At the Closing of the Year

This week, I couldn’t help but notice people posting the latest Facebook generated link. Click here to see so and so’s favorite memories from 2015. All the while, I’m sitting over here thinking, “Dear GOD, I don’t want to be reminded of much of anything about this year.”

Funny how typically, on my birthday (which happened to fall on Thanksgiving this year), I write a post about the life goals I met from the previous birthday and ones I want to work on for the upcoming birthday. Couldn’t bring myself to do that on the most recent anniversary of my birth. In fact, I couldn’t so much as look at last year’s post to remind myself of what I had wanted to accomplish this year. I’m almost certain it said something about, “Do more theater” and, well, I definitely did more theater.

Was doing “more theater” enough to make this a redeemable year? I can’t say as it was. Frankly, when I look back all of the way to the beginning of the summer (all I can recall from before that is memories of my friend’s cancer diagnosis and the mental state of anguish that left me with), the only thing I can think is, “2015, good riddance”.  I know what you’re thinking because I’m thinking it too. But Mandy, you are safe, you have a roof over your head, family who loves and cares for you, and you are healthy (at least physically). Really, what more can you ask for? And this is true, to a certain extent. I am very blessed and I have little, today, about which I can complain. But if there is anything I have learned from the positive psych class I am taking online just because it is that, if we are experiencing stress, it doesn’t matter what our physical state and environment is all about, we are in survival mode and we are suffering.

Folks, my stress level has been through the roof this year and, let me tell ya, it finally broke me. I’m pretty sure I just experienced a nervous breakdown and it’s been accumulating for years. Decades even. There have been times when I almost went ahead and had that nervous breakdown so I’ve had touches of them here and there. However, finally, this summer and fall, all of the stress and unhealthy shame messages and toxic self-images and unrealistic expectations I’ve put upon myself… well… I guess I found the straw that finally broke this camel’s back?

As I sit here, clinging to my warm coffee cup (vat) in front of an open window during an unseasonably warm December, one week from Christmas Eve, I can honestly say that I am completely and totally broken. Each day, I am gluing the pieces of my heart, my spirit, my mind, and my trust back together. But I know that I will never ever ever be the same. And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

The loss. Oh my goodness, the amount of loss I have suffered is unspeakable. But then again, many assure me that what I “lost” was never real anyway. What is real has shown up in major ways via visits and gifts and text messages and “I love you”s and meals and forgiveness and kisses on the head and hands being held and still, quiet presence. There is nothing quite like going batshit crazy that will  show you exactly where you stand with people and precisely who is on your team.

Last year, I spent my birthday watching Rocky Horror with my kids and waiting for Thanksgiving. My birthday “celebration” was one I requested with friends where I brought the meal and when I arrived, realized that basically the entire party had been forgotten by my host. It was an embarrassing spectacle and I may have gotten a little too drunk to help me cope with my humiliation.

This year, though  I was in pain, two of my closest friends, despite it being Thanksgiving, came to my house, one in the early part of the day, one in the evening, and brought me cards and gifts and sat with me while we watched Seinfeld, swept my floor, and in general, kept me company through what was one of my most difficult days during my (physical) healing process. I did not feel alone. I did not feel embarrassed. I did not need to get drunk.

While on the surface, it seems I was in a better place last year, I’m not sure that is true. Last Christmas I sacrificed the happiness of my family to make myself available for another family who literally left me waiting all night long on a call telling me that I was needed. I was so eager to help, I didn’t mind staying up all night awaiting notification for me to head on over. I loved to serve. When the call never came, I fell asleep on the sofa for a little while and spent the rest of the day too exhausted to enjoy myself or my children, curled up in a fetal position in my bed. I was, yet again, humiliated that I cared so very much for this friend who was willing to use me and not bat an eye.

This year, there is no way in hell I’d offer up my free services to another family on Christmas. At least not for something as trivial as babysitting. Especially not to the detriment of my own family. Not a chance. I can now see how often I’ve put the needs of my own family and myself below the needs of people who live outside of this house. Never again.

As I reflect upon 2015, all I see is a blur of pain and hard work and suffering and shame. I am utterly ashamed of the situations that put me in a place where I’m up at 4 am writing about my nervous breakdown. On the other hand, I cannot help but be thankful for the opportunity for growth that this year has brought me. I know myself so much better now. I know what I need and want in a friend. I know that I believe with every fiber of my being that I deserve to be loved as much as I am willing to love. I know that the people living in this house are on my team and I can trust them all with my life. I know that my in-laws are MY family too and I can depend upon them when times get rough. I know that being able to take a walk, make a meal, care for my home, be present with my husband and children are the things that I missed most while incapacitated. I know that I don’t want to write right now (I say as I sit here writing) and instead I want to read and watch good tv and lesson plan and make things with my hands.

I also know that I have a lot of healing left to do, both emotionally and physically, and that in order to do that, everything must come to a screeching halt. I’ve removed myself and my kids from various commitments and intend to spend the semester simply being and resting and learning and loving. Being gentle with myself is my number one priority. 2016’s theme is quietness, stillness, nothingness. I intend to ask myself a lot of questions like, “Is this serving me? Is this bringing me joy? Is this stressing me out?” I look forward to seeing what life looks like next year after months of letting the answers to these questions guide me.



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