Wednesday Wisdom: Learning From The Past

The last few years have been pretty challenging for me - anyone who cared to look could see that the relationship I was in was failing miserably, and as time went on and he and I became increasingly unhappy, everything about the two of us together became more and more toxic.

I don't even know if something as beneficial as couple's therapy could have helped us work it out because by the time I suggested the idea we were well on our way to the end. I knew it was ending, all the way back when I first wrote and published To Love A Selkie. My mother was going through a cancer scare, my future was looking more and more uncertain, and I was carrying dual burdens:
  • the raising and coaching of two kids, and
  • the terrifying suspicion that when my relationship with their dad ended, I would be as completely on my own as his mother had been.

The signs were already there, and while I hoped I was wrong - hoped that my writing would bring in an extra income that would cushion our finances, relieve our stresses, and allow us to repair what was broken - I wasn't even sure anymore if that was what I wanted. If he was what I wanted.

I was honest with him about how I felt and what my concerns were. I wish that honesty had gone both ways. (If you're reading this now and nodding sadly along, contemplating the state of your own relationship, maybe it's not too late for your romance to have a happy ending. Look into the benefits of couples therapy as illustrated in this article from the professionals at BetterHelp, and maybe even give therapy a try! Remember: at one point, you and your spouse chose each other. Maybe with a little guidance, you can find your way through to doing it again.)

In the years since, I've seen the sad reality of a future I wished wouldn't come to fruition, in terms of the end of my relationship and the way my children were impacted by having a disinterested father figure. But I've also seen a whole new side of myself in regard to how much I believe in myself as a mother and as a woman.

On the surface, most of last year stayed the same in terms of writing growth; my income grew some, I was blessed to develop a few sponsored partnerships, and I wrote something close to 200,000 words - spread between my blog posts and my Patreon stories, poems, and podcasts. But I didn't publish a new book, and I didn't come close to fully recovering from the financial disaster of the breakup with the kids's dad. I have a long way to go, in terms of that.

But business and money aren't everything, are they? And in terms of everything else, I walked through 2017 with my head high and my shoulders straight - defiant. A warrior. I attended therapy faithfully, and I put my soul into it. I finally found a primary physician after years of not bothering (being too anxious) to go to one despite knowing how much I needed to. I made plans to improve my future. I nurtured new friendships I hope will last, and I let go of old ones that were hurting me. I opened my heart to new people - and closed it to old ones.

I grew and changed. And I persevered, and the truth is, sometimes that the best you can ask of yourself. I laid what I hoped would become a foundation for my future - and this year I intend to take that momentum and build on it.

I don't know where the future is going. I don't know if what I've set in motion will work out as planned. But I know I'm giving it everything I have, and taking lessons from each and every day that I hope to improve on in the days to come.

Today I thought I'd share some of those lessons here.

In 2017, I learned that it's okay to ask for help.
Sometimes, no matter what you have to lay on the proverbial table, it just won't be enough to get the job done. You won't be able to stretch far enough, won't be able to juggle fast enough, won't see a suckerpunch coming in time to brace yourself for the impact. And in those times, it is okay to reach out to the people who say they care about you and ask them to step up and prove it. It is okay to ask for the kind of support you need, and it is okay to expect the people who say they love you to come into the arena and fight for you.

It's also okay to admit that the people around you aren't equipped to help you with whatever you're going through, and to look outside of your usual circle of influence for guidance. 

In 2017, I learned that nostalgia is not enough.
"Old time's sake" isn't a strong enough building block for the future; it isn't a strong enough bond to face the test of time without adequate effort and equal sacrifice. I knew this already, in the dark corners of my heart where I hide the things I'm not yet ready to face ... but in 2017 I was able to look at the truth and admit that it didn't matter how many times I stayed up all night long coaching people I loved through their crises and lifting them up and encouraging them forward, because some of those people simply wouldn't be there when I had a crisis of my own. Sometimes it doesn't matter how much you give, because the other person simply doesn't have anything they're willing to give back.

In 2017, I learned to let things go - and to hold things back.
My life is still full of complicated and difficult-to-navigate situations, and I still spend more time than I'd like to dealing with passive aggression, abusive attitudes, manipulation, and closed-minded judgmentalism. But last year I learned how to better let go of things that don't matter in the long run. I also practiced withholding responses to petty covert provocation and other signs of toxicity - and I chose not to fight for a friendship with a person that I respected, even as it pained me deeply to realize that they could not respect me in return.

Learning the difference between what was healthy for me relationship-wise and what wasn't - in both the romantic and the more platonic sense - was pivotal in my personal development, and the things I learned have changed my life in ways I am unspeakably thankful for.

In 2017, I learned that I was right about what was wrong.
For years I hid a nagging little pebble of discontent. Now and then I would pull it out of the little box I kept it stuffed in in the back of my mind, and I would turn it over like a worry stone, examining it as if staring down at its surface would reveal to me the secrets hidden beneath. I missed being single, and I looked back to the little apartment I had lived in with sadness ... because I missed how I felt when I was in that apartment. Before him. I wasn't sorry - I've never been sorry because in the end it was all worth it for the lessons I learned and the child I birthed ... but I missed life before him, and had begun to look forward to life after him. All the way back then I knew it was a bad fit ... but in 2017 I learned how right I had been to see how wrong it all was.

In 2017, I learned to live in the moment.
Above all things, beyond all challenges, I learned that life is what you make it, moment by moment. While I wasn't always good at practicing this more mindful perspective, and I did find myself getting caught up in stressing over challenging news, difficult people, and everyday happenings more often than I would have liked, I did make living in the moment more of a regular practice in 2017.

I don't always know what the next week holds for me, or the next month. But in this moment my belly is full, my limbs are mostly working, my babies are relatively healthy, and I am warm. I know that words are magic and music is beautiful and God is working behind the scenes of my life.

And I know that one way or another, this too shall pass. This place, this space, this time, is nothing more than a temporary home, and I am on my way to something beautiful.

Don't forget, this month I've got a BLOGuary partner - David Elliott, from The Single Dad's Guide To Life. Be sure to check out his post on moving forward with life lessons from 2017 too! But first ...

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