As I reflect on 2017, I feel proud of my accomplishments, many instigated by the loss of my mother in February. Her legacy inspires me to transform the grief of her passing into the energy I need to focus my efforts to improve my life every day.
Her health had deteriorated quickly and her passing was not unexpected, I felt relief at the news, a memorial would be planned for May. Though I claimed to be dealing with the loss, my life was clearly unmanageable and a week after she passed I voluntarily entered rehabilitation treatment for substance abuse at the COPE Center. The group and individual therapy sessions I attended there for 6 months grounded me and gave me support to maintain my sobriety. The cognitive behavior therapy skills I learned by attending Smart Recovery meetings were exactly what I needed to adjust my thinking, feelings, and actions. Ten months and counting of sober time has allowed me to work on processing her death, purge the toxicity in my life, and achieve some of my short and long term professional goals.
Working with the Women's Center for Entrepreneurship Corporation, my family created the WCEC Ann Cohen Entrepreneurship Fund in her memory.
The memorial in May was well-attended and heart-warming. It was great to see so many old family friends, her employees who thought of her as a mentor, and relatives who came from near and far. The celebration of her life included live music performed by world-renowned musicians Chris Byers, Josh Rubin, and Ari Roland. Photo credit: Chris Drukker.
My daughter returned from college on the west coast and transferred to a NJ school this year. I'm so happy to have her closer and couldn't be more proud of her.
In an effort to refocus my energy, meet new people, and find new interests, I threw myself into volunteering. I reconnected with the local A Lot to Grow community gardens, helping to weed and plant seeds at the beginning of the season, and I've spent time volunteering at the new Arts Unbound Showcase in Upper Montclair.
I became a volunteer organizer with Montclair Make Music Day, a celebration of free music on the summer solstice, June 21st. The day was an overwhelming success, events all around Montclair during the day and in the evening entertained and inspired.
In August I was grateful to attend the Make Music Alliance Summit in Detroit, a gathering of Make Music Day organizers from around the country, where we shared our events and had discussions to improve planning and marketing.
This year we became one of 3 pilot towns/cities to have Make Music Day events on winter solstice, December 21st. It was exciting to be a part of planning this community effort and I think everyone had a great time too.
I have been part of a new local collective that has grown out of the momentum created by Make Music Day. Indie Arts Montclair seeks to support local independent and DIY artists, musicians, performers, writers, and other creatives. I'm grateful to the members of this collective for their energy and enthusiasm.
Though 2017 was a year of loss, it was also the year I gained control of my life. I'm grateful that the professional help I received was available to me, and proud of myself for acknowledging that I needed help and had the strength to seek it out, accept it, and continue to thrive because of it.