12/31/2014 11:31 am ET Updated Mar 02, 2015

Why 2014 Was a Whack-A-Mole Year

In 2015, I would love to be faced with some really shallow problems. I want to be worried about the wrinkles forming around my mouth, or the back fat that requires kneading each morning. I want my biggest concern to be that CoverGirl might quit making my favorite mascara. Again.

I want to sit with a friend and talk about the latest episode of House Hunters, and drive my husband crazy by refusing to keep a car more than two years and complain about the creaking floorboards in our house.

I want that in 2015, because 2014 did not deliver shallow. Instead, it was a year of wonderfully annoying depth, a journey in the belly of a big fish.

Growth wasn't optional for me last year. Instead, it grabbed me by the lapels and tossed me around.

In 2014 I walked away from a job for the sake of integrity, but was left without income. My husband's lymphoma kicked in and demanded treatment. We had been given 16 wonderful months of "we won't treat it until it shows in the lymph nodes." And when it did show up, years of suppressed emotions resulting from my father's death at the age of 63 from multiple myeloma came bursting out all over the where.

Standing next to the possibility of losing my soulmate, my humorous writing about menopause seemed a little ridiculous. And when my mother called and said, "I think I'm having a stroke," shallow was escorted roughly out the door.

I didn't go to the deep end easily. I held on much like I did as a child at the YMCA. Yes, I was the kid with a bathing cap and nose plugs and cotton in my ears, praying that nobody would require me to respond "Polo" to their "Marco."

I would wet my hair by bending my knees while in the shallow end of the pool and leaning back. As soon as my hair was wet, I would bob up and down a few times and then go get a snack. My mom, tired of being the mother of that kid, finally put my sister and me in swimming lessons.

We were placed in the Minnows group with instructor Betty, who was fresh out of the Marines -- always a good choice for small children. Her thighs resembled tree trunks and the sound of her whistle cut through me like a knife.

After five lessons, I still couldn't swim. Every attempt to float ended up with my sinking, ass first, to the bottom of the pool. Even when I tried to do dead man's float I somehow flipped over as my rear end took me down again.

One day Betty announced that we were to swim the length of the pool in pairs. Once both team members made it to the other end of the pool, she'd blow that damn whistle and two more would go.

I was last, so all of the other Minnows, including my sister, were lined up watching me.

I started swimming towards Betty, who stood in the deep end (which, for me, was 4' of water). I would walk, then dog paddle, then walk again. She looked at me with disgust, and told me to "swim, Donna, or you're starting over!" As I paddled towards her I realized that I could no longer touch the bottom of the pool, so I grabbed her tree trunk thigh to save myself.

She kicked me off and moved to the side of the pool with the other kids, yelling "SWIM!" in a voice that made the Great Santini sound effeminate. I didn't swim. I sank. Three times.

My self-esteem was shredded beyond measure as I bobbed to the surface twice and yelled, "Help!" Finally, as I relinquished control to my ass and sank to the bottom of the pool, I saw a hand reaching out for me.

It was my sister, Linda, saving my life. Betty glared at me as I was pulled from the water, gasping and choking. I'd never be even the smallest of fish. Lessons were over.

That experience encapsulates 2014 for me. It seemed that every time I came up for air something knocked me back down, until I had no option but to sink one last time or swim.

I decided to go a different direction with my job and became certified in life coaching, something I had avoided because I felt it was diametrically opposed to my business experience and I would have to buy flowing garments and live under a tree. Instead, I found incredibly intelligent people during certification, and realized my new knowledge could make a real difference in others' lives.

I started going with my husband to his chemo treatments and found heroes in the waiting room and nurses who are tired and underpaid yet sprout wings when it comes to caring for patients. Fern is our favorite -- she's the nurse who came with another woman to bring the chemo while they both sang, "Here we come, walkin' down the street..."

My husband and I hold on to each other a little tighter these days, and we let the little things go. Except for the day he shook the bacon tray for inexplicable reasons and threw grease everywhere. Even cancer couldn't get him out of that one.

So, 2014, I thank you for the dunk that helped me learn some lessons and meet a few angels.

I am now prepared for 2015, and understand that even when life is like whack-a-mole, it is a gift -- a way to find out that our spirit is tied to something bigger, and laughter can be found anywhere.

Would I take a shallow 2015? Absolutely. But I wouldn't learn as much.