I stood in the face of every single storm and challenged it to be the one that would break me. I stood my ground and fought like hell. I’d end up battered
and bruised but still standing. Over and over and over. My ability to
withstand every damn thing life threw at me became what
I was most proud of.
~ J.V. Manning
Sometimes, to move forward in life, you must journey back through all that has led you to this moment. It’s hard to see the impact of the trials you navigated and the lessons each brought forth when you are smack dab in the middle of trying to figure life out. Healing can be messy and dark; painful and soul-crushing. Grief can rob even the best days of any shred of happiness and hope can be a cruel mistress, taunting you to believe that you will eventually get to the other side of it while the voices in your head are busy trying to convince you that it will always be just out of reach.
As the dawn of 2010 approached, I found myself standing at the precipice of a decade that would change, destroy, and catapult my life in ways I never thought possible. Unimaginable loss. Impossible choices. Storms clouded my existence from the very start, and I constantly had to collect shattered pieces of who I was and try to put them back into some semblance of order only to have them break again and again. After a while, I stopped trying to put pieces back together. They would never look like they did. They would never bring back loved ones or come together to make me whole because by breaking, they had changed the entire landscape of my life.
In September 2010, I sat at my kitchen table and created Random Thoughts n’ Lotsa Coffee. A website and blog that would turn into one of my greatest accomplishments. I never thought past the next blog post or how large the community on the Random Thought’s Facebook page would grow. It never occurred to me that people needed my words as much as I needed to write them. Opening my soul to the entire world should have scared the shit out of me. It never did. I felt like a weary traveler going city to city, town to town, picking up lost souls like me who needed someone to understand them. Ultimately, what I created that day would save my heart, as the next seven years would try like hell to break me in every way possible.
Every time a piece of my soul would break off, I would write about it. Every time I would see something that touched my heart or made me think, I wrote about it. I convinced myself that I was giving my soul an avenue to heal, and I was, but at the same time, I wasn’t permitting myself to embrace the dark times. Choosing instead to face them head-on and plow my way through – I was the strong one, the one who doesn’t break. I got this, and I did for a long time.
I stood in the face of every single storm and challenged it to be the one that would break me. I stood my ground and fought like hell. I’d end up battered and bruised but still standing. Over and over and over. My ability to withstand every damn thing life threw at me became what I was most proud of. I wouldn’t allow myself to acknowledge the damage each inflicted on my heart, soul, and mind. I wasn’t going to break damn it, and that was all that mattered. I turned my storms into words. Those words helped others. Helping others was all the justification I needed to keep going the way I was.
I lasted six years of this. Six years. From 2010 to 2016, I buried my mother and grandmother, my mentor, and too many friends. I took on doctors and specialists to figure out my husband’s mystery illness that made it impossible for him to breathe and tried not to panic as the medical bills went over $100K. I took some serious abuse from my husband’s ex-wife for years and her inexplicable meddling in my life while never allowing it to shade my love for my stepson. I also worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week, determined to write and design posts for the Random Thoughts world, and maintain a full-time job that I needed to keep up with all the mounting bills. I lost my entire family within the first two years of this decade, and the intense fallout from my mother’s death by suicide was soul-shattering.
It's as if this past decade was the culmination of a journey that began when I was a child. I've spent the past decade shrouded in a darkness that penetrated to my very center. I have questioned every facet of my life, looked every demon in the eye. I have spent time with memories that have broken my heart over and over to try and take away their power. Exhaustion took over my soul.
Still, I persisted.
My writing sustained me. It fueled me every single day. However, the pressure to produce content for the website and the Facebook page was daunting at times. Designing posts for the page took time away from writing. Writing took time away from working with some beautiful souls I’d connected with through my work. I was juggling so much, for so long that I became fearful of what would happen if I slipped just a little. I never took days off. I never stopped long enough to catch my breath. It never occurred to me that it was too much. I was happiest when I was writing and creating. I felt centered and challenged to finally explore what I was capable of.
I’ve always been a writer. Since I was a child and learned that letters formed words and words formed sentences, and those sentences could bring a whole new world into existence. However, I never shared my words with anyone until September of 2010; and it just happened to be timed with the worst decade in my entire life. Writing has been and will always be my path to solace, but I’ve learned recently it cannot be the only work that I do to get to where I want and deserve to be in life.
In January of 2016, I rescued an Australian Kelpie from a local animal shelter. He’d had a rough start to life and had been abandoned at birth. Murphy became my shadow, my best friend. He got me out into the sunshine and laid at my feet when I would write. I was starting to trust that everything was in the process of finally coming together. I was content.
Then in March of 2016, life would throw yet another curveball. My husband’s father suffered a severe heart attack. Two weeks in intensive care, followed by months of rehab and eventually, moving him in with us. The time I would have spent writing was now spent caring for a man who, at best, was a simmering volcano of anger apt to rupture at a moment’s notice and, at worst, a ball of fury and sly manipulations. I packed away my writing room so he could move in, and in doing so, packed away my battered heart and soul.
Simply put – I gave up.
There was no huge declaration of defeat. I didn’t throw a tantrum and stomp my feet. I would get up every day and do what I needed to do to get through it. I lost my job because of all the time I’d missed, and it just seemed par for the course. My laptop died. I took it as a sign that maybe, life just wasn’t supposed to ever be about what I needed, and while I couldn’t get rid of it – I packed it away with my soul and left it to collect dust.
He finally got better and went back to his own house. But the damage had been done.
It is amazing what we can convince ourselves of when we need to. I felt like a failure. The words were always swirling around in my head, my muses constantly in my ears, but I wouldn’t allow myself to pick up where I’d left off. I couldn’t stand the thought of losing it all again. So, I started a new job and worked ridiculous hours, arriving home exhausted and unable to think. I couldn’t bear to look at the Random Thoughts Facebook page because I felt so horrible about letting everyone down.
The truth is, it wasn’t my angry father-in-law that broke me; it was the simple fact that while I may have faced this entire decade head-on and battled my way through, eventually, it all caught up with me. My entire being was exhausted. I was tired. I was tired of hurting. I was tired of losing. Tired of letting go. I was tired of the words that I was writing to encourage others because they started to feel hollow. My soul was exhausted, and I allowed my flame to blow out.
I may have made it through to the Other Side, but now that I was there – I didn’t know who I was, what I wanted to do, or if I even had the energy to figure any of it out.
No one tells you this. Everyone, me included, tell people facing dark times that they will get to the other side of it eventually. But what no one tells you is there is no road map to life once you get there. No one ever tells you that the other side is a brand-new slate, and you, and only you, have the responsibility to create the life you want.
I wasn’t prepared for any of it. Frankly, I was just too exhausted to give a damn.
It was like being adrift in the middle of the ocean when suddenly you come upon a beautiful island, so many roads to choose from, so many adventures, new friends and ideas. So much hope. It’s overwhelming. It’s too much. So, you sit on the beach and spend some time reacclimating to yourself. You’ll move when you’re ready.
It appears I wasn’t ready for the next two years.
I needed to appreciate my journey this past decade fully, and I needed to do it alone. I tend to give away a lot of myself and for this part of my life, I just couldn’t. See I’d been so determined to face everything, deal with it, and move on, I never really allowed myself time to grieve. I never allowed myself time to feel angry or sad. In doing so, I never went deep enough inside myself to fully heal. I needed time to acclimate to what life looked like now. I needed time to figure out what I wanted going forward. Time to discard all those broken pieces that no longer have a place in my life; saying goodbye to some of them was incredibly difficult.
Making peace with all that transpired took time.
But what took the most time was trying to figure out who I was now. I turned 40 in December 2017, and it was one of the most monumental birthdays I’ve ever had. I was thrilled to turn 40. Thrilled to have reached this fresh chapter in my life, just as I am thrilled to be ending this decade. As 2020 comes rushing at us, I find that for the first time in a while, I’m feeling hopeful. I am feeling at peace. More settled inside my physical body than ever before. Centered and determined.
I’ve earned this.
I brought my writing desk out from storage. A good friend worked some magic on my old laptop and got it working again. I may not have it all figured out yet, but one thing is for certain, I need to write. I need to go back to my community of Regulars and hope they understand my disappearance. I need to rejoin the world and bring my unique perspective to the table.
I’ve been to hell and back more times than I can count, but here I am, still standing. Stronger and determined, but content and peaceful at the same time. I had to do the work to get here.
I hope that all of you who have been with me from the beginning, joined somewhere along the way, or are just finding me now, come along with me on this new adventure. I promise to always be real with you. Life is too short for anything less.
I won’t sugarcoat this – I am scared to start again. Losing everything I worked so hard for hurt me deeply. More deeply than I realized. Starting over, recommitting myself, and allowing myself to dream again is harder than it should be, but it’s not as hard as finding the courage to believe in myself has been. I do not know what the future holds or what my tomorrows will look like; I just know I need to show up and do my best every day. There is no manual to life, we’re all just making it up as we go, but I am not afraid of making mistakes, I am, however, scared to death of not even trying.
Closing the chapter of this decade is over, and it’s time to start fresh. That’s is one of the most beautiful things with life – the power of new beginnings.
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