It’s been quite a year. One that I ran out of words for, or at least words that I could bring myself to post. Yet. But the other day, some friends spotted a previous blog post of mine, sitting in my windowsill, waiting to be noticed, and they celebrated it for me.

my succulent - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk1The story started here, last January:

golden gifts - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk 21

And now, believe it or not, it’s here:

my succulent - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk2So. It looks like we made it. (Through 2014, at least.)

Yes, R-girl is off to college. She’s more than halfway through her freshman year already. Life at R-house looks, feels, and sounds a lot different. It’s just me and R-boy now. And, I think I can say, I’m finally starting to get somewhat used to this new reality.

In fact, I’ve discovered some incredibly sweet and unexpected things here in this very-different world of mine.

my succulent - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk3But I won’t lie. 2014 was even harder than I thought it would be (and I thought it would be hard).

It took all the energy and grace I could muster, and then some. I’ll admit, I did a little kicking and screaming. And, on top of the actual struggle, I had to constantly fight off the rude voices in my head that kept helpfully pointing out that other people didn’t seem to be having such a hard time with this off-to-college transition, so there clearly must be something wrong with me.

But what I know (and had to be reminded of over and over) is that what other people seem to be doing is beside the point. Right? My journey is what it is. And what it is, sometimes (for any of us), is hard.

It’s hard to end a season of life that you really, truly loved.

It’s hard to say goodbye to a person you’ve looked forward to seeing, and hugging, and teasing, and listening to, and snuggling with, and caring for, and just being around every day for 18 years.

It’s hard to have no actual idea of how the next chapter will look, while holding many fears of how it might.

It’s hard to share someone you once naively thought belonged to you.

It’s hard to figure out what “family” means when there are only two people left in the house.

It’s hard to reconcile that the very thing causing you pain is bringing joy and delight to the person you love—and you absolutely want that (but you also sort of don’t).

It’s hard to figure out how to keep your own sadness from becoming a burden for the person you love—because that really would be the last thing you’d want.

It’s hard to feel left behind.

It’s hard to do it alone.

It’s hard to admit all those things.

my succulent - shorts and longs - julie rybarczyk5So, this might be living proof that I can survive hard things. Even when I don’t want to.

And, I guess I can’t help but notice…

Apparently, even when life involves a lot more letting go than you ever signed up for, and even when you’re so distracted by the hard work of grieving and adjusting that you can barely be trusted with much else—like remembering to provide water (and a bigger pot?) to your 2014 partner—even then, growth happens.

Maybe, especially then.