The New Year Question

It was the last days of 2009 and the thought of leaving the year behind me was both everything I wanted and what I feared the most. That was the year I uncovered my then husband’s highly developed and covertly abusive secret life. From September to December I barely existed—just pinning myself together enough to go to work and come home. I cried all night long every night, living on just a few hours sleep. He was enjoying the new freedom of his arrogance and contempt for me being out in the open. My 29 years of marriage were ripped out of my life and put through the shredder. I wanted to die and every morning I was still alive.

So, you can understand why I felt just fine about leaving 2009 behind.

But, there was the other problem. Once it was gone, I couldn’t change the ending. It would never be better than what I just wrote. And I had nothing with which to imagine 2010 would be better. A new year stretched out in front of me like the second half of a horror movie. I knew I was in one now, and that it was probably going to get worse.

It’s not surprising that I don’t remember that New Year’s Eve at all.

But here’s what I want you to know. It’s 8.5 years later. I am living a life that was as unimaginable in its good aspects as my nightmare was in its bad aspects. I never saw my nightmare coming, but I never saw this good life coming either. I just kept going and I got there.

I just kept going.

In 2010 there were more tears, for sure. Hard decisions. Finding a psychologist. Sobering realizations. More losses. Challenges every day. Small steps forward. The cloud lifting after he moved out. One day I even laughed. I started to trust myself again. Trauma symptoms would ambush me. More losses. Working with my psychologist. Selling our home. Moving. A tree outside my window in spring. New friends. Losing old friends. Seeing how he had abused me. Struggling with my story. Trying to support his recovery. Realizing the recovery model was a fraud. More losses. Working with my psychologist. Remembering who I was. Healing. Getting excited about my life again. Grieving. Anxiety. Trauma symptoms changing what I could do and not do. Finding vocabulary.  And through all of it, I began to learn what it meant to honor my life as sacred.

Truth is, when I was in the New Year I did not have a sense that I was making any progress at all. But I was. It’s a messy business cleaning up after discovery, repairing what can be repaired, accepting what is damaged now, and getting rid of what is beyond saving. No wonder it doesn’t feel like progress.

But here I am looking at 2018. I still grieve. But mostly I’m in the present with gratitude and participating in life, still believing in the value of a human life--including my ex-husband's life, and able to love again.

So keep going. Just keep going. You are making more progress than you can see right now. And the question for the New Year is to ask in every decision, at every crossroads, with each opportunity, Does this honor the sacred value of my life? Take the responsibility for being a good steward of your own life as your first priority, and you will find your way. 

Happy New Year.


Diane Strickland