As I reflect on this first day of a brand new year I can confidently say that the year 2016 will be a year I will never forget. It is the year that changed my life. It is the year that pushed and pulled me in ways I never new possible. It is the year that stripped me of my delusions and left me standing on the edge of a cliff – vulnerable. And also the year that wrapped me in strength, gave birth to new connections, and grounded me deeply in my reality. It was truly magical. Let me tell you how it all began.
In the previous few years I could feel myself slipping down a very slippery slope, gaining momentum on my decent. Stress, anxiety, and frantic disarray became my life theme; however it was well hidden beneath the layers. I was treading water and losing the battle at an alarming rate, completely ignorant to the source that was pulling me under.
I spent almost every waking moment trying to anticipate what was coming next whether in my control or not. I became a slave to the dreaded to-do-list. Always wanting ‘better’; needing more, and more, and MORE. Nothing ever felt good enough! I was not good enough, not healthy enough, and not thin enough. ‘They’ were not good enough. Life was not good enough. Parenting skills were sub-par. House was too small. Never enough money. I lived a fragmented presence as a friend, mother, wife, sister. The list went on and on. Seriously, I could rip apart my life in a heartbeat. Sadly this only fueled the constant need to do better, be better.
It was like driving a race car down the highway in the dark at uncontrollable speeds, unsure of what lied ahead. White knuckles, heart racing, eyes squinting to try to get any glimpse of hope. Yet somehow I managed to paint a very different picture for the rest of the world to see. I wanted people to see ‘I was fine’, ‘everything is perfect’, ‘I got this under control’. I was ungrateful, unhappy, self-loathing and living a counterfeit life.
Suddenly out of nowhere I was stopped dead in my tracks by a cement wall. It was March and I remember it like yesterday. What I thought was just an ordinary day, turned out to be quite the opposite. It hit me like a freight-train. I just froze. Could not move. My breath was shallow and on edge. I stood there staring at my life not knowing where I was. Everything felt so foreign, like ‘how on earth did I get here’.
The world was spinning like a dark storm all around me. My thoughts were churning and tumbling in a blur. They were chaotic. I could not bring a single one of them into focus. Then panic and fear began to creep in. ‘What was happening?’ The hairs on the back of my neck got that prickly sensation as they stood on edge. I had a sudden urge to just run. To turn the other way and never look back. To run as fast as my feet could carry me. But my feet felt cemented to the floor. Heavy and unshakable. As much as I tried to move, I couldn’t. I just stood there frozen for what felt like an eternity.
Slowly the volume from the swirling storm of blurry thoughts went silent. As reality began to set back in I could feel the steam from the pot I was stirring start to burn my hand. But I still could not move. Off in the distance I could hear a 7 year olds voice, ‘mom’, ‘mom’, ‘mom’, ‘MOM’. But I could not stop staring off blankly into the blur all around me. Somewhat curious but mostly terrified of what the hell it was all about. Then a stern voice in my head began yelling “report to the front lines soldier, you’ve got work to do.” I knew I had to snap out of it but my soul was begging me to just stay still for another moment. To just be quiet and hold that space a little longer.
After a few more seconds had passed, I was swallowed up by the cloud and thrown head first back into my reality. I turned to my son who was stomping his feet at this point. “Mom are you listening to me, I want to play skylanders”. I snap at him, “No, I already told you, you are still grounded.” He stomps off to his room and I instantly sink back into my old habits of hurrying – finish supper, pack our son’s lunch, pack my lunch, do the dishes, throw a load of wash in, shower for work, and race out the door for a night-shift.
The next morning after the dreaded drive home from work I pulled into the driveway, turned off the ignition and just sat in the quiet. I tried to figure out the ‘storm’ I had experienced the night before. But nothing reasonable came to mind. The uncomfortable stillness began to creep slowly into my veins. Tightness began to ball up in my throat and then just like that I started to weep. I couldn’t control it. A tsunami of tears began to overflow and my breathing became shallow, rapid, and uneven. My heart felt like it was being crushed by a heaviness I cannot even describe. ‘I can’t do this anymore’. ‘I can’t.’ ‘I just can NOT.’ I was so exhausted. Defeated.
Waving the white flag, I continue to sit there sobbing, the cold spring air starting to rest heavily on any bare skin. Several minutes had passed. I began to see my breath in the air that was cooling inside the car. Then finally the familiar numbness started to settle in. The well of tears began to run dry. My chest was still moving in and out fiercely as I tried to catch my breath and force the emotions away. The voice from my head came in loud and clear again, ‘just go inside and get some sleep, you’ll be fine.’ I despondently oblige and drag my heavy body into the construction zone that was our house and fell onto the bed. Fully clothed. My breath slowed. My eyes closed.
I realize now that this was the universe sending me a message. A little whisper that something had to give. Something had to change. I had to change. I could not live that way any longer. I needed more space, more stillness, more silence. I needed for things to slow down, to find life’s sweetness again. But that was all it was – a whisper. Just a subtle hint. Not an answer. Not a hand leading me to the right path.
Over the next few months I spent time trying to figure out what the whisper meant. What I needed. Who I was. What the hell I was doing with my life. I aimlessly searched for ‘the right path’. I began a pursuit of happiness, in search of my purpose, in search of anything that was not my messy, exhausting life as I knew it.
I want to share this journey with you because I had once felt isolated and alone. I once felt terrified of what I had become. Lost in life’s unguided path; traversing through foreign landscapes – unsure of where I came from or where I was headed. Uncertain of anything. And if I can help someone else to feel less alone in the world – whether it is to relate, support, inspire, empower, or just offer a different perspective – then I will have met my yearning to reach out. I don’t have a set agenda. I am just telling my story as I live it, taking radical self-responsibility for my own well-being, exploring self-care, and finding happiness along my path.
So today I am grateful that 2016 awarded me sweet redemption. It brought me new hope, new gratitude, a new attitude and a new way of being. And I am filled with excitement to share with you how life is full of surprises. As I head into this new year with my intentions, I have a sense of peace that I am exactly where I need to be. I’ll leave the new year’s resolutions at bay and have faith that the universe will lead me where I need to go.
Thanks for reading.