spite of the variety of side effects, little steps of progress like eating solid food or waking with no fever were very encouraging. Each day put the problem a bit further behind her. Making strides against a situation that has been hanging over us is freeing and empowering. We begin to realize that we don’t have to continue in the old habit. Admittedly, it may take a long time to enact lasting change, and there may be periods of backsliding. In addition, there may be some aspects of the situation that simply cannot be altered. Nonetheless, the ability to take some measure of control is often enough to keep you going.

*     *     *     *     *

Life can be difficult. Change may not be easy, but in most cases, it is worth the effort. With proper resources and expectations, small steps can have significant results over the course of a year.

Have you effected change in some area of your life? Did you experience any of these realities?



24 thoughts on “What A Difference A Year Can Make”

  1. Just so happy to hear your daughter has been doing so well since her surgery. And thank you for the reminder here tonight although things may at first not always be an easy go of it that sometimes that road will make all the difference still. Wishing you a wonderful holidays now, Seana 🙂

    1. You too, Janine! Love the connection we’ve developed, and wishing a wonderful and very merry Christmas to you, your husband the those beautiful girls!

  2. What a thought-provoking way to illustrate the power (and challenge) of tackling any major change. I also love your phrase, “few roads are short and straight.” We’re so used to instant gratification in our society that we think “short and straight” should be a given. Powerful things to think about here – thank you for sharing the story, and I’m glad to hear your daughter is doing well!

    1. Thank you, Sara. Even though I think we all long for quick solutions, I’ve learned that there is great value to the journey. We learn and grow so much as plod along… much of which would never be acquired if we just snapped our fingers and got an instant result.

    1. Not having a quick memory of a heavy weight being lifted is a good thing! For me, understanding that major change won’t be quick and easy is comforting. It gives permission to gather the support and plan appropriately… and then be patient as the process unfolds.

  3. I found that when I am sick and tired of being sick and tired is when I take action. But, when I decide to make this change a priority, I am more open to the possibilities that are available. Glad you daughter is doing better now. I hope you and her have a great new year.

    1. Thank you, Sabrina. I wish the same to you and yours. It does seem that it takes getting to a low point before we may be willing to take necessary action. Once that choice is made, and we get going, we can at least feel good about the fact that we are moving forward!

  4. Though I’ve heard this story from you before, putting it in this blog post is truly inspiring and so helpful as we embark on a new year of possible unknowns. I love your last point about progress breeding motivation. It’s all about taking that first step and once you do you realize that one: it wasn’t so terrible, and two: you can take another step. Too often we forget the freedom and empowerment that comes with change no matter how small or big! Thanks for sharing this, Seana. 🙂

    1. What feels like a small step may actually be quite significant. When my daughter decided she was finally ready, I put a post to friends on FB asking for thoughts on doctors for adult tonsillectomy. I got an immediate response from a friend, and from that point on, we didn’t look back.

  5. That was an inspiring blog Seana. Deciding to face the “giant” is an agonizing experience and sometimes very frightening, but once the decision is made and the process begun a huge weight is lifted and energy to tackle it takes over. Outside help in the form of support is critical also. I am so thankful that your daughter’s battle was won and behind her.

    1. So am I, Dianne. Making the decision can be surprisingly difficult. We talk about wanting change, but altering our lives to make it happen takes courage. I agree that once we begin, it does feel that some weight has been lifted… I think it is the weight of indecision, which can be substantial!

  6. That’s so interesting to me because that’s what happened to my sister. And finally she did get the adult tonsillectomy and it was ROUGH as expected, but she hasn’t been sick since.
    That initial fear is something I wonder if she ever thinks about now.

    1. This is pretty much what I am hearing from everyone. In fact, two people have reached out to me today about their adult children undergoing tonsillectomy this week. It is very hard to face that fear, but it is so worth it. I wonder if your sister thinks about that now as well… let me know if you find out!

  7. Hi Seana, I am happy to hear about your daughter and it is so true how life can change so much in a year. I used to miss a ton of school while I was in grade school for a couples of years because of sore throats and tonsillitis. After I got a tonsillectomy I won an award the next year for not missing a single day of school and was rarely sick the rest of my time in school. I imagine having the procedure as an adult is much more challenging and it is not so easy to be out of commission for a few weeks. But so glad it worked out for her in the end! Wishing you and your family a very wonderful Christmas!
    Jessica @ Independent Travel Cats recently posted…Visiting Iceland in Winter: Top 18 Winter Activities in IcelandMy Profile

    1. I’m telling all the moms of young children that I know to get their children’s tonsils out when they are young. It is incredible how sick a bad set of tonsils can make you. And yes, the surgery is MUCH worse for adults.. I learned a lot. My daughter is so thankful she did it, but it took some courage. Merry, merry Christmas to you and Laurence!

  8. Thank you for sharing a difficult experience. How brave! And that makes me think how courage is required too. We think and feel it’s easier to stay in a tough situation. If you can bravely move forward, things tend to work in your favor.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    1. I think there is incredible power in moving forward against a difficult challenge. It might not all unfold in an easy manner, but knowing you had the courage to try is incredibly motivating. My hat is off to anyone who has the made the decision to take steps toward a better life, in whatever capacity. With tenacity and resources, things can improve!

    1. Wishing you a strong start to 2018, Marcia. I do believe in this, and that it helps to see a step forward. Sometimes it just feels great to know that you are finally doing something about it!

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