A Look Back on 2016

The New Year. A chance for fresh starts; a chance to start over. A clean slate, if you will. A time for rejoicing and celebration. A time for recording and reflection. A time for looking forward with bright, starry eyes and all the determination in the world. “I will do this,” you tell yourself. And in this very moment, on the precipice of a new year, you believe it.

Every year, I going the majority of society in making bold goals for myself and promising myself that “this year will be different; this year will be the BEST ever.” And as I close this year, I would like nothing more to continue with this sentiment. But in order to truly make the best plans for the upcoming year, it only makes sense to reflect on the year. And it wasn’t until I thought about this a few nights ago that I realized – I’ve been skipping this step every year.

If you’ve had a pretty difficult year and keep repeating the sentiment, “Next year is going to be so much better; it has to be better than this”, chances are you the reflection won’t be very difficult for you. I know for me, I can rattle off at least 5 things in 30 seconds that I am looking to improve.

  • Faith.
  • Career.
  • Love.
  • Relationships.
  • Direction.

And honestly, I feel that you should take a moment to reflect back on the year. But instead of wallowing in the pain or angrily beating your fists in the air over the events, we should try to look at things objectively. The year couldn’t have been ALL that bad. I mean, we’re still alive, right? That’s a plus. So, in the faith of being fair, let’s look back at the past year and review what went well and what went not as swell.

 


The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Let’s start with the Bad & Ugly – get the worst out of the way and then end on a positive note.

If I had to sum 2016 up in one negative word, that word would be: loss.

  • Loss of best friends
  • Loss of love
  • Loss of home
  • Loss of family
  • Loss of trust/faith

In the earlier half of this year, I lost a dear friend of mine. No, they didn’t die physically, but in my mind and my world, they might as well have. I’ve had a best friend since college and we went through everything together – boyfriends, houses, jerks, classes, jobs. You name it, there was a story for it. We had drifted off a few times – when she moved to south Florida for grad school, then again when she moved to Atlanta and Texas with someone. She wound up back in town shortly after I met my husband, and ended up dating his brother.

There is a lot of back story here that I’m not going to go into (that would probably take a week’s worth of blog posts), but the gist of it is this: she was newly single; his brother was new to the area and starting over. They of course started seeing each other because he was living with us and she came over a lot to see me. What no one realizes about best friends and brothers dating is that no matter what, you get entangled in each other’s relationships. When things are going great, all is well. But when something is off, we’re going to complain to each other and naturally take sides. Which puts the couples at odds against each other – no matter how you look at it.

And that, my friends, is exactly what we were afraid of happening and after 3 years it did. And it was stressful. I’m going to be honest with you – my marriage definitely suffered from it. I naturally saw her side of the story and my husband sided with his brother. A house divided, unknowingly. When they split we thought it would calm down, but it got worse. Nearly tore my world apart at one point. From that point on, I chose to distance myself in order to preserve my relationship.

When they re-united and acted as nothing happened, it was very difficult for me to understand. Their split had nearly torn my own marriage apart as I took her side and helped her through some of the worst of time. And then to say nothing every was wrong; that he’d been there through it all. I was flabbergasted. I very politely said that I felt it was best we not involve each other in our relationships, just because of how stressful it had been on us. Well, that lead up to us not speaking. Which has now resulted in over 6 months of almost total silence. Going from talking to someone everyday to nothing – that’s extremely tough.

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That seemed to be just the tipping point for me too. Next up on the list was my actual relationship. Underneath what appeared to be a happy exterior, there was a good deal of unhappy emotions rumbling around. Anger. Discontentment. Disappointment. Fear. Sadness. Longing. Distraction. Uncertainty. Distance. All of these and so many more were lurking around the rooms of my house. They would explode every once in awhile, but as the summer progressed, any sort of happiness was overwhelmed by these emotions.

Have you ever had someone describe a situation to you and they say, “it was like a dream – I thought for sure I would wake up and it would be just a really bad dream?” I never experienced that until this year and trust me, it’s a terrible dream that would beg God to wake you up from. In the course of 24 hours, I lost my relationship, my house, and my future as I knew it. Talk about a shot to the heart and the gut. If you woke up tomorrow and everything you knew and had created was just *poof* gone, I imagine your reaction would be close to mine.

I chose to push through mine. I let as few people know as possible what was going on and just tried to make it until the weekend. Scratch that – just try and make it through the day. To make it out of work without bursting into a puddle of tears and divulging what was really going on – how your world was really falling apart. That was my life for almost 2 weeks. Not knowing what I was coming home to – the home that really didn’t feel like home anymore and the man that didn’t feel like my husband anymore.

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And I loathe change. I am a planner and I had my future all planned out. Our future. I had been tucking away every little penny I had and putting it into savings. There was a baby savings account and a home savings account. My goal was to have enough for a house downpayment by the end of 2017. We were looking at different job opportunities for him so that he could utilize his new license, which he had slaved and studied for most of 2015. We even got the bigger house in case we needed to stay a few more years – the 3rd bedroom was going to be the baby room.

So going from that loving environment and mindset, where we were putting in 110% to make all of these dreams possible, to questioning everything you thought you knew…I think that would upset anyone. I had a choice – try to forgive and forget OR get the heck out before something worse could happen. In every instance where something like this had occurred before, I had gotten out. And those instances weren’t as serious as this one. But now I was married – how do you leave someone that you love and adore; someone you vowed to stand by, “through sickness and health, til death do we part”? How do you do this??

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I’ll let you know when I’ve completed that journey. I chose the latter – the safer decision. It was, hands down, the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make. More difficult that losing a best friend; more difficult than leaving any ex; more difficult than quitting a job that was financially stable for one that I was more passionate about. As someone told me, there will never be a good time for this and nothing could ever prepare you for this situation. But you’re here now, so you have to make the most rational and logical decision – for YOU. And that is the advice that I took and have been repeating to myself for the past 3 months as I’ve re-learned a whole new way of life.

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A new world without him in it. I thought it was hard losing my best friend who I text with everyday. Losing the person that you woke up to. That person you kissed good-morning, good-bye, and good-night. That person that you text throughout the day – reminders, emojis, questions, advice, news, motivation. That person who playfully chased the dog around and snuck up behind you to steal attention as you tried to cook dinner. That person you shared dinner with every night. That person whose touch made you instantly feel like you were home. Their kiss. Their hugs. Their hand holding yours. All of it. Gone.

Talk about the world just crumbling down. And that, my friends, is how I lost everything. I lost my love. I left the home that we had begun to build together. I lost the future family that we had been trying to build. I lost my faith and trust in something I had pledged my faith, trust, and loyalty to.


And now…for the Good

Despite all of the craziness that went on this year, there were a lot of positive things that did happen to me. A good word to summarize the positive aspects of 2016 would have to be “growth”.

  • Self-confidence
  • Self-love
  • Self-respect
  • Let go
  • Use your support system
  • Have faith

I gained all sorts of “self” stuff this year. I would love to say that I merely improved myself a little more than last year in the areas self-confidence, self-love, and self-respect but…then I would be lying to you. It’s no secret that I’ve always struggled in these areas. I’ve always sought external satisfaction and fulfillment in these areas of my life and come up very short. I am known for asking everyone else’s opinion instead of valuing my own; for relying on others compliments and still couldn’t look in the mirror and believe that what they were saying was true. Whenever something ever went wrong in a situation, I’m the first to say “I’m sorry”, even though 9 time out of 10, it wasn’t remotely my fault.

This last feature has come up time and time again in my relationships, friendships, and careers. I will do anything and everything to help you out, even if it means putting myself out. If I have to work later hours because I feel like I should help you on your project, I’ll do it. If you give me a project that is so obviously not my responsibility, I’ll still do it because I don’t want to let you down and (honestly) because I value your opinion of me more so than respecting myself to realize you’re (probably) taking advantage of me. And don’t get me started on relationships. Anytime something goes wrong, I will take the blame for it. The traffic on the way somewhere; the food not being cooked the right way (at home or at the restaurant); the abuse – I always told myself it was something I had done wrong.

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This year, that all changed in a very big way. I don’t know what exactly triggered it, but I slowly began to gain self-confidence. I began to feel proud of what I was doing – the projects I was working on, the goals I was working towards achieving. It felt good to even have a goal in mind other than “get pregnant”. And when issues would rise up here and there – the same issues that had occurred before – I had a very different reaction. I began to focus on what made me feel better and what would help to me to reach a happier place. This sort of self-improvement was new to my environment and I think the growth was troubling to others in my life. And when the losses began to occur in my life, I became that more determined to get to a happier place.

I wish I could tell you that I am in that heavenly happy place where I 100% believe that I am the bomb diggity 24/7. But, I would be lying. I’m no where near “healed” or perfect. I still have doubts and troubling thoughts that haunt the outskirts of my mind, whispering to me, “this is all your fault…you’re a disgrace…you’re the reason this all happened…”. It’s a daily struggle to silence those thoughts, but it’s a struggle that’s becoming easier as each day passes. And in the process, I have become much stronger of my convictions and what I deserve.

 

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In addition to all of this self-growth, I learned what really is important. In addition to being a planner, I am super OCD and meticulous. I am very detail-oriented and a self-proclaimed perfectionist. I am notorious for having to-do lists for to-do lists; one for every day of the week. My Outlook calendar is carefully color-coded (that I learned from work) so as I make sure not to forget anything that I need to complete.

As you can imagine, I take pretty much anything I do to the extreme. I like to be fully committed, which can be viewed as a good and bad quality. It’s a fantastic quality in an employee; it’s not such a desirable quality in a partner. I would constantly have something to do, whether it was running errands, working out, meal planning, cooking, painting, cleaning…you get the point. My husband, on the other hand, just wanted to hang out by the pool or watch TV (neither of which were on my to-do list). We often argued because in his eyes, I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) relax. I argued back that most of these things (cooking, painting, running) were relaxing to me.

Over the course of these last 3 months, I’ve learned to let go of a lot of things that 6 months ago would have driven me up a wall. Take for instance my meal plans. When I first moved out and was visiting my parents during their vacation, I had a very hard time adjusting to not being able to cook each meal. Those first few weeks, I nearly had an anxiety attack when I would realize that I couldn’t cook something I had planned on. Don’t laugh – to me it was a way to just have a little bit of control amongst all the chaos that I was living in. But, given the same situation about 4 weeks later, I was much calmer and responded with, “oh ok, that’s cool! What are we eating tonight?” That is incredible growth for me.

In this same manner, I learned to rely on others. I’m known for trying to do everything on my own because…well, I feel that I can do everything. Is it also an underlying need for control? Absolutely – I’m not going to lie to you. I am terrified of losing control and by handling everything, I know that if it does all fall down, I only have myself to blame (see…there’s that blame game again). But this year, I really learned a lesson in control and having to relinquish it in order to maintain my sanity.

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When everything began to crumble down, I was faced with a choice: let others know what was going on and ask for help or try to muddle through it on my own (which is secretly what I had been doing for months). But unlike the earlier years of my relationship, 2016 had brought about a lot of new friendships and reconnections. I had rekindled several friendships from high school and college, which quickly grew to be some of the strongest friendships. We jumped back into the friendship, as if no time had passed at all. So when I was faced with the decision of going it alone or asking for help, I chose to reach out.

I shared my story with those closest to me. That alone was difficult for me – to open myself up like that to my closest friends and family; for them to know what was and had been going on for several months. At first, I was worried of being judged and ridiculed (probably why I kept it in hidden for so long). But not once did anyone make comments. Instead, I was surrounded with love and understanding, which is honestly what I needed at that moment. I had friends open their arms and their homes to me, asking how they could help. Others who weren’t nearby offered words of encouragement, motivation, and support. Through the entire ordeal, I never for a moment felt that I was alone and that was the time that I needed support the most.

 

Finally, 2016 brought an awakening to the spiritual area of my life – an area I have long neglected. In conjunction with my fear of losing control, I have an extremely difficult time having faith. I am always looking for the other shoe to drop, as my mom puts it. I will dig and search and analyze until I find the worst possible outcome – then set myself up for that possibility. I know, it’s horrible – how does one even live like that? To not have faith in the unknown and believe and trust that there is a bigger picture….I’ve just never had enough trust to believe in all of it.

Until now. Until 2016. This was the year that God and the Universe finally put their foots down and said, “enough”. This was the year that I learned the lesson of having blind faith and trust, and as you can imagine, it’s not be an easy task. There are days that I wake up and I just don’t even want to do anything. Thankfully those have been few and far between, but they do happen. And when they do, I have learned to surrender to them. There are moments when a memory hits me and I internally break down, silently screaming out, “Why??”. And then there are moments that I actually break down in a magnificent display of tears and sobs that are gut-wrenching as I finally explode from all the pain and anguish.

 

And through all of this, I can’t understand why this has happened to me. Trust me – I’ve tried. I’ve tried to reason as to what I did to make God so angry at me. What I’ve done to make others so angry at me that they hate me. What I’ve done that I deserved to have everything ripped away from me in the course of a few days. Yes, I could have chosen to stay, but what kind of life would that have been and what message would that have sent to him? What kind of message would that have sent to myself? I’ll tell you:

  • That I’m not worth anything. 
  • That I deserved it.
  • That I was the reason for it – that it was my fault.
  • That it will get better.
  • That this is just how it will be and I have to deal with it. 
  • That I have to stay because it’s in my vows.

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I made the bold and courageous choice to not accept that – to make a choice that would defy all of those messages. I chose to take a huge leap of faith into the unknown and let God handle the big stuff. I was given the opportunity to move back home and take the time to heal myself. I was blessed with the opportunity to continue with my current career, just from a different location. I located an office that I could be seen and treated for the experiences that I have gone through; to work through all of the emotions and thoughts that I’ve been struggling with.

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I don’t know what is going to happen. This time last year, I had my entire life semi-planned out: the house, the job, the town, the husband, the kids, the dog. Everything that made my world perfect and complete. As I sit here writing this now, I have lost most of those things (all but the job and the dog), but in those places I have gained so much. I have begun a daily practice of reading, journaling, and meditating. I have slowly relinquished control of the things which I don’t understand or have the ability to control. I have begun to ask both God and the Universe for signs and guidance as I journey down this new, unfamiliar path.


And so, I as I take one final glance back over this year, I realize that it wasn’t all that bad. Yes, there were some pretty terrible moments (ok months) where I just wanted to push past them and start over. But, I have to admit there were some pretty remarkable moments scattered in there. And amongst all the good, the bad, and the ugly, there were lessons that needed to be learned. Not all of them are completed; I’m very much still a work in progress and learning day by day. Remember that faith and trust that I said I lost in my marriage? Maybe, just maybe, it was meant for me to lose it there so I could take the time to build it in myself. Only then will I be fully able to love, trust, and have faith in others. ❤️

 

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