With only one day to go before 2017 is officially in the history books, and knowing that tomorrow will be super busy, I decided to use today’s downtime to write the post I’ve been actually looking forward to all year.
It might seem weird for me to say that, given the loss and grief our family suffered this year. When Mom died in April, I honestly didn’t know whether I’d ever feel able to be creative again, or laugh again, or do anything that reminded me of her. But 2017 has proven to be a much more complex year than just a year of grieving. It has been about change, at the most fundamental levels.
Change #1: Less Internal War, More Internal Peace
The primary evolution that has happened this year is my newfound peace. Through independent study, my grieving process, and the help of lots of sweet friends, 2017 has taught me the following things:
- Nothing anybody else says or does to me is personal, even if it REALLY feels like it
- I am constantly worthy of love no matter what I do or fail to do
- Others’ opinions of me are not more important or more accurate than my own opinion of myself
- I do not have to do everything right to be loved
- I deserve to feel happy and be free
- I am allowed to distance myself from those who try to make me feel bad about myself
These points may seem simple, but they have changed my thinking and thus my life as well. I had entered 2017 feeling unworthy to be alive, trapped by the opinions of others, feeling like I had to please absolutely everybody so they wouldn’t hurt me. I’m leaving 2017 knowing that I am free from the haunting opinions of past authority figures, family, and friends, and I am allowed to live to please myself and God rather than other human beings.
Change #2: Rediscovering Myself Among the Ashes
This year, I have reconnected with a lot of my real self–for instance, I have learned that my singing voice is not actually ugly, and may actually be much more powerful than anyone ever guessed. Before 2017 began, singing had become another way I pleased others, another way I could prove I was worthy to be alive, and it had become difficult to sing without tension and fear. Now, with the help of my voice teacher, I have discovered that no one has ever heard my real voice, the one unencumbered by negativity…I don’t even know what my real voice sounds like. But, for the first time in my life, I’m excited to find out and share it with others, and I won’t worry if somebody still has something negative to say!
I’m also connecting with my love for writing and composing again, and beginning to share both my words and music with others . For a few months after Mom died it was hard to even think about doing any of that stuff–it felt like I shouldn’t do those things when Mom couldn’t enjoy them, if that makes any sense. But now I can do it knowing that I’m honoring Mom with every word and note, because she always supported my talents and efforts.
Along with creativity, I’ve rediscovered some energy (long stripped away by anxiety and past trauma), and I’ve also found new joy in my long-term relationship, which finally became an engagement on December 4th, just two months shy of our 10-year anniversary. It’s been a long road in many ways for both of us–a long growing period, a long time of working out what a relationship really is and what we can expect from each other–but we’re on the way to becoming official, and I’m over the moon about that. (Even if we haven’t even set a date yet, LOL!)
Change #3: A House Coming Back to Life
Our house was finished in 1980 and stands in the wilderness of western North Carolina…which means that nature and life tried to take their toll on the house and almost succeeded several times. By January of this year, we had hail damage on the roof, missing shingles, cut-up walls from numerous plumbing leaks, curled and buckled floor coverings, and a driveway so rutted it constantly tore up our cars. Not to mention the mold under the flooded flooring and the sections of rotted beams in the roof, which we couldn’t even see!
Before Mom died, she laid out the plan of what exactly was to happen with her life insurance money–she wanted my student loan debt taken care of completely, and the house repaired so we could still live in it if we wanted to. And, as per her (excellent) instructions, almost all of that damage and debt has been wiped away. 2017 has brought us a lot of construction dust and some inconvenience at times, but it has also brought a lot of healing and restoration. (I felt bad at first about using Mom’s money for all this, but as the lady herself put it, “Why else have I been paying premiums on this all these years, except to take care of you after I’m gone?”)
Change #4: Living Without Mom
This has been the hardest change, but also the most complex. I didn’t really lose Mom in 2017, when she died; in ways, I have been grieving her loss all my life.
- When I was tiny in the late ’80s and watched her be constantly abused by my grandmothers, I grieved the loss of my unfettered mom, who had lots of energy and laughed often.
- When an elementary school incident in 1992 made her believe I was a liar, I grieved the loss of my trusting mom, who always believed in me no matter what.
- When her brother died suddenly in 1996, and then she and Dad nearly divorced during a financial crisis two years later, I grieved the loss of my secure mom, who didn’t have to worry about sudden loss or money troubles.
- When she became unable to travel long distances in the mid-2000s, I grieved the loss of my free-spirited mom, who felt able to go anywhere and do anything.
- When her mother died in 2006 and the family squabbled over money, I grieved the loss of my untroubled mom, who didn’t worry about the love of her family.
- When she couldn’t even walk down the stairs or get into a car after 2009, I grieved the loss of my able-bodied mom, who could enjoy our beautiful home even if she couldn’t go out.
- When her sister died in February 2014, I grieved the loss of my happy mom, who could find joy in even the smallest things.
- When she fell in June 2016, I grieved the loss of my independent mom, who didn’t have to do excruciating physical therapy to even regain the ability to sit up.
- When she came home bedridden in August 2016, and the pain in her stomach and back became steadily worse over the next eight months, I grieved the loss of my pain-free mom, who could at least enjoy television, conversations, and music without suffering.
I watched Mom go through so much loss and trouble, and I grieved with her over all that pain and suffering until the day she died: April 25th, 2017. I’m not saying that I was relieved at her death–not at all. But according to my belief system, I believe that she is healed, happy, free, and whole again, much as I remember her from my littlest days. She no longer has to endure under the mountain of sadness that she carried. Knowing that she is content and free from her burdens, I can be free from them too.
2017 in Summary
Even before my engagement this month, I knew 2017 would be a year I’d want to write about. So much has happened, so much has changed, and I am leaving this year behind feeling somehow pieced together after being broken for so long. The seams between pieces are still there, the glue is still wet, but I’m healing. Some prayer requests years in the making are now coming to pass. Things are looking up at last.
But I gotta say, 2018, you got some BIG shoes to fill! I am excited to see what you bring!