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Friday, 1 January 2016

A YEAR IN REVIEW - 2015

As 2015 comes to an end, I have spent some time reflecting on what has been one of the most formative years of my life.  Appropriately, I am sharing my struggles and accomplishments here.  Mostly, I just want to see all the things I’ve overcome in one place and honour this journey and the person who did it all, me.

JANUARY
I think this post from my Group Therapy journal sums up January the best:
This was when I was in the heart of the underworld.  It is the “hell state” of the process.  Everything hurt.  I had no control over my emotions.  It was almost like being a baby and rediscovering the world for the first time.  All I could do was sleep and cry.  Not to mention that I was working full time during this time, so yeah… that was a thing.  It was, by far, the most difficult part of the entire process (well… sort of… it was the most difficult for the longest time). There was psycho-somatic hallucinations, lucid dreams, overwhelming despair and a whole host of other things that made me not care about a single damned other thing in the world.  It was sort of great.
I was also grieving the death of my father during this time.  I visited his grave for the first time since he died 11 years before.  I discovered that a headstone had never been placed.  The man I never knew was lying in a grave I could not find.  I did eventually find the place where is he buried, but I did not get the closure I was looking for.

FEBRUARY
Again, I will describe the month with a picture from my Group Therapy journal:
Most of the month was spent in/moving out of the hell state, but by the end of the month, I began to get my feet back.  I think it is pretty safe to say I spent a lot of time in the bath and napping.  This was when I began to become more vocal about what I need and really focused on taking care of myself.  I remember telling my therapy group that there were weeks I just wasn’t going to come because I needed 24 hours when I did not leave my apartment.  And I did this without feeling guilty.  I started to realize my power.  I will no longer back down and let people walk all over me.

MARCH
March was an exciting month for me.  It was really focused on moving out of the fantasy world I built in my head and coming back down to reality.  Taking my place on this planet.  Letting myself feel love and standing up for the little girl inside who was never allowed to have a voice.  It was the first time that I actually started to own my voice.

It was also the month that the universe kicked me in the ass and decided that I get what I deserve, which was more than I had ever been willing to give myself.  My apartment building came down with a pest problem and given their lack of action on other matters, I was not confident that they would deal with it in a timely manner, so I gave my notice and immediately started looking for another place to live.  For nearly 5 years, my apartment had been my sanctuary.  It was small, but it was my home and I loved it.  I would often talk to my therapist about how I would, one day, buy the building so that I would never have to leave.  I couldn’t believe in such a short amount of time, I was going.  I also decided to get a roommate, which for the girl who can do everything on her own, was a big step.  I found a place that was beautiful.  When submitting the application, they only needed my information for the apartment to be approved.  It was really vindicating.  Not that I could afford the place on my own, but the building management felt confident that in my career as a self-employed artist I would be able to manage the apartment without someone else on the lease.  To quote myself from March 30/15 “It really feels like I am slowly stepping strongly into a new chapter of my life.  Every other time a major shift has happened, it has been haphazard and chaotic.  This has kind of come unexpectedly, but I feel that I have so much direction and clarity now.  I am making connected focused choices that are the best for what I want.”

APRIL
This was the month that I really connected to the pain I suffered as a child through bullying and how that made me disconnect from my body.  I was able to discover my vulnerability, but also to discover my strength in being vulnerable.  It didn’t mean weakness, like I had always thought.  I allowed myself to be seen as a vulnerable being, but also I was received by my peers with love in this state, which was also new.  It was like a rebirth.  This image from my group journal really sums up the month:
(As a side note, I really didn’t draw much before this year and didn’t much afterwards, though it may seem like I had a whole lot of drawings in there.)

MAY
May was crazy.  I moved at the beginning of this month and then began preparing myself for four months on the road.  It was mayhem, but it all got done.  I continued to own my power and speak up for myself.  I asked for help unapologetically and did not feel indebted afterwards.  By this time, the conversations in my head had completely changed.  I was now constantly praising myself and telling myself how great I am.  The only chiding that was done was when I said something negative to myself.  I also spent a lot of time reminding myself that I was entitled to everything I had.  I had worked hard and continued to work hard.  I deserved my success.  Big words for me.  Really big given that two years before I nearly had a nuclear meltdown when my therapist brought up the word ‘entitlement’.  I saw red.  Now, I feel entitled.  Quite the journey.

JUNE
I was away in a rustic trailer by the St. Lawrence River for this month.  It was the start of a new work relationship with a bunch of people who I have never worked with before.  It was exciting and scary.  This was my chance to put my new grounding to the test.  It was tough.  I was working with a lot of really fit people and we lived on a beach.  I struggled a lot with my body image issues.  Bikinis around co-workers who are in peak physical condition, when you are still carrying around your therapy weight is hard to deal with, especially when you support group is a couple hours away.  I was finally reaching a point where I had energy and a desire to feed myself good food.  I just wished that I had time to let my body reflect that before I had to expose it to the world.  Alas, I was forced to accept myself for who and where I was in my journey.  Ah, Universe, you and your lessons!!!  I shake my fist (but really, I thank you for it)! 

JULY
I was home for a brief time.  Still dealing with the new living situation.  Working out some roommate issues and preparing to leave for another couple months. This was also the last month in which I had sex in 2015.  It was really great, but I realized how I needed to be met in a relationship and I couldn’t settle for anything less (even if it was just for fun).  It has now been almost 6 months.  I don’t even really notice that much anymore.  Funny, how my whole year without sex was such a challenge, and now I’ve gone six months in a blink.  I call myself a “cat nun” now.  I’m forming my own religion called The First Order of Cat Nuns.  Manifesto to follow.  It will be great.  I’ll leave July with an excerpt from my group journal that highlights my mind at this time: “I am terrified to work through mattering, being seen, and having my opinions matter.  I am important and my voice will be heard.  The universe is calling and I can’t avoid it.”  This is really when I started to come into my own power.  I began to see the life I wanted and feel the call to action to live it.

AUGUST
In this month, I flew to Regina, Saskatchewan for two months.  It was my first time there and I did not bring my cat.  My cat helps ground me more than anything in my life.  This was going to be a real test of where I was in my process.  Before leaving, I had a really great therapy intensive where I was validated about the progress I had made and really took in the love and respect of my fellow group members.  Also, I allowed myself to be recognized for my accomplishments.  
I had started preparing my own healthy meals by this point.  As well, I was being physically active on a regular basis.  Two very big things that I had struggled with for a long time.  I was also enjoying eating healthy and being physically active (words I never thought I would say).  Before leaving for Regina, I floated the idea of graduating group therapy by my therapist.  She seemed receptive of the idea.  I said I wanted to see how I fared away from all my support (and my cat) for two months and then check in when I got back.  This would be a real test of how far I had come.  I left with nerves and excitement in my heart. 

SEPTEMBER
Still in Regina.  Missing my cat desperately, but staying strong and confident.  Practicing speaking up for myself.  Made super good friends with my roommate there.  Dealt with stress from home.  All in all, staying fairly grounded.  Navigated a serious crush on a man who pretty much fit my description of the perfect man, he was even emotionally available… though not physically available.  He was married, and before you get your knickers in a knot, nothing happened.  We hung out a couple times and just talked at work.  You wouldn’t even need a PG rating for the movie.  He was just one of those people who I had an instant connection with.  It was so wonderful.  It was a soul attraction.  Anyway, I was able to not spin out of control and obsess.  I kept myself open and honest and I didn’t let him get away with taking advantage of my vulnerability – which was a big step for me.  I made sure that I was able to get what I needed from the friendship and stated my needs, which was really just to chat.  I made sure there was balance.  This was also the month I swore off dating forever.  Not because of this guy.  I briefly dated another gentleman out there, but it was so much work.  I don’t have the patience for it.  I deleted my Tinder account and have not been on a date since.  All hail the Cat Nuns!

OCTOBER
I CAME BACK HOME!!!!  This month brought about even more change (as if this year hadn’t brought enough).  My roommate and I decided that we weren’t well matched and he gave his notice.  I found another roommate and all went down fairly painlessly, which was great for me!  I had expected a conflict, but everything seemed to just happen the way I needed it to.  Also, a big month in group.  I announced that I was ready to graduate.  I did a great job of keeping in touch with all the people who really support me while I was gone, especially when I was feeling low.  I can now ask for help and support.  I don’t need the confines of the group space in order to maintain those relationships.  I can take what I have in that room and apply it in my day to day life.  This was a big step.  I am taking control of my own life.  I am ready to face whatever the future holds.

NOVEMBER
So, all the confidence from October was shattered in November.  Talk about trial by fire!  There has been this boy.  I have loved this boy for a long time.  The love has changed over the course of our relationship, but I never stopped caring about him.  He has helped me through my process in ways I can’t even describe.  He changed me.  Anyway, I hadn’t really spoken to this boy in about a year (with the exception of yelling in his face on various occasions – all fully deserved and justified).  Well, we had never resolved the animosity between each other.  To put it lightly, the atomic bomb went off in November.  The story is too long to get into in a “year in review”, but at the heart of the matter, the emotionally unavailable man showed up and opened his heart to me.  Before graduating group, I knew that there was still this unresolved tension between us, but I decided I couldn’t wait around for him to acknowledge his emotions, so I was leaving, because I was ready.  Anyway, the announcement of my intention to graduate set of a series off triggers that resulted in a few weeks of really intense emotional exchanges, just enough to break my heart open and leave it bleeding for the world to see.  It cracked me open in a way that can never be closed again.  My final piece of work was to tell him how deeply and truly I love him.  It was hard but freeing.  I felt exposed and raw but more whole than ever before.  I finally knew what it looked like to have someone love me so completely to the core that it was too frightening to even look at.  It allowed me to open my heart.  Now, I can’t seem to close it, but ironically, in my hopes to distract myself from the gaping wound in my chest, I have been writing – passionately and consistently.  Apparently, I used boys to distract me from writing, well, now I am using writing to distract me from the person I love but can’t be with.  So, I guess that’s a win?

DECEMBER
And to round out the year, probably the biggest month of my life!  Really happy to be heading into 2016.  December felt like a culmination of all the things I had accomplished during the year, and really, the past few years.  It was also a closing of a lot of chapters.  On December 14th, 2015, I graduated from my group therapy.  This was a day dedicated to me.  A celebration of all my work.  It was the most wonderful day I have ever experienced.  It was so full of love it hurt to the core.  I fell asleep that night, after barely eating, so full.  I had never felt so nourished in my all my life.  I couldn’t move and slept so soundly.  The following quote from Khalil Gibran pretty much sums up what I experienced in Nov/Dec 2015: 
If you love and have desires, let these be your desires: To know the pain of too much tenderness; to be wounded by your own understanding of love; and to bleed willingly and joyfully.
I also got my first tattoos to commemorate my journey.  Here they are:
“Trust” to remind me to always trust that the universe has a plan and I just need to stay in the present moment.  I have patience issues.  I need to be reminded to surrender my delusion of control.  The other is the Fox from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  It is my favourite book and the Fox is my favourite part.  He teaches the Little Prince that “one sees clearly only with the heart.  Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”  Also, that we are responsible forever for the things we tame.  Both lessons that I need to keep on hand (or on wrist… bwa, did you see what I did there?).  The tattoos were a big deal for me because I have never marked my body in any fashion, not even piercing my ears.  This was me really claiming myself as a whole being.  The rest of the month I spent resting, recovering from the year and learning what life will look like now that I begin leaving therapy. (I still have individual sessions with my therapist, but will be going down to once every two weeks.)
Mommy, wow!  I’m a big kid now!

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Well, a quiet but magical new year’s eve.  Hopefully, this signifies the coming year.  As I sit listening to Pacabel’s Canon in D while watching fireworks out my window, Ripley (my cat) on my lap, writing while sipping champagne, awaiting the bells of the new year, I can’t help but think that the way forward looks wonderful.  I am really truly happy with where I am right now and for the first time I feel like I am moving forward with eager anticipation.  The new year will bring magic.  Because you are never too old to believe in magic.

Things look promising.  I feel really peaceful about what is coming.  I know that I have what it takes to deal with whatever comes my way.  Also, much like my time in my underworld, I am so distracted by curbing my feelings for this boy, that I can’t care much about what else is to come.  It’s kind of exciting, to be open and waiting for life to unfold.  My new roommate is exactly what I need in my life right now.  Work is going well.  I’m writing.  I’m feeling in command of my writing.  I’m getting healthier.  I’m feeling great.

I think the thing that fills me with most hope for the coming year is my choice to sit at home this evening to write, to make my writing a ritual.  For 10 years, I have been saying I wanted to be a writer, but I have been too afraid to expose my voice.  I’m still scared, but I no longer let fear dictate my life.  There are so many scary things that I face every day, this is now just one more.  Fearless courage leads to victory.  That’s the motto I bring into this new year.  I am choosing me.  I am choosing my goals.  I am taking the risks, because hey, what do I have to lose?  I am finally who I want to be.

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