At the start of this decade, I had just turned 40 and celebrated my 14th wedding anniversary to my kids’ dad. My older child was about to turn 10, My younger child had just turned 6 and had just been diagnosed with autism. I had no idea my life was going to blow up and completely change over the next decade. Looking back now, I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime in those ten years, and I suppose in many ways, I have. One of my goals in the coming decade is to leave the past where it lies and continue moving forward, but I think it’s also important to look back from time to time to see how far you’ve come.
The growth and learning curve I experienced in my 40’s was freaking crazy. Never in my life have I had to simultaneously do so many things: manage the care and support of disabled child, attempt to single-handedly save a marriage that was beyond repair, keep myself out of the darkest hole of depression, maintain some semblance of stability for my kids, stop drinking alcohol cold turkey, file for and follow through on a divorce I did not want, heal from trauma, raise a teenage girl by myself, parallel parent a pre-teen/teen boy with autism, re-enter the world of dating, heal from trauma, nurture and grow a new romance, lose one of my dearest friends to cancer, help my daughter navigate college applications, get her moved away to school, heal from trauma, make room in my household for the man I love, adjust to living with someone again, adjust to having his child in my home periodically, adjust to having my daughter back home when college “away” didn’t work, heal from trauma, get my teaching credentials up to par after a 20-year hiatus, re-enter the workforce, substitute teach all over the district, heal from trauma, support my daughter as she navigated a second college and then another move away to a third, continue to manage a very busy household while constantly worrying about whether or not I will ever get hired full-time with a real salary and benefits to continue to be able to afford said household.
I mean, holy crap, you guys.
I look back and honestly can’t believe all that is my life. Squeezed into one single decade. Do it yourself and see all the things you’ve actually DONE in such a short period of time. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Did you do it? It’s nuts, right?!
I have truly felt like my home has had a revolving door of people I love(d) coming in and out for, like, 7 of those 10 years. I’m ready for things to slow WAY down and stabilize for a while. I never saw what the Tens would bring coming, and I have no idea what the Twenties have in store for me either. What I do know is that I’ve never been happier to leave a decade behind. I did a lot of hard, personal work. I got handed a shit sandwich that I was forced to eat.
And here I stand, dabbing my mouth with a napkin.
I’m wiser. I’m a lot less likely to tolerate bullshit. I’m stronger and know that I can handle whatever comes my way. I’m a lot more independent and don’t look to my partner to fulfill me or take care of me. I’m proud of the way I handled what came my way. I’m proud of the person I’ve grown to be – scars and all. I’m more grateful than I’ve ever been for my health, my family, my friends, perspective, and hope – mainly because I learned that those things can be yanked from you in a split second. Appreciate ALL THE THINGS every single day that you have them.
The trauma remains. It’s lessened, but the effects will probably last the rest of my life. I don’t hate my ex-husband. I feel compassion for him these days. I wish he could find the strength to do his own healing and get out of the toxic relationship that blew up his life and the life of his family. I wish he had let me help him do that so many years ago. Divorce is s funny thing when you have kids with someone. You can be mad as hell at your ex and still want the best for them because they’re your kids’ other parent. You want your kids’ parents to be healthy and whole.
In the meantime, I continue to move forward and build a life I can be proud of. My major goal for the next year is full-time employment with benefits. If I can accomplish that, I will feel so much relief. I have mini-goals too: read more, move more, drink more water… I don’t do complicated or over-achieving resolutions anymore because I’ve ended up feeling like shit more often than not when I don’t achieve them. I like to be kind to myself. If I’m not, who else will be? I pick a word to focus on each year as well, and maybe that’s a post for another day since I’ve rambled on too much today.
I suppose the point of this post is to get you to think about what you’ve accomplished the past decade. I bet it’s a lot more than you feel like you have. Take a moment to reflect. Write that stuff down. Look at it and congratulate yourself for it. Revel in it and realize that no matter what’s ahead, you can handle it. Recognize someone else’s journey if you can and let them know you see how far they’ve come.
Then take a deep breath and buckle up – the Twenties arrive tomorrow.