2018 was traumatic for me.
I pushed myself to the brink of my mental health in sacrifice to others who didn’t seem to notice. I searched for solutions with desperation like an addict might look for drugs on a dirty floor. I cried and begged and pleaded with people and God to solve this for me because I was at a loss of what to do. I felt like the scum of the world and held it all behind a face that said everything was fine. It didn’t feel like I was allowed to be struggling, or that I had time to be ill or sad or lost. I listed, planned, requested, negotiated, prayed, searched, worked, and worked, and worked at every part of my life. I would then disappear into streamed series early each night and ask them to eventually put me to sleep in the early hours, only to get up again to small voices calling for me a few hours later. I was struggling, slowly dying, and no-one seemed to notice, or care enough to change anything, to help me. When with the help of a great counsellor I did start to put my own wellbeing higher up the list of priorities, if only to be a better mother in the longterm, it tended to result in other areas of my life being more tense or more of a struggle. There were some great positives and big patches of hope. However, hope can hurt; when you long for something and it slaps you in the face with disappointment it’s like a little bit of your soul dying.
Hope can be incredible. Hope is what I recommend in so many situations: Keep going! You can do it! Imagine the end goal! It will be OK. You have to go through the valley to get to the glorious horizon. Climbing the mountain is never easy but the view from the top is more than you could have expected.
I still agree with that in most situations, but after 2018 a little part of my hope was cut out for my own good. I had to stop hoping that I could fix my marriage, a foundational part of my life that was meant to be a place of support and love. I needed to stop hoping that things might change, that I would be found worthy of love within it, that the ideal (with occasional blips) that I pictured and planned and worked for over 7 years would suddenly feel possible and not part a constant, draining, and self-sacrificial fight.
My hopes were dashed. I left wounded and hurting and terrified about what my life might now look like. I cried big ugly snotty tears and worried about my children, my church, my friends, whether I would lose people to “sides”, whether people who called me “family” would disown me. The dreams I had held onto for years seemed ultimately impossible without a team mate, and the everyday that bit more difficult as a single working parent of two young children. It turns out that trying to move on from a marriage is a lot like doing personal major surgery on your mind and heart and habits, because if you let the thoughts fester they can eat you from inside like cancer.
Thoughts wracked my brain before and since: Am I being stupid? Is it all in my head? Should I have just sucked it up and coped? Should I have ever expected anything more? What else about myself should I have changed? Am I really worth any more than I had? I can’t be worth anything much if I am so easily tossed aside. What did I do to get such vile comments landed at me? Why do they believe or assume the worst when I’ve always tried my best? Will I always be alone? Did I lose my twenties? What does my 30s even look like? What do I want out of life and how exactly did I get here? Should I have foreseen this? Was it all just my own bad decision-making? Did we just not communicate what we needed or did something change along the way? When did it change? Did I cause it all to go wrong? Do I really deserve any better? Maybe if I explain how I’m feeling better? Maybe if I was thinner, cleverer, worked more, worked less, cooked more/better, had more sex, looked better, gave up more… ad infinitum.
I realise this isn’t what most people want to be reading on the first day of a brand new year, but those who know me know that I don’t tend to sugar coat the truth of life. These thoughts are things that I never would have asked a friend to consider about their own lives, never would have put all of that responsibility on someone I care about, and never would have suggested were true. But the questions we ask ourselves are rarely kind or friendly.
However, I am eternally grateful to have some incredible people around me for forcing me to hear goodness. I am grateful for my fascinating and intelligent little girls who tell me they love me in a multitude of ways and judge me as “best mummy” out of love. I am grateful for my job and a host of teammates I have gained over the last 6+ months who have supported me, made me laugh, and encouraged me. I am so grateful that I am somewhat safe and that there is a roof over our heads, food in the cupboards, and warmth in the air; these are things many in my position would find difficult to find when a marriage breaks down.
Negativity like the above thoughts can sneak in now like they did before.
Thoughts can still try to take over and push you into a dark hole like they did before.
These thoughts can make you feel like you deserve nothing and should accept any minor act of love no matter how painful in the longterm like they did before.
They did before, but they don’t need to forever. Things can change.
Those thoughts don’t have to have control anymore, and nor does anyone who supported the idea that you weren’t worth more. You can lessen the effect of the negative, take responsibility for your own happiness, and fill your life with the positive, that which builds you up, makes you better, makes you healthier and more able to be what the world really needs you to be.
We have enough negativity, it’s not surprising we feel like we’re drowning. The news is full of corruption, crime, and pain. Good news seems so fleeting and yet it can make us weep with hope, but by remembering the truth, by acting in a truth that proves and tells us we are worthy of love, trust, and goodness, we can start to hope without the pain. By seeking out time with people you want to see rather than feel obligated to see. Spending time doing things you love and that adds to your energy levels. Using your reserves to build up your life in the best of ways brings back interest you couldn’t believe before you did it.
2019 has no new year’s resolutions. Instead I am aiming for what seems to be the basic strategies for life: look after my girls, look after myself, work hard, and try my best. I have, for once, released my mind from the five-year plans (dream mostly) that drove me forward and for once I have no plans.
It is freeing. I know financially I’m saving and spending within my means. I know the daily schedule puts the girls as top priority whilst being able to get my work done. I know I can feed them healthily and get them to sleep at a decent time. I know I can be a good mum, good colleague, and good friend. I know because I am told, and that makes quite a change from the voices that were around me once.
So this year is a blank slate, or a crisp white sheet of paper waiting to be written on.
That’s quite an opportunity.
An opportunity for a new year full of hope.