Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Reflections

As each year draws to a close, I am faced with two lines of thought. Reflection of the year that is past, and the determination for the year that is to come. This past week I've been remembering the good, the great, and yes, even those not so wonderful moments that this year had to bring. Last year, I wrapped up my blogging year reminded that some years are years of survival. Some are years of growth. Some are years of finding yourself, and some are all of those things. I am realizing that I am ending yet another year where I feel like I haven't found the answers to the things I'm looking for. I've spent another year in a predominantly numb state. Gliding through life on autopilot waiting for my life to begin. Last year I said that this wasn't a tragedy, but I think that I was wrong. It's incredibly tragic. To be numb while living your life isn't really living at all. I've trained my brain and my body to be so resilient that I'm losing the ability to feel. I thought that perhaps if I shared my story, I'd be able to find those connections with others or draw myself closer to people, but that hasn't been the case at all. I still find it amazing to use this platform to share my story and to be a shameless truth teller about this journey of life that I am on, but it hasn't torn down the walls that I've created to survive. I feel more disconnected this year than I ever have, and as I've been reflecting this week, I've found myself asking profound questions that really only I have the answer to.

How do I beat this disease? How do I come out on top above the depression, above the anxiety? How do I stop it before it permanently leaves me broken? I'm going to go a little cliche on you for a moment. What if the old adage is true? What if life is what you make it? I am and have always been in the driver's seat of my life. I have also, however, allowed my anxiety and/or depression (depending on the day) dictate where I'm going for the last 2 years. Hear me out. I definitely know that there are moments where depression and anxiety can take over your entire being. Where you can physically not get out of bed. Where you are too paralyzed to move. Those feelings are real, and they are valid. But I've noticed that they are also fed by my inner self talk or lack there of. I've stopped fighting for myself. I've let myself stop caring, and because of that, I have stopped living. I have changed the trajectory of my life just by choosing not to get back into the driver's seat.

What this year has taught me is that nothing will change if I don't start fighting back. Somehow, I need to be numb and paralyzed less. I need to use all of my emotions. That starts with connecting to humanity again with my heart and with my head. Reflecting daily and sometimes more than once a day. It means I need to stop using things like social media, alcohol and sleep as forms of medication to step out of my life, and start finding tools that will help me step INTO my life.

This brings me to next year. I used to be a big resolutioner, and then it became too much pressure for me and so I stopped. I feel like resolutions are just goals for the new year, and the reason they get such a bad rap is because people have goals but no real game plan of how to make them happen. Part of what stopped me from carrying any of my resolutions out was the fear that I would fail. What I know now is that I will fail. Probably a lot of times. But what I need to keep in mind is that the only time I can't pick myself back up is when I'm dead. So really, I have an infinite amount of chances to be who I want to be. Let me emphasize that I want to be....not just become. Life has to be a balance of striving for something and loving exactly where you are.

My aspirations for the next year are to step back into my life. To be present for my life. To connect to my tribe. To feel all the feelings. To taking care of my body. To giving myself grace. To surrounding myself with positive people and positive thoughts. To reflecting regularly. To stop waiting for my life to begin.

Here are some of my favorite parts of 2016.
Playing wally ball! I don't have a picture of my new team, but I love this sport.

Watching my boys wrestle. This was the last year both of them did it. This year, Sawyer is wrestling and Carter is playing basketball.

Johnny Holm band with my people

Jaedyn and her friends started a drama club and performed a small production of the Velveteen Rabbit. This is where I began seeing 

Jae's first middle school play: The Music Man

Surprising Dawn for her birthday and enjoying a Crab Broil

Sean's first prom

Shopping weekend with the girls

First fire of Spring

Mud Volleyball for the Quasqui

Winery with the Valentines and Mulders

Florida with my family


First ocean sunrise

Bachelorette party in Kansas City!

Royal Family Kids Camp

Standing beside Jenni on her wedding day

Ozarks in the Fall with some of my favorite people

Who swims in October? We do!

Road tripping to Cedar Rapids for State Volleyball

Watching all my kids' sports

Cutting down our Christmas Tree

RFKC Dinner and Dessert Auction

Surprising my mom with tickets to Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant and Jordan Smith for her birthday

Making time to see each other despite busy schedules

First Christmas at the new house

Here's to jumping into 2017 with hope, grace, vulnerability and love. Happy New Year to you and yours.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Advent and the Art of Waiting Well

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year by far. (Ironically, winter is my least favorite season.) My Christmases of years past hold a monumental amount of memories from my lifetime thus far. It has always been the grand finale of each passing year. The time when I was the happiest. In the midst of turmoil in my life, as a child and as an adult, Christmas was a constant state of happiness for me. Some years I had every reason to be down in the dumps or angry or closed off, but I always somehow felt at peace at Christmastime.

As I got older, I think I expected that to be the way I always felt. And it was for a very long time, but over time, my child-like wonder and hope has waned a bit. I grew up a very positive, resilient person. A glass half full kinda girl. When I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, I think I thought that it would come for a season, and I would "heal", and then it would pass. However, like most things in this life, my plans are not His plans. Instead of bouncing back or gradually getting better, this season has been a tumultuous journey of hills and valleys. Moments where I feel great and alive and full of purpose and then there are times when I feel numb, paralyzed and disconnected. It hasn't gotten better. There have just been good days and bad days.

 Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I have longed so very badly to feel merry and happy and carry child like excitement for what the month of December would bring. Excitement for traditions and family and waiting to see my children's eyes light up with wonder. Instead, I've felt numb. Stressed. Overwhelmed. Paralyzed. I've been in survival mode. I feel broken. This devastates me. This isn't what it's supposed to be like. Christmas is supposed to trump all of these feelings of hopelessness and despair. But it's not. And so I wait. Wait for change. Wait for joy. Wait for hope.

This brings me into the season of Advent. Advent means "coming" or "arrival". It is essentially a season of waiting. Waiting for Jesus to come into the world. It's a beautiful season of reflection and hope. Reflection used to be somewhat like prayer for me. I would sit back and think of all that I had to be thankful for, those things that I wasn't proud of and wanted to change, and at other moments, I would reflect on my future-goals, dreams, and aspirations. With these diseases come fewer moments of reflection for me. Perhaps this is my body's way of staying stable and resilient. No emotions mean fewer ups and downs, but that also means that I function more like a robot and less like a human being. We were made to emote, to feel.

While I haven't been so much in the Christmas spirit this December, I have in fact spent more time reflecting. In fact, when you take away all the glitz and glamour of the holiday, you are stripped down to the bare bones. You're left with a little more simplicity. I've somehow found myself reflecting as of late on the past year or two. Though without much clarity, I'm asking more questions in hopes that I might find the answers within myself. I am allowing myself to experience this season of Advent- both the Christmas kind and the one that's stirring in my soul- with grace and simplicity. Maybe this year, Christmas spirit doesn't mean Christmas baking, tons of holiday parties, and hustle and bustle, and maybe some years it will. In 2013, I wrote a blog post on the 25 Things I want my Kids to Remember about Christmas. You can read it here. I went back and reread it this week, and those are still the things I want. So, instead of regretting how things were done and getting upset about the moments that were stressful or overwhelming, I'm going to jump into the week and vow to be as present as possible. I'm going to try to smile more, soak in the memories, and not set any expectations that are too hard to achieve. There will be no bar to be set. There will just be family and friends and Christmas. And when Christmas is over, I'm going to spend some time reflecting on how to make next year better in spite of my anxiety and depression. I'm going to set some manageable goals with a LARGE margin for grace.

Until then, here are some things I've been enjoying the last few months. After all, this is where I'm coming back to smile when my kids are all grown up, right?
Watching Jae play basketball

Midweek movie dates with my oldest

Sun slivers and the wonder of the first snow

Slow Thanksgiving mornings with apple cider and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Spending quality time with your family and remembering how lucky you are that your kids have such amazing aunts and uncles

Reuniting with friends old and new

Family traditions and cutting down the tree


And them

How funny it is that he can hardly lift her up anymore, but tradition is tradition

My silly one

My mild one

Birthday dates with my momma and feeling nostalgic over a little Amy Grant/Michael W. Smith Christmas music from the 90s and then The Voice winner- Jordan Smith performing as the cherry on top

Wishing you and yours A Merry Christmas- full of family and friends and laughter and memories, and I pray that even if this one is a somber one for you, that you find your tribe. Lean in. Hang on tight. We're all in this together.