Everyone has their reasons for getting stuck or losing the motivation to make changes in their life. I go through phases where I don’t want to change anything. I don’t want to workout. I don’t want to get organized. I don’t want to put in the time to make anything different. Everything is just fine the way it is, even when it’s not. Change requires effort and consistency. These are not qualities I can always summon. You should know I have two speeds: bored and overwhelmed, and I have never been good at anything in between. In the past, I have lived a chaotic life to feed my need for busyness, filled with too many things to do, too many people to engage, and too little motivation to do anything for more than a few months at a time. I have a habit of taking on too much and then imploding or losing interest. Then, I’ll become a cave troll for a few weeks to recover and I’ll hop right back in the crazy clown car of life. This is my routine of chaos.
Shortly before Noah died, when the hubby was on deployment in 2014, I imploded, and I decided I didn’t want to get back in the clown car. At all. The routine of chaos wasn’t working for me anymore. I quit my full-time job in exchange for a less-stressful gig. I had no real plan for the future. I just knew I needed something different. Then Noah died, and everything had changed–not exactly the difference I was looking for. My cave troll status became indefinite. I took a leave of absence from my company because I couldn’t face my coworkers, even though “facing” them just meant talking on the phone. (I work from home, people. Let’s be real.) Eventually, I left altogether. I stopped going to the gym regularly. I stopped caring about my food choices because frankly mac and cheese and french fries made me feel better. I saw nothing wrong with drinking a bottle of wine by myself on a Tuesday night because the sober alternative was just too soul crushing. I binge-watched stand up comedy and shows about the British monarchy on Netflix and eventually caught up on every Bravo TV show available on demand. I’ve watched every series like the trainwrecks they are from beginning to end while sitting in my pajamas under a fuzzy blanket with my hair pulled into a ponytail. Why? Because that’s what I did to survive and honestly, some days @BravoAndy was about all I could handle.
I don’t look back on these past three years as a failure. I may have spent an inordinate amount of time in my pajamas, but I have also been very intentional in working on the change I want to see in my life. I have refused to let what happened break my spirit. I spent two years schlepping to my therapist’s office and actively working through my grief, my childhood, and my feelings about work/life balance. I will never be able to repay her for the work we did together or for the impact she had on my life. I started graduate school, and now I’m four classes away from an M.A. in English and Creative Writing. This past summer, I went to a writing and speaking conference and gathered all kinds of ideas. Last year, I went through a six-week entrepreneurial course that helped us launch our non-profit, which became an actual thing in June of 2016, even if it hasn’t been widely advertised yet. (Sidebar: I have a newfound respect for entrepreneurs. This stuff is not easy.) I’m closer now with my friends and family than I ever have been before and since moving to Virginia in June, I’ve lost 10 of those mac and cheese pounds. This past weekend, I even went to a Christmas parade, my first since Noah died. I haven’t been in the mood to see a high school marching band. I may have teared up every time one marched by, but I did it.
I am a long way from where I want to be. Stress stresses me out, so I still avoid a lot of things that might induce it. My social anxiety is still very real, especially if it involves making small talk. Small talk leads to family questions. I don’t like answering questions about my family if I don’t know you. I have yet to find a regular workout schedule I am willing to stick to. Maybe someday. I still cry at least once a day and for those of you wondering, the holidays are still just as hard. But as we move into another year, I see possibility in a way I haven’t over the past few years. I feel ready to go back to work full-time, even if it means more stress in my life. Of course, I worry whether I’ll be able to find that professional spark I once had. I’m nervous about balancing work and home. But I think I have a pretty good foundation in place to do both. And for the first time in a long time, I’m willing to let a little more of the outside world into my safe bubble, gradually.
As humans, we are constantly evolving, working on ourselves. I’d like to think it is our purpose in life to learn from our past, to understand how we got where we are, and to continually strive to be better. It takes a lifetime, with many seasons of change, for us to become who we are truly meant to be. These past three years have been a season of deep, personal growth and healing for me. I reached a point where I knew I needed to re-evaluate how I was living my life. Something inside me was screaming for change. I didn’t know what was coming and I didn’t understand why I felt so compelled to turn my life upside down. But I knew I needed something different. During this time, I have tried a lot of things that haven’t worked–career pursuits, friendships, coping strategies–but each flop has helped steer me through the season of change.
A friend of mine says it like this, “God is ultimately in control of our destiny, right? But that doesn’t mean you don’t put your ore in the water, paddle, and steer the damn boat.” One of my biggest struggles throughout this process has been giving up control of how things will turn out. But losing Noah has taught me that trying to control everything is useless. Instead of giving up, I try to keep focused on the next right thing. If it feels right, I paddle in that direction. If it feels wrong, I paddle away. As Gav gets ready to head off to the college in the fall and the hubs and I look toward our next chapter, it’s hard not to be nervous, scared, or to become overwhelmed. But I know as long as we keep paddling, as long as we keep focused on that next right thing, we will be just fine with the changes to come.