2016: the Dumpster Fire Year

Every year I say I’m not going to write one of those cliched, over-done, “year in review” posts. Yet, every year I find myself sitting behind a keyboard writing one any ways. I kicked enough bad habits this year, I suppose this one will have to wait.

I have a difficult time categorizing 2016 as a “good” or “bad” year. It would be easy to say that it was the worst, in a lot of ways it was a complete dumpster fire. However, that discounts the good things that happened this year which feels unfair.

Whether good or bad, 2016 will go down as a pivotal year in my life. This year took me to places I only dreamed of, and it brought me home again. It ripped me out of my comfort zone and forced me to build a new one –and even to learn to be okay living without one for a little while.

I call it the dumpster fire year because it went up in flames before January even came to a close. While this atrocious year is finally ending, I still haven’t fully extinguished the fire. That’s okay, though. Good things come with time. If there is one thing I’ve learned this year, it is that there is no need to rush things. I’m terrible at patience, but I’m learning. Trying to, at least.

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What will go down as the most peaceful moment of 2016, and maybe my entire life so far. Walking, doing yoga and meditating on the beach at sunrise in Crete, Greece. 

 

This year was the year that I lost and found myself within one fell swoop. I uprooted myself more than once. First to Europe to build the life I thought I wanted with the person I thought would be my constant. Then back home again to figure out what the hell I actually want because I was so terribly wrong the first time.

I lost the majority of my faith in my decision making this year, but I learned a tremendous amount about my strength. I learned that I am far stronger than I have ever given myself credit for. I never thought I would have the courage to make such a drastic change to improve my life without someone to lean on as a crutch. It’s not to say that I didn’t have support, I certainly did, but I had to find the strength within myself to do what I needed to do because there was no one to catch me if I fell. It wasn’t easy, but the right thing rarely is.

This year I really began to embody the “do no harm but take no shit” mantra that spoke to me so deeply the first time I heard it. I learned I don’t have to belittle others to stand up for myself, and that I am worth standing up for in my own right. Not simply because of the role I fulfill for someone else.

More than anything, I learned to respect myself, and I learned to demand the same respect from others who wish to be a part of my life. I finally realized that I don’t deserve to be put down or shamed or treated badly by people who say they love me –friend or lover. I learned, and am still learning, how to set boundaries for myself.

That is a lesson I hope my daughter doesn’t have to learn the hard way.

I learned that goodbyes aren’t always negative and are often entirely necessary –even if they take a few pints of ice cream, a couple bottles of liquor and incessant bitching and ranting to get over.

I spent the majority of this year completely and utterly heart broken. This year brought me to one of the lowest points of my life. However, I’ll call it a win because I managed to feel completely overcome with depression and sadness and shame and occasionally far too much alcohol, but I never once felt like ending my life. That is an accomplishment, and yet another testament to the strength I have worked so hard to develop.

The year opened with news of a betrayal that shook me to my core, and it unraveled from there.

While my months in Europe were magical in so many ways, and I am so insanely grateful for that experience, they were also lonely. I remember being so overjoyed to be living my dream of traveling and exploring and seeing the world, but also so lost, isolated and that maybe, no matter how much I wanted it, it wasn’t where I needed to be right then. I don’t know that I’ve ever been more conflicted than I was this year, which is why it is so difficult for me to sum up.

My heart ached while I was in Europe so I came home.

The hurt has subsided. I no longer cringe every time I think about the way my dreams fell apart. I no longer question whether or not I did the right thing. I don’t cry myself to sleep any more, I’ve healed in countless ways.

I’m ready to slowly wade into this new year and see what it has to offer me. I’m ready for new beginnings. There are a few things brewing right now that I am excited to watch unfold.

More than anything, 2016 taught me about the power of friendship.

When Chris and I were together, he used to say that he felt like I loved my friends more than him. Honestly, it was probably true. Anyone who has been friends with me knows I love big, I love hard. I take care of my friends, and they are everything to me.

This year I felt that love back. I had to cut a few out, but it was worth it. I surrounded myself with the greatest people who supported me, encouraged me and loved me despite the fact that I’ve been a complete mess. You guys know who you are, and you know how much I love you. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for everything.

I couldn’t be more thrilled to kiss an old year goodbye and welcome a new one with open arms. I’m going into this year with a smile on my face and a heart full of love.

Good things are coming, I can feel it.

I’m ready.

 

The search for clarity

Today I went to the woods, and I walked. I got chastised by my dear friend for embarking on such an expedition alone, but I made it out alive (obviously). While I’m ultra sensitive about people feeling like they have to take care of me lately, I’m happy to have people who care if I get eaten by a bear or taken out by an axe murderer.

It was a cold morning, but I wrapped my flannel tightly around myself, and I walked.

The cold air chapped my lips and blushed my cheeks, but I walked. The sky was grey, and the December air sent chills through my body, but I kept moving –willing myself forward as though whatever it is I am looking for lies buried within that forest.

In some ways, maybe it does. What is it I’m searching for? Clarity? Understanding? Love? Belonging? A cure to the existential dread that hits me harder and more often than I care to admit? A treasure map? Some actual treasure?

I might have better luck finding it if I could name it, but I walk anyways.

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I walk until my head is spinning with thoughts and memories.

It’s like I’m in one of those movie montages where a character goes back to an old place and memories and voices and scenes from earlier in the film are artistically faded in. Those scenes always have me in tears.

Today I was in my own version of that, except there is no screen, no fancy transitions. This is all happening in my head –behind my closed, tear-filled eyes as I breathe in breath after breath of cold air hoping to stop my head from spinning.

I remember one of the last times I was in these particular woods. I wasn’t alone, I was with someone who was once very dear to me.

I was then, much like now, searching for some form of clarity.

I stood in the middle of the path, and I couldn’t hear the whisper of the wind or the chirping of the birds or the babbling of the creek.

All I could hear was us. My voice, asking why over and over and over again. Why to me? Why lie? Why do this to me, of all people? What did I do to deserve a betrayal that lasted so long and cut so deep?

I hear her, giving me an explanation. It wasn’t good enough, but I don’t think any explanation given for this particular situation would have been good enough.

There are some wounds that can only be healed with time. Some choices you can’t explain away.

She isn’t there, we don’t speak anymore, but before I know it the words are escaping my mouth again.

Why?

Seasons have passed, my life is completely different than it was back on that cold, February day when we were there together. Still, I am wondering the same things. Maybe it all came back to me because it was the same place, and the weather was the same, and I, ironically enough, happened to be wearing the same T-shirt. Funny how things come full circle like that.

I still don’t understand how someone could hurt their best friend like that, but I’m learning to accept that I may never understand. I simply have to keep moving forward and realize that some people, no matter how much we love them, aren’t meant to be in our lives.

What hurts more than anything, I think, is watching your best friend become a stranger and realizing that maybe you never really knew them at all.

So today I walked through the woods as if my life depended on it.

I walked until the cold didn’t bother me and I stripped off my flannel and rolled up my sleeves.

I walked until my head spun, and until it stopped spinning.

I walked until I had the unwavering feeling that everything was going to be okay.

It already is.

Rekindling my love affair with words

I’m back, I suppose. Maybe. For now. This will be one of the first times I’ve put pen to paper within the whirlwind of the past few months. I think I needed the break, but I’ve felt the pull to come back so here I sit with my notebook open. Now all that’s left to do is bleed, right?

That’s what one of the greats said. Hemingway, I think? I should know that, but my mind is a cloudy mess that can’t quite pull out literary trivia.

I’m sitting here with so much to say, and yet so little. I don’t feel as though I owe anyone an explanation, but I’ve always been honest and straightforward about my life. I tend to err on the side of oversharing, and lately I’ve been keeping to myself. I think that’s been a necessity, but it also feels out of character.

So I’m here, sharing my story because it’s burning a hole inside of me.

To answer everyone’s burning question: No, Christopher and I are not together. He is in Germany, I am home in Hickory. Permanently.

My heart hurts, but also feels lighter than it has ever before.

I have no further explanation for you other than sometimes as much as we want them to, things don’t work out like we plan. Some betrayals cut too deep for us to gloss over –even if we spent a fair amount of time trying to pretend we could. Ultimately, we though we had everything worked out. We thought all we needed was a plan. We failed to remember that people change and plans need to adapt with them.

We thought we were invincible, and nothing hurts more than realizing you aren’t. 

We are only human. Nothing hurts more than getting everything you said you wanted –everything you worked so hard for –and realizing it wasn’t what you wanted at all.

It hurt to walk away from what should have been so comfortable. It hurt to lug two suit cases and my daughter through the un-air conditioned Munich airport in the August heat to move home and start over. It all hurts. Nothing about this decision was easy or taken lightly, but I’ve never wanted anything more than to be a good example to my daughter.

How can I teach her to love herself first when I didn’t? How could I teach her self-reliance and independence when I set up a life that made me completely reliant on someone else? How could I teach her to be careful with her heart when I was handing out forgiveness to a number of people who didn’t deserve it?

I couldn’t. I couldn’t be the mother she deserved when I was miserable. I don’t want her growing up thinking she deserves to be anything but insanely loved and so ridiculously happy.

I’ve been drowning the past few months. It’s only been within the past week or two that I’ve felt like I can come up for air. Like maybe I have at least one foot firmly planted on the ground.

When I came home, I didn’t only lose my husband, but I lost a few friends as well. In retrospect, those were relationships that needed to end, but knowing it is for the best doesn’t quite ease the sting of loss.

I’ve since surrounded myself with much better people. People who love me and believe in me and have taken care of me. People ho have let me cry, scream, bitch and yell. People who have made me feel beautiful and worthy of being loved. People who have listened to Adele and eaten ice cream with me while I cried. People who have been there anytime, day or night, if I’m falling apart or simply don’t want to be alone. People who have reminded me I’m a good mom and am doing everything I can for my girl.

Eden, Brenna, Kelsey and Devan, I love you four so much. I’ll never be able to thank you enough for all the support you have given me the past few months. You guys are incredible.

I don’t really know where things go from here. I lived my whole life with a plan, and now I don’t have much of one. It’s terrifying, but also freeing. I get to decide what comes next. I get to plan how I spend my time, what I invest myself in and where things go.

I’m terrified to screw up. I already have in so many ways. I’ve learned a lot in the past few months about who I am, who I want to be and more importantly, who I don’t want to be. I’ve messed up. I’ve made questionable decisions.

Self help books may be all the rage these days, but there really is no instruction manual for how to cope when your world crumbles around you. I chose to walk away from our relationship, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

It hurts like hell, but there’s really nothing to do now but keep moving forward. Words have become my friend again, and I’m happy to be back with ink staining the sides of my hands.

“There is nothing to writing, you just sit down at a type writer and bleed.” –Ernest Hemingway