This was a difficult year. Tonight I’ll raise a glass to the end of it. Maybe a few glasses. I’ve earned them.

I had a strong feeling, around this time twelve months ago, that it was going to be a very important year. That prediction proved to be all too true, though important doesn’t always mean easy or fun– in fact it rarely does. This year was important in the way that an appendectomy is. When it’s time for it, you have to do it, ready or not. Nobody wants to get ripped open and have painful stuff cut out of them, but what’s the alternative?

Besides, pain brings lessons. Now that it’s almost over and I’m poised to dive into the unknown waters of next year, I can look back with wiser eyes and see the lessons that were begging to be learned. For me, they were all about being present.

Lesson 1: Let the past stay in the past. I didn’t realize how much anger I was carrying around inside until I started to let it out. I even scared myself with some of my unexpected outbursts this year, though they needed to be expressed. Now that I’ve given these thoughts voice I realize that no one has wronged me and I’m not owed any apologies, period. Anger mostly leaves me alone these days.

Lesson 2: Let the future stay in the future. I’ve been operating at alarming levels of anxiety for too long. This pervasive fear that has gripped me is common but not normal, and it’s time to stop worrying about what could be. I have everything that I need and there’s no fight or quest or achievement to be sought. It’s time to just enjoy where I’m at for once. Tomorrow will work itself out.

Simple lessons, sure. It’s not like I didn’t know them. Yoda has been preaching for decades that fear and anger lead to a dark place. But wisdom doesn’t come from hearing sermons or reading about other people’s experiences or watching awesome sci-fi movies. Wisdom only comes from struggle, and struggle means pain. And pain teaches the lesson.

So I’ll raise a glass to the closing year, thanking it for all of the pain. I’m a stronger, better person than I was before. Here’s to a slightly less important New Year.