New year, new me? I don’t think so.

I have really come to resent this idea that with each new year, you are supposed to reinvent yourself. You see it on every magazine cover, in newspapers, on TV and in a million blogs that cover a plethora of topics.Why? Do we somehow lose value with each year that passes and must reinvent the nature of who we are to be relevant, loved, appreciated or valued?

Can improvements be made? Sure. Who couldn’t make a few improvements in their lives? Lose a little weight perhaps? Maybe eat healthier and hit the gym more? Be kinder? Love more? We all have areas where we fall short, but the essence of who we are, unless that happens to be a complete jerk, a serial killer or a total pig/pigette , shouldn’t need to be completely reworked each and every year.

The beauty of being in your forties is that you have a lifetime (or half a lifetime, as I plan on living a long time and being around for great grandchildren) of experience, both good and bad, that make you who you are and shape your perspective. You can allow the experience to break you or you can let it build you. The choice is always yours.

I have been through a lot, as a lot of people have, some of which broke me. Thank God we are resilient creatures and can rebuild from the broken pieces. We may not “look” the same when we come through the hardships, but if we are fortunate and determined, we can be better, stronger, kinder, smarter, more loving, etc.

There is a Christian recording artist, Jason Gray, that had a video, and I can’t recall the title on YouTube, but the gist of it is this: People who have been in need of grace and mercy are perhaps more capable and more willing to give those things away to others because they know what it means to need those things. I liken it to a piece of pottery. An intact piece of pottery is capable of collecting water and holding water, but until it is to the point of overflowing, the water does not spill out around it. A cracked, broken and chipped piece of pottery can collect the water, but much of what is collected spills out onto whatever is around it. Those of us that have been beaten by life and broken and damaged, have a unique perspective and vantage point. We can see the damage others are enduring and we can also see the possibility for beauty from those ashes, because we have lived it.We can “wash” them in the grace and mercy that someone once granted us. Someone who has only ever known good fortune may not be able to pour love out in the same way.

So all that heartbreak, all that hurt, all that pain that we have survived has made us who we are. So has the joy, the success, the beauty and the love. Would I change anything? Probably not. If I did, I wouldn’t be who I am today, and I fought like hell to get here. I am a better, stronger, more compassionate person today than I was when I was younger.

So, the plan this year is to be even better, stronger and kinder and do what makes me happy.

To be better, I will revise my diet to be closer to what I was doing when I first got diagnosed with Celiac disease and Hashimoto’s disease: very little processed foods, lean meats, lots of fresh fruits and veggies, yogurt, cheese and my Shakeology. I will do my best to resist the beckoning of the evil that is Funyuns and Coke. And chocolate. And (gulp) bacon.

To be stronger, the plan is to become a sort of middle aged, wannabe gym rat. I will take classes and figure out the gym equipment (for the umpteenth time) and get some sort of routine going. I will sweat away the wheat belly (thank you Celiac, you heartless witch), and hopefully shrink my the rest of my body, except my boobs, but we all know those will be the first to go.

To be kinder, I will try to look past people’s faults and flaws (including mine) and love them anyway. I will give wherever and whenever I can and give as much as I can and as often as I can. I will randomly compliment strangers and friends and people I love. I will hug my kids more, even when they try to resist and push me away because I am “so annoying.” I will tell them often that I love them and how proud of them I am. Because, despite their ability to push every single piss-mom-off button I have, I love them with everything that I am. And I am so proud of the compassionate,  kind-hearted, loving young men that they are becoming. I am also proud of the twisted sense of humor, goofy antics and endless chatter that they all have in common with me.

I will do what makes me happy. I will paint more. I will laugh more. I will see beauty in overlooked, unappreciated, mundane things. And grand, amazing things. And things that others regard as strange and weird. I will stop and smell the lilacs and jasmine, because roses do nothing for me. I will have more nerf gun battles, doodling sessions, long walks and long talks with my kids and try to make the most of the time I have with them. And I will learn to just be.

Yes, 2017 will be a year full of change, but new me? Screw that.

 

 

How did I get here?

Today is December 29, 2016–my 47th birthday. It also marks the end of my second year of freedom. Well, maybe not freedom yet, but I am getting there. At any rate, I am more free than I was 2 years ago.

On December 30, 2014, I left my 13 year marriage. While not entirely responsible for it, that decision began an avalanche of change that was, for me, excruciating. That choice was the healthiest thing I could’ve done for myself. My marriage was like having an anchor tied to my waist and I was drowning. The moment I walked out the door, the anchor was liberated and I could breathe again. If you have ever been trapped underwater and completely disoriented, that first breath of air is–how do I even describe such relief? A miracle? A godsend? Euphoric? All of those things. I was terrified and giddy. But that choice was just the beginning of nearly unbearable growing pains because my roller coaster ride was about to get really ugly.

My marriage was just the first loss. I also lost my stability, my income and the home I had lived in for 11 years.

During the last and dying year of my marriage, I got sick. I was sick, all day every day for 8 months. I was having a lot of digestive problems and intestinal distress. Migraines were a regular occurrence, usually 4 or 5 a week. I was inexplicably gaining a lot of weight (about 50 pounds). Insomnia robbed me of any sort of respite from the suck that was my existence. And I was stiff and in pain pretty much all the time. I was also incredibly depressed. I was convinced, as was my family, it was nerves. My marriage had been over, I think, for a long time and I was just staying way too long at the party. Our finances were a disaster. Everyone was threatening to sue us or take away our house. I was miserable. He was miserable. It was not a healthy environment. After I left, I finally went to the doctor. I know, 8 months is a long time to be sick and do nothing about it. But, I can be stubborn. Really stubborn. After listing my symptoms, she knew immediately what it was and just had to test me for the antibodies. She was pretty sure I had celiac disease and told me I would need to adopt a gluten free existence. That was the next loss. My diet. Every food I loved. Bread, pasta, bread, cake, bread, cookies, bread, crackers, soups, anything breaded or batter-dipped. Did I mention bread? We had eliminated most processed foods, but that wasn’t enough. I was going to have to completely revamp my culinary repertoire. Great.

For about 7 years prior, I had been working farmers markets. At first I sold art, hand painted glass and jewelry. Later we added starter plants for the garden and then vegetables. The last two years, we gradually added a variety of cakes, breads and cookies and stopped trying to sell my art. We needed the money so I took it upon myself to work an ungodly number of hours every week (about 60-80) just to pull in an extra $200-250 per week. The vendors at the markets became an extended family for me. I looked forward to seeing, hugging and talking to them each week. Working a full time job meant that I had to drop the market scene. At least for a while. That was another loss. Two seasons since then and I haven’t been able to get back.

There was a lot of loss for me in that first year, but also a lot of gains too. I found a job I love. It’s retail and I never thought I would go back into retail–I was hoping for something using my degree–but there I am. I love the people I work with (most of them). I have made a lot of friends I wouldn’t otherwise have. I am gaining financial freedom that my marriage destroyed. I am not there yet and it may be a while, but I am baby-stepping my way out of my financial hell. Even though my apartment has become somewhat of a hell, when I first moved in, it was like my own piece of heaven. I could breathe, I could relax, I could just be. And it was mine. I lost about 30 pounds in the first six months. My health was getting on track and I was feeling so much better. My confidence that was pretty much non-existent came back. I feel good. I got promoted at my job. I started painting again. This year I actually started dating again.  So that’s it in a nutshell: 47, divorced, employed, mom to 3 kids and just beginning to negotiate life and thrive again.