I see a lot of blogs doing years in review. I would do that for you, but I feel that, although I have learned a lot and accomplished a lot in 2012, I haven’t done anything exceptionally noteworthy. I was looking back over my year, and what I realized is a year summed up in learning. I have grown a lot this year, through experience and through trial and error.
In the spirit of a new year, I will share my top ten lessons from 2012. I pray that the next year is full of new lessons, exciting growth, solid accomplishments, and exceptional love, for all of us.
Top Ten Lessons I Learned in 2012:
10. Life is worth living. I know this sounds like a pretty basic concept, but it is one I did not believe for a really long time. I felt like every day was just a repeat of the one before, and every situation was going to end grimly. Let me emphasize, every situation will end badly, if that is the intention you place upon it in the beginning. Your world, your life, is what you make of it. Keep deciding that you are cursed, and you will be. Place positive intentions on your day-to-day life, and on your goals, and they will manifest before your very eyes. This year, I took one of my business cards and on it, I wrote down what I want for myself in the next year. I carry it around with me daily, and I believe these things will unfold in my life. You can do the same with a dream board. Take a poster and create what you want out of your next year. Watch it happen. I did this during my hospital stays, and I always conveyed stability, health, balance and love. These things are now ever present in my life. It is like magic. Whatever you put your energy into, you will have.
9. Doing what you’ve dreamed of is worth the experience. I always dreamed of living in California. I was just sure I’d feel at home there. This year, after treatment, I had an opportunity to move out to California. I took the opportunity and have been here since. I love the weather, and having access to beautiful beaches and sunsets. Living here does have its pros and cons, but I am so glad I took the opportunity to come here. I’m acutally living out one of my wildest dreams. How amazing is that? I’ve also learned that this particular city isn’t somewhere I plan on settling down. I wouldn’t have known that, if I had not tried. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be here.
8. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, but traveling is hard. As a result of living out my dream, I’ve been transplanted a very long distance from a lot of people that I really love. Being here has made me realize how much I truly appreciate these people, but it has also made me realize that I’d like to be closer to them. Traveling is difficult, I’m sure most of us would agree. And expensive. I love my loved ones that much more, but the added cost and stress of being away… is it worth it? I’ll keep you posted. I have, in the meantime, made great friends out here on the left coast. So, I have multiplied my love. That’s always a good thing.
7. Recovery is a lot of work, but I’ve never done anything this important and this necessary before. My sponsor always reminds me that recovery has to come first, before everything else. I know this is true. I cannot have success in work, school, family, or life, if I do not work on the one thing that keeps me stable and keeps me sane. Without recovery, all those other things are irrelevant because they aren’t even possible.
6. Failure may not be an option, but neither is perfection. I’ve always heard the cliché that failure isn’t an option. I think it is this phrase alone that birthed perfectionism. “I’ve got to do it,” turned into, “I’ve got to do it perfectly.” I walk on a thin line between two extremes. Balance is crucial for me. I know I can have an “all or nothing” attitude, and I have to remind myself constantly that an accomplishment is an accomplishment, if I didn’t do it perfectly, at least I did it. We are always our own worst critic. Ease up on yourself a little. Strive to do well, but don’t corner yourself into unforgivable expectations. I see a lot of people in recovery around me either throwing their hands up, or striving to attain the unattainable. Expecting perfection is like driving into a brick wall. It doesn’t matter wether you do it quickly or slowly, eventually, you’ll hit that wall. Eventually, you’ll be devestated by the fact that you messed up. We all mess up, it is inevitable. Learn to brush it off and keep moving.
5. Doors will open, when you’re ready to see what’s on the other side. God knows, timing is everything. If you hold out and have faith, things will turn around and trials will end. You may think that things are impossible, but I am here to tell you that the impossible is possible. Lil’ Kim used to be a hero of mine, and now my music taste is almost completely faith-based. I used to dread waking up in the morning, and now I’m grateful for each new day. This year, I’ve reconnected with several people that I was certain I’d never hear from again. Things change. Doors open. Anything is possible. These things hardly ever happen right away, but they will happen when you are ready for them.
4. Belief makes miracles happen. Did you know that the true power of prayer is in the belief that those prayers will be answered? As I said, the impossible is possible. They key to seeing the impossible unfold before you, is believing that it will. If you ask God for something, but doubt that He will give it to you, don’t expect it. If you hope for something, but believe it could never be, it never will be. The power lies in what you believe. You are manifesting the outcome with your very thoughts and intentions. Just believe.
3. Every cloud has a silver lining. It wasn’t until this year that I realized, what that little old lady with a walker taught me. I stumbled, but I did not fall. BAM! Silver lining. I got in a car accident, but I am safe. BAM! Silver lining. I’m struggling with finances, but I believe everything will work out for my good. BAM! You get the point. Yes, hard stuff happens. Yes, we have our struggles and our trials. Yes, sometimes we fail, or people fail us. But we learn from all of these things. We grow. Every time you lose someone, there opens an opportunity for someone new to come into your life. Every time you struggle, you have the opportunity to learn, grow, and know how to change outcomes for the better next time. Don’t see your losses or failures as a devastation. They are opportunities for new and better things to unfold in your life and your circumstances. Don’t look at what you lost, look at what you gained.
2. The hard moments will pass. A recent campaign that set out to encourage gay youth struggling with bullying and prejudice has gained new ground. The concept behind the campaign? It. Gets. Better. This idea, though it once seemed preposterous to me, is true. It does get better. The hard moments will pass, things will turn around. Sometimes it is a waiting game, but you have to hold strong, because I guarantee you things will start to look up. Look, if anyone knows this, it is me. So, trust me. I waited 28 years for my life to change, and it happened. I finally see this world in a new light. I finally love myself and those around me. I finally want to get as much out of this life as I possibly can. I finally believe. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. The hard moments will pass, and as you get used to watching them come and go, they will get more brief and less intense. The hard moments will be blinks in your vast reel of days, weeks, months, and years of the incredible that your life will become.
1. God is good. I have experienced and accomplished a lot over the past year, all of which, I am completely grateful for. At the end of the day, when my work is done, I thank God that I have had an opportunity to do this work. I have been treated for the traumas I have endured. I have met tons of new people. I have an incredible sponsor and incredible supports. I have experienced new and exciting things that I never could have imagined. I am living in a city that I used to think was only a distant dream. I am living a life that I wasn’t sure even existed. I have everything I could ever want and more. All of this, is because of God. I have done a lot of work, but only because God has provided me the opportunity to. I was in treatment for 5 months, because insurance covered it. If that isn’t a miracle, I don’t know what is. I worked with some of the best therapists in the country, because God gave me that opportunity. I am grateful for all the support I have received, but none has been more important than that of my God. I could sit here and try to claim this has all been because of my hard work, but that would be a lie. Without God’s timing, ingenuity, and grace, all of my hard work would have been worthless. At the end of my year, as I reflect, I am certain that this is the most important lesson I have learned. When I had no faith, belief, or hope, desperation stepped in and gave me God. God restored my faith, belief, hope. God instilled in me a gratitude for my desperation. God gave me a life worth living, and the desire to live it. Without God, I’m not even sure I would still be here. At the end of the day, I know that everything I learned this year, I learned because of lesson number 1: God is good.
I know the holidays can be this expectation-filled, anxiety-ridden ball of stressful days in rapid succession. Let’s be honest, once Halloween hits, you know it will be the new year before you know. At least, that’s how it goes for me. I know the year is over with pumpkins and costumes. The rest of it turns into a blur of get-togethers, sugar overloads, and family reunions.
I know a few people who were dreading the days they would have to spend with family. There’s a huge expectation of presentation and performance with holidays. We have to put on like we’re happy, and we love our dysfunctional relatives. We have to catch up, and cherish time spent together. We have to make a perfect turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, or other goodies. We have to spend money and give presents we can’t afford to make someone think we can. We have to try our damnedest not to micromanage, helicopter parent, or argue.
Heck, I’m visiting my sister, and I have already argued with my dad who happens to be 3 states away. It is a stressful time. We have a performance to nail, and dealing with traveling doesn’t make it any easier.
I’ve learned something in the process of working the twelve steps that helps me in these situations. See, a big part of why we [drink, use, overeat, under-eat, self-harm, gamble, shop, or ___(fill in blank)___ ] is because we carry around resentments. It is a big part of step four, to work through those resentments–to realize that the people who have hurt you are sick, and need your compassion and sympathy; and also, to see your part in things and remedy the situation as best you can.
A lot of people go back to their addiction(s) of choice because they get a resentment, and it takes them back into sickness. This is why, as in step 10, we continue to take a personal inventory and when wrong, admit it. Resentments will kill us. Resentments keep us firmly rooted in the problem.
This is why, I tread lightly on the grounds of my anger. I do not want to become rooted there. I have noticed that when I become angry, I can step away from the situation to let my feelings work themselves out. It is easy, after having a little time, to realize where you too might have overreacted. This is very helpful, not only in recovery, but in dealing with people or situations that can overwhelm you, such as holidays.
Always remind yourself of how precious your time is. October to January just flew past your very eyes. Keep that in mind. Years and lives fly in much the same way. Your in-laws or family may rub you the wrong way, but your time with them is short. This may either be a blessing, or a reminder to enjoy them while they are here. Either way, it is a good thing to keep in mind.
“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”~ Dr. Seuss
“Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.” ~Susan Taylor
I don’t typically watch the news. I have a computer and a T.V. without cable, or even basic access. I stick to Netflix, and I get my teeny bit of “news” from Philip Defranco, on YouTube. That’s about as much as I can take. In 2009, I had a therapist tell me to stop watching the news. I took her advice. I had, at the time, become overwhelmed, baffled, and distraught over the Shaniya Davis story.
I couldn’t understand how, someone could do that to their daughter. I couldn’t understand how someone could do those things to a 5 year old. I was starting to drown in a sea of headlines and news reports of just how evil this world is.
And it is true. This world can be a very evil place.
I have spent a good chunk of the past few years overwhelmed by an issue that the rest of the world seems underwhelmed about: sexual violence. Such violence is beyond an epidemic in our world, and repeatedly, our response is victim blaming, and sweeping it under the rug. It makes me cringe to know that 1 our of 4 girls, and 1 out of 6 boys will be the victims of sexual abuse by the age of 18. How do people walk around in their own little bubbles, oblivious of something so heinous?
I don’t know, they just do.
In some of the work I have done, I have teamed with people who had similar experience and ambition, wanting to do something on the matter. What have I found? That there are victims out there working toward solving a problem, without even having dealt with the issue in their own lives. It is like someone with a still gaping and bloody bullet wound trying to fight for gun control.
First, you need to address your own trauma.
The hard part is, no one else is stepping forward to solve the issue. All of those people who’ve never had to suffer through the trauma have no interest in dealing with something so dark and ugly.
This is just what I have found.
I look around me, and I see people becoming passionately driven about the issue of guns and asking themselves, “what could of we have done to prevent the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012?”
I would never venture to claim that this question is not important, pertinent, or should not be asked. I do, however, think that it is too soon to be torn apart by these issues. Our hearts are still breaking from what happened, and the details that continue to unfold. Our stomachs are still twisted by what the children of Sandy Hook must’ve witnessed that day. Chills are still shooting down our spines to imagine what evil it takes to commit such an act.
How have we allowed this to lead to a divide? What the survivors need right now, is a community to come together in support around them. They certainly have a long, tough road ahead of them.
Repeatedly, through the past several years we have witnessed tragedy and allowed it to, even for a short time, bring us together in mourning and solidarity. For the first time in my life, I have witnessed the opposite happen. That is what breaks my heart now.
I think ALL of us will agree that something has to be done to attempt to prevent these massacres from happening again, no matter what side you’re on. What that “something” looks like will start to materialize as we work on the matter. I trust that.
At this point, I don’t care what that “something” is just yet. I am still far too stricken with grief to start thinking strategy. Am I alone in this?
I look at the faces of the victims, and my throat starts to tense. I hear their stories, and my eyes are filled with tears. I cannot look at December 14th with a hard heart. I find peace in my belief that these children are safe and happy now. I find strength in the stories of heroism in the adults that fought for these kids with their very lives.
I remember too, those who survived, and I give them this message: you can overcome your trauma and live a fulfilling life. This may be a struggle, but it does not have to defeat you. This dark moment in your lives can become a place of strength, and a place of motivation. You are in the thoughts and prayers of so many, and we will still have your hands when the heavy realization hits you of just how blessed you are to have faced and survived a trial that many will never even have to face.
To the rest of us, I say: stand down. This is not a fight. We are worn and we are weary. We have faced far too much as a country this year. Yes, we must address this issue, but please, for God’s sake, can we take a moment to grieve first?
To all of us, I plead: Do not let this destroy us. We will march forward and we will advocate for the changes necessary to prevent such tragedy in the future, but first allow yourselves to grieve. Before you stand up to fight, address your own trauma. Make sure that when your time comes, when your voice rises, that you are in a place where you are strong enough to argue your side. So many times, I have seen angels fall short here, and lose the drive to carry on. We can heal. We can overcome. But first, we must grieve.
A heart must finish breaking before you can begin to mend it.
It is true that this world can be an evil place, but what is also true is that each of us has the ability to contribute to the good. If you are going to pour fervently into this world, be sure that what you are pouring is positive.
One afternoon, I was sitting with my mother on a bench at the front of one of those cafeteria restaurants. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one of those, but the elderly seem to frequent them. The food is awesome and affordable, and the only downside is having to wait in a (sometimes very long) line for your food.
Anyway, as we were sitting there, a little old lady with a walker started walking into the restaurant. Right behind her, a woman was pushing an elderly relative in a wheelchair. She must’ve been unable to see how far away the lady with the walker was, because she accidentally hit the little old lady in the back of her ankles. As the lady stumbled, I watched with horror, unable to figure out what I could do, and afraid that she was about to fall to the ground. Though the lady stumbled, she did not fall. She was startled, but caught her breath, and walked on.
As she was stumbling, something stood out to me. Not knowing whether or not she was bound to impact against that floor, every step she took, she said “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!” That struck me as bizarre. I remember leaning over to my mom and whispering, “If she almost fell, why would she be thanking Jesus?” My mom’s answer was simple, but powerful, “I guess because she didn’t fall.”
At the time, I thought, wow that’s really stupid. I mean she almost just fell, I would be pissed at that lady who almost knocked me over!!!
My, how time changes us. When I look back now at that powerful, teachable moment I’m amazed by that woman’s response. I almost envy it now. I think wow, what a positive perspective to look at something like that and see the good in it.
I think we could all learn a lesson from that little old lady with a walker.
All I used to look at was the negative. Something small wouldn’t turn out my way, and my whole LIFE was OVER! Such drama. All I could see around me were the things that were going wrong. All I could have seen, had I been in that old lady’s shoes, was the fact that some reckless lady who doesn’t know how to push a wheelchair almost plowed me over. I’m a defenseless old lady, I would think. How could she?!
How often we look at something and lament over what didn’t go well.
How little we look at a stumble, and rejoice in the fact that we didn’t fall.
It is my prayer for myself and for all of us, that we become a little more like that old lady.
Tonight, on my way home from the gym, I stopped at a red light. Suddenly, there was chaos right in front of me. Two cars almost hit each other, and then neither one could decide who should drive away first. In a fury of frustration and anger, the driver in one of the cars threw up his hands, beat his steering wheel, and spit furiously what I can only assume were violent expletives. There were two cars who almost hit each other, and the drivers were enraged by the series of events. Two cars that almost hit each other, almost.
Safe, with both cars still in tact, they drove away cursing the universe for the negative thing that just happened, never seeing the pain from which they had just been spared.
How can we let one small unpleasant event dictate our days, or even our lives?
How can we overlook all of the little successes and blessings, thinking nothing of them?
That little stuff we’re overlooking… that’s the powerful stuff.
I look back on that small event at a cafeteria restaurant in North Carolina with gratitude. At the time, it seemed like nothing, but it stayed lodged in my memory through a lot. I am grateful that I can look back at that moment now and understand what that lady was thinking when she thanked Jesus repeatedly as she stumbled.
Wow! Thank God I didn’t fall! I may have stumbled, but I didn’t fall!
The argument I hear a lot from people who get offended by my spiritual beliefs is, “What kind of God lets . . . happen?”
Now, let me start by saying this, I don’t argue about my spiritual beliefs, though I often find that people want to argue with me. I don’t have a problem with people believing or not believing whatever they please. I’m not here to change anyone’s mind.
I do however, argue with myself. I pose these questions to myself, and to God, and give them serious thought. I’ve thought about the question a lot. Since I’ve been reading The Shack, I’ve had an opportunity to really think about the answer to that question.
This is a bit of a SPOILER ALERT, but the book takes an opportunity to teach us that, due to free will, bad things often happen because people make bad choices. After a year spent in treatment, healing, and acceptance, I finally do accept that as an answer for some of the bad stuff. Certainly, life would be meaninglessly dull were it not for free will. We would all be the same, doing exactly the right things, the same things. We’d be drones. The relationship between us and God would be more of a dictatorship.
The truth is that people only come into a relationship with God through a choice, often made in a moment of desperation. When I chose to know God, I was in a place where I had nothing else to lose. Well, maybe one thing could’ve been lost; my life. I knew that I had had glimpses of life, or happiness, and I wanted those more than I wanted to die. And even though I had NO IDEA what a relationship with God would mean, I walked into the uncertainty knowing it was my only hope. For the first time in my life, I made a commitment.
We come into this relationship, because we make a choice between what was and what could be.
I don’t want to be a puppet. My relationship with God means so much more, since it was I who wanted in. It was never forced on me. We all, at some point, have that moment, that way in. We all make this decision.
That being said, free will is both a blessing and a curse. Because we are not forced into goodness, or perfection, we also have opportunities to choose darkness. Because of that choice, people can be hurt or lost, for seemingly no reason at all. Someone chose to hurt me as a child, and I was left to clean up the wreckage because of their choice. This is common.
I kn0w that in the midst of pain, it is hard to accept this answer, but after a long examination of my beliefs, I do agree.
In my head, I’m still left to make sense of the things that aren’t caused by a bad person or a bad choice: An illness. A miscarriage. A natural disaster. The list could go on; a list of all the things that cannot be explained away by free will, and the nagging question: why?
What repeatedly arises is the difference, for me, between a life without God and a life with God.
I used to blame God for everything. Why I even believed in God is still baffling to me, because I was angry at him, and blamed him for everything that went wrong. Oh the moments I spent actually cursing at God with a grimace on my face and an angry finger pointed to the sky! I do not understand why I believed in a God that was so horrible to me. Why not just NOT believe in him at all?
But I did, and I gladly took every chance that arose to hate him.
At this time in my life, I looked at every bad thing as a punishment, or simply an act of a spiteful God. Because I’ve had a chance to work through healing, I see things differently now.
I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. I used to start cursing at God if I dropped my books. No big deal, but there I was having words with this hateful God of mine. Those things don’t get to me anymore. A pause. A deep breath. And there I am, picking those books back up. No. Big. Whoop. That changes a lot.
I see the value in free will, and I understand that there are people who use that to accomplish negative, and even evil acts.
Most importantly, I see the error of my own ways. Working the twelve steps certainly gives me some perspective on the destruction I have left in the wake of my bad decisions. I see now that I can’t control what others have done to me. Wounds are left behind by sick people. I was sick once too. I hurt people too. My job now isn’t to dwell on fixing what others have done to me, it is make amends for the things that I have done to others. They call it “keeping your side of the street clean.” I do my part in making the world a better place, making up for the hurts that I have caused, and doing things differently now.
Yes, I see things very differently now. And when I think about the things that cannot be explained away by free will, I know that these are life’s experiences that make us who we are. We have to struggle. We have to face hard stuff. Who would we be without these hardships? These tragedies? Just as we would be without free will: drones. We would have nothing to bring us together, or make us unique. We would be weakly little things, incapable of facing anything.
When I think about how strong I am because what I have faced, I know I wouldn’t trade a single experience. I have the ability to say that I am a survivor. I have a faced adversity, and come out on the other side of things; stronger because of it. I also know, because of my past, that you can’t put anything before me that I won’t be able to conquer.