I read Chuck Wendig’s blog about 2017 (The Year That Lasted Ten Years) and it struck a cord with me. He captured a lot of what I felt and that inspired me to want to write my own recap of the year.
Reflection is a good thing. It hasn’t always been possible for me. Trauma made it difficult to want to look back. Plus regret with no tools to rectify those mistakes made it painful to even try. I remember reading a quote by Brené Brown, who is my guru, about regret that just didn’t make sense until I started living the words:
“No regrets” doesn’t mean living with courage, it means living without reflection. To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver with your life.
― Brené Brown,
The tools needed for reflection & facing regret are compassion and kindness. So even though this year has been exceptionally tough for our family, I’m going to take the opportunity to look back and be kinder and give myself a little more compassion!
We might as well get right into the tough stuff! The election…oh boy, the election. I vacillated between shock, anger, sadness and hopelessness. It took me a good week to rebound out of that pit of despair. The strength of my emotions shocked me. This was an American election – what was my problem? I needed to reflect on deeper wounds and hurts to get to the bottom of it all. Cause, why was I so angry? These days, I’m not usually so fired up. This is a sign that this thing upsetting me is ringing the bells inside my own story, not anyone else’s. Blaming others is fruitless when the issue is my own.
I had to look back and face my own experiences with racism, injustice and sexual abuse. This president that the people of America voted for, some by my very own friends, represented these very themes in my life that still hadn’t healed. I struggled for many months trying to find compassion and understanding for the people who voted for him and for myself and the parts of me that still needed a little more love.
Chuck Wendig writes,
“I’ve been ping-ponging between optimism and pessimism in a nearly manic fashion.”
Hey, hey!!! Me, too! For many months, that’s how things went as I watched the shocking events of this administration unfold. Every other day seemed to be a new study in understanding, kindness and patience. Many times I just wanted to scream, “WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU DONE”, at the Americans who voted for this. I’d pull myself back from the ledge, demand I put my phone down and back away and get some serious zen going. It’s been exhausting.
There is a silver lining however…you can’t have this inequality, racism, misogyny and hatred without a counterbalance. And we’ve seen it from the Women’s Marches, around the globe, to Alabama voting for their first democratic senator in 25 years. There have been countless other examples over the past year…and it gives you hope. We were asleep while this insidiousness seeped quietly about – hidden in small groups with whispered hatred and hushed biases…it’s all front and center now. Not to be a Star Wars nerd or anything, but Snoke had one thing right,
“Darkness rises and the light to meet it.”
There’s hope. There will always be hope.
Our winter continued with a huge plus – snowboarding! We experienced the coldest and snowiest winter in many years. Which just meant the mountains were calling. The girls surprised me when I took them to the park nearby for tobogganing and they ended up standing on their sleds and going down snowboard-style. How had we, as parents, missed the signs that they were ready?!
Hubby and I hadn’t been snowboarding since Itty was born – a good 12 years. Actually the last time I had gone was when I was pregnant with her. So it was a joy to “learn” to ride again, with them. They were quick learners and mastered the skills needed to stay on their feet fairly quickly. The winter fun continued with snow fort making in the backyard and mom trips to a local mountain that had ladies ski free once a week. One of the best winters on record, in my book!
Spring and easter were celebrated with our very first camping trip in our new travel trailer. If you know me at all, you’d know how shocking this is! I’d scoffed and turned my nose up at the idea of “sleeping in the dirt” as I called it. LOL. Boy did I eat my words. And happily so. Easter camping was amazing. It rained, it was cold, but I still had a blast. My friends, the veteran campers, told me if I could enjoy rain and cold weather, I’d absolutely fall over for summer camping. They weren’t wrong.
Unfortunately, this was the year of life-isn’t-gonna-happen-the-way-you-think-it-is. Hubby hurt his back in January, then again in February, then again, one final time in March — all work incidents. The final one being the straw that broke the camels back, so to speak. By April, he was off work and it quite a bit of pain. It meant I drove him everywhere and did everything else while he rested and laid on his back. Sitting was a problem, and standing wasn’t so great either. But after months of therapy, muscle relaxants, pain meds and never blockers, he slowly started to heal.
The start of summer meant camping season and hubs was just well enough to enjoy some of it. Carefully of course, with trips to the chiropractor during and stretching and resting everyday. We celebrated Itty’s 12th birthday camping, and it was another glorious “sleeping in the dirty” moment. Okay fine, we don’t sleep in the dirt with our big fancy trailer, but it’s as close to dirt I’m gonna get and in my eyes it’s still sleeping in the dirt! LOL. Paddle boarding, a long time wish of mine, also happened for the first time. Though I was horrible at it, it’s definitely something I plan to try again and hopefully master!
I have in the past, set some basic intentions for previous years. 2015 unintentionally became the year of trauma counselling and healing, 2016 was a focus on strength and 2017 was the year I slept. My adrenals were toast, my thyroid wasn’t working even with meds and I was exhausted. So my goal was to sleep, to rest and to recuperate. It’s what my body needed. Ultimately, it also needed an adjustment to my diet. I decided around summertime that I wasn’t going to be a vegetarian anymore. Being a lifelong vegetarian meant this decision didn’t come easy. I had done everything else possible to heal my adrenals, but I just wasn’t getting there. Although the 10pm bedtimes were my priority and helped so much, it still wasn’t enough. I decided with my doctor, that eating meat was probably what my body needed to shift into repair mode which it just didn’t seem to be doing on it’s own.
It was a disappointing experience… My whole life, I had felt like I was missing out…all the meals that needed to be modified and changed, all the parties where I felt left out and different (although I didn’t mind too terribly) – was for nothing. Meat was a serious disappointment in taste, texture and options. I choked it down for the betterment of my body and it became my medicine. I aimed to try and eat some poultry or fish at least 2-3 times a month. At first there was no obvious change. However when I look back on the year, I can say my energy has improved and perhaps giving up vegetarianism was the thing I needed to tip the scale in my favor. Still don’t like it, but I’ll suffer through. I don’t eat much tofu for the negative impact it can have on my thyroid and hormones, but honestly, tofu outshines meat any day!
Through all of this we started the process of getting a dog. For us this was a big challenge as we’re all allergic. We researched and visited with the breed of dog we were considering. We had minimal reactions so decided to go for it and put a deposit down on a puppy that would be ready to go home at the end of August…right around the time of our Tofino camping trip.
This Tofino trip was significant in so many ways. The year prior we had visited our really good friends while they were on their camping trip in Tofino and we fell in love. With the idea of this magical week in paradise, with the beauty and nature and of course the surfing. It was that trip visiting our friends that we decided to make some significant changes to our lifestyle and hobbies – we wanted to spend more time outdoors, connect with nature and travel around BC. We also decided on that trip to buy the trailer to make those dreams come true. So this Tofino trip coming up in August was like coming full circle. It was important. It’s also the reason why the name Hitch for our dog just seemed so right…hitch, towing, the trailer — get it?
We had a lot riding on this summer and things didn’t go as planned. Hubby hurt his back again. However, this time was much worse. The pain was off the charts…I spent nine days helping hubs in the bathroom, showering, eating — everything. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t take care of any of his physical needs…I was his full time nurse. And every moment of those nine days I felt helpless, trapped, and scared. We debated going to emergency every day, but somehow, each day we pulled through. I have never in my life seen hubby in so much pain. It was devastating to him obviously, but to my 15 year old girl, who took care of a terminally ill mother in much the same condition – this shattered me.
The experience triggered me like nothing else has in a really long time. I was panicky and shaky and trembling on the inside. I was on heightened alert constantly…I just couldn’t come down from the anxious feeling of someone needing me so badly and being so trapped by having to take care of their every need — even when he started to get better. Fortunately, the recovery was much quicker than originally – just the injury and reaction this time was a 100 times worse than the first time, way back in April.
However, we forged on. Only we had cancelled our Tofino trip…it felt too scary to be so far from home if something went wrong…I couldn’t get it through my head that nothing would. But these are the signs that my trauma brain is not working right — I’m not grounded in reality and sense. Instead I see the worst case scenarios constantly playing out and I can’t use my analytical brain to piece through the facts to realize, “Hey, it’s going to be alright. You were scared, but your’e not there anymore.’ That’s what my brain was doing constantly for 10 years when I lived with PTSD…it’s a devastating way to wake up and go to sleep.
I didn’t pickup on the signs, despite knowing them and having a pretty good sense of my self. When you’re in it, it’s hard to see. Despite me not feeling quite right, we went and picked up the puppy. We brought him home and everything inside me just turned to ice. I was trapped again. This thing needed me. Bad things would happen. I have no control. He’ll be a terrible dog. I’ll never be able to potty train him. I can’t breathe. It all felt much worse than I can even express and a part of me still has trouble recalling how bad I was feeling.
It was a humbling experience. I felt like a loser. A loser who couldn’t even have a dog. A loser who devastated her hubby and kids. They wanted Hitch soooo bad…and somewhere deep inside, so did I. But it was all my fault and I had to do a lot of loving, kindness and compassion work to keep from blaming myself and using such negative self-talk.
My family was gracious and understanding despite their own feelings of anger and loss. I understood both and did my best to stay in my own worthiness so that I wouldn’t try and make them forgive me or let their anger and sadness go sooner than they were ready to…I needed to honor their journey and experience. It wasn’t easy and I wished it wasn’t that way, but in that moment, we made the best decision we could.
I experienced another gallbladder attack 3 days after we returned Hitch to the breeder. They say extreme stress can trigger an attack and the past month had certainly delivered in that regard. I went to the hospital for a night and had an ultrasound the following day…they couldn’t see any obstructions which was a good sign, but it didn’t mean that a blockage hadn’t occurred. Actually, I was fairly certain I did have a stone blocking the bile duct, but thankfully it had moved away or broken off. My doctor ordered a strict no fat diet, again. But i was upfront with her that the restrictions were too hard. I was already no sugar, no wheat…no fat as well — that was really tough. For a certain time period, sure I can do it. For life, as she was suggesting…not probable. However, I agreed to clean up my diet (I’d taken a leap off the bandwagon and was enjoying my roll in the mud) and see what happened. If the attacks continued, the writing was on the wall and I’d have to get it removed. I saw a surgeon anyways, who recommended removal immediately, but I was of the mind to wait it out. Turns out I’ll get my way since I’m not an urgent case and a surgery date is about a year away. To date, no further attacks.
In October I started trauma counselling again. Earlier in the year I had found out that through hubby’s extended benefits, a psychologist was 100% covered. I found one in Vancouver who did Lifespan Integration but she was far away and we had decided to take the summer off from therapy after just a few sessions. Luckily, around the same time I connected with her, I had put feelers our for others closer to home. That new therapist was a registered psychologist (covered by health benefits! Score!) and very experienced with LI, and super close to home! She just wasn’t taking new patients until October. We made arrangements and I had all my appointments scheduled until the end of the year. Looking back on things, had I already been seeing her, there might have been a chance that she could have helped me work things through with hub’s reinjury and the puppy.
However, from when I did start seeing her, she made a world of difference week to week. We talked about hubby and the puppy and places in my past that really just needed some love added in. It’s a kind of reverse lifespan in that what I originally did was take the trauma out, but with this different approach, we’re putting the love in. It has been miraculous and…joyful. I don’t feel so owned by the sad stories of my life…and it was freeing to know that I don’t need anyone to love me in those sad times. I can go back and love myself. It’s powerful, amazing and transformative work. I’m so grateful for this therapist and the opportunity.
Thanksgiving was another camping trip with some very close friends. We spent it in Hope, BC at a cute little campground not far from Othello Tunnels. We visited the tunnels one day and were amazed by the beauty and history. It’s too bad we waited so long to see it…we would definitely go back and see it again. Maybe next time on bikes.
October and November were drop in floor hockey time with Itty’s friends and her new vice-principal. He was inclusive enough to invite MOMS and dads to drop in and I took advantage. The look of awe and hero worship was well worth the aches and pains the following day. In November we also started agility training with a borrowed black lab named Scout. Itty was outstanding with this happy and gregarious fellow. By the last session, she had him in a stay and running the course. Considering where we started – this was absolutely amazing and awing. Itty is so meant to be a dog owner. We are still working toward making that happen one day.
In early November, we attended the Women’s National soccer game with friends. Watching my girls watch other girls, who they’ve worshipped, play soccer. It was a really special moment, as a mom and athlete. I won’t easily forget their smiling cheeks and glowing eyes. It gets you right in the heart when you see them actualizing that these are real people and the dream is possible for anyone who has the desire and dedication.
I can’t look back at 2017 without also remembering Constable John Davidson of the Abbotsford Police Department. November 7th, 2017 he lost his life in the line of duty and it shook our entire police family. His wife, children, life and legacy will not be forgotten.
The year would be incomplete without another injury. This time it was me and my back. I actually thought I had herniated a disc in my back because the pain and immobility so closely resembled what I saw hubs go through. Fortunately, it wasn’t as serious as that and I’ve been mending slowly over the past month.
We went to see The Last Jedi with friends and it was the perfect way to start the holiday break. Itty is a huge fan and enjoyed the movie immensely. I’m looking forward to where this story takes us. It’s really a beginning of sorts for Rey and her entourage and a new generation of fans who will watch and rewatch these movies.
And here we are…another year gone. In a few days we say goodbye to 2017. I struggle to want to kick it to the curb, as others who have had tough years want to. I could just dismiss it as a shitty year and focus on my wants and desires for 2018. Despite how hard it’s been and how easy it would be to write it off, there is always good to find. To throw an entire year away would be to also forget what you’ve gotten from it. There’s been many lessons to be learned – the fragility of the human body, love and how important it is to give to oneself first — so that you can be healthy (in body and mind), and humility and surrender to the uncertainty of life. I am thankful for the lessons I’ve learned, the moments of love and compassion I got to share with my family and friends and for the experiences – tough and easy.
I’m looking forward to more love and kindness toward myself. Once I am fulfilled I can unconditionally share it with others. That’s my plan for 2018. A year of love…that sounds good.
How about you?