A new year begins once again and, as usual, I’m taking stock of my life. I’m celebrating all that I am. I’m giving myself credit for how far I’ve come. The many virtual post-it notes on my computer monitor remind me of goals yet to be reached, of areas to improve; the inspiring quotes instill the faith needed to achieve it all. But as thoughts begin to fill my mind, I realize I’ve been starting my sentences the same way for the last 5 years. This year it feels wrong. It’s time to re-define my measuring stick.
After my husband’s suicide in 2012, every step I took, every struggle, every change and ultimately every triumph was measured against that event. As I looked at my life year after year, my thoughts always began with “It’s been one year since…”, “It’s been 2 years since…” etc. But as I approach the 5th anniversary of the event in May of this year, it no longer seems appropriate. In five years, I’ve had time to understand the troubled man, as best I could; to admit the reality of what I went through during the 15 years of our relationship and to embark on a journey of repair and restoration. What’s different now is the need to rid myself of the physical weight of the past. I feel like I need to physically shrug it off my shoulders, let it fall away and from this moment, just simply live. But doubt often persists.
When will the past stop being bigger than my present? This has been the recurring question, year after year. It still runs through my head today. Because sometimes it’s a murky world. It’s hard to know if I’m doing okay, if I’m making progress. Should I remember before I forget? Should I first hold accountable, so that I may forgive? If I’m not angry, am I in denial? Sometimes I just have to stop and re-phrase. Sometimes I just have to make it okay, whatever ‘it’ is. And as my past fades, I try to stay present, to keep focused on today and everyday and appreciate how precious every day is.
Nobody can tell a person how long it will take to get over a dramatic life-event, nor can they prepare you for the inner changes that will take place. Professionals will be able to offer guidance, arm you with ‘tools’ and speak of certain probabilities. I will admit, when my world and my ‘self’ fell apart, talking to someone with the professional background to deal with what I had become was life-saving; having them offer absolute freedom and non-judgement to be that, was critical. But as with all personal challenges, we must ultimately face them on our own. When the professional guidance came to an end, I felt very much unprepared – for the unknown, for the decisions I would now need to make, for life itself. I had changed, there was no doubt. Among the many things I had lost was trust – in myself, first and foremost. But with no choice but to take a step, and then another, I carried on – armed with my new ‘tools’. Over time, I began to believe in myself. What doesn’t kill you most definitely makes you stronger.
A new year begins. I enjoy looking at all the things I’ve accomplished in the past year and find it motivating to create a new framework of ideas and goals for the year ahead. It excites me, gives me purpose and creates a meaningful approach to each day. As I take stock, I remain grateful for the people in my life and for all that I have. This year, I will work to let go of my attachment to what was, and to simply enjoy this life I have been gifted – free from the past, lived in the moment and always with an open heart.
Rather than re-defining my measuring stick, I think I’ll just replace it with a celebration stick and call it a day…
Photo by Carol Good – all rights reserved