It’s that time again! Later this week, we will ring in a new year. For some, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the year prior. For others, it’s a time to set goals for the year ahead. For still others, it’s simply an opportunity to get plastered and behave badly into the wee hours of the morn. (As if one needs a special occasion for that…)

For me this particular year, the transition feels more significant than it has in the past. 2014 was a doozy for me. I hate to use that damn cliche rollercoaster metaphor, but that’s all I’ve got. The ups were great. The downs left my head spinning and my stomach in knots.

I am so very ready for a new year, a new beginning.

As we count down, here’s a list of random things I’ve learned in 2014:

  • Divorce sucks. It’s the emotional equivalent of being put feet-first through a meat grinder. Yet if you remember that stuff is just stuff, money comes and goes, and heartache can’t be alleviated by a court of law, you just might emerge from the nightmare stronger and wiser. Grateful for what was. Hopeful about what is yet to come.
  • Opposites attract. But long-term, common ground is a must. Simple. True.
  • Honest conversation is also a must. If you can’t speak your heart to someone, don’t give your heart to them.
  • Some people actually enjoy being miserable. The more you try to cheer them up, the more you tick them off. Let them wallow. Just don’t get sucked into their abyss.
  • Parenthood is for life. I did the happy dance when The Boy graduated high school, turned 18, and got a college scholarship. Then he chose an entirely different path, and I realized that I will always feel a bit like I did on his first day of kindergarten: a little hopeful, a little worried, a little wistful, and a whole lotta proud.
  • Yoda was right: do or do not; there is no try.
  • 40 is the new 30. So is 41.
  • Needing glasses isn’t half bad. They can be a fun fashion accessory. Like shoes! (But, you know, for your face. So…yeah.)
  • You’re never too old to do new things and improve your life.
  • Online dating is a form of torture. We should use it to wipe out terrorism.
  • Wine and cheese with friends is good. Wine and cheese alone at 11 p.m. while listening to Dido and looking through old photographs is a recipe for disaster.
  • There’s no therapy quite like working up a good sweat out in nature. Except maybe actual therapy with a counselor who knows what they’re doing. I’m grateful for both.
  • Speaking of gratitude, it works. Count your blessings and watch them multiply. Seriously.
  • Helping others is a great way out of a self-pity party.
  • Sassy boots and red lipstick also don’t hurt.
  • Animals are way more zen than most people. Want to know how to be a better person? Watch a dog.
  • Or watch my friend Veronica. I swear she’s a dog in a human body (and I mean that as the ultimate compliment). Always loving, always enthusiastic, always giving. You know what she’s doing this week? Donating a kidney to her cousin. For reals. I want to be her when I grow up.
  • Good friends can get you through anything. And I am blessed with really, really good friends, old and new.
  • Some people, though? Some people are just assholes. You can work really hard to find the redeeming qualities in everyone, but some people are simply as deep as a puddle, as introspective as pond scum, and as mean as a snake. You know what you do with these people? Stay far, far away from them.
  • Or turn them into a despicable character in a novel and then use the plot to torment them. I mean, I would never do such a thing. But you could.
  • Never let the assholes define your world view. They’re in the minority. Truly.
  • Never lose your sense of humor.
  • Magic happens all the time. Expect it.

With gratitude for all who helped me through a difficult 2014, and with wishes for lots of good things and new adventures — for all of us — in 2015!