Welcome to the last day of 2019. If your decade and year have been anything like mine, you have mixed feelings about seeing it go. For me, it would be putting it mildly to say that the past ten years have been a roller coaster. It has been a time of love, loss, pain and growth.
If I was being honest, I am sort of sorry to see it go.
The Butterfly Room
Early 2010 – Northern Iowa
I sat on the floor surrounded by the bags that I had carried in with me. Those bags – three 30-gallon black trash bags – contained every possession that my daughter Emma and I had left. It was a far cry from the two story, three bedroom home we had left just a few weeks before.
“Mommy? Isn’t the butterfly room pretty? I picked a good one, didn’t I?”
My Monkey Child.
My only child and the light of my life asked me as she looked around the room that shelter staff had allowed her to pick the previous night. With its cheery yellow walls and colorful butterflies covering the walls, it tried to hide itself from being what it really was; a temporary home for those who had – for whatever reason – failed at life and taking care of themselves.
I needed a drink.
I couldn’t have a drink. Most homeless or women’s shelters do not allow alcohol and this one was no different. Alcohol was a sure-fire way to finding yourself sleeping on the streets. With a five-year-old child, that was a risk I could not take.
Still, I needed a drink and I needed one badly. It had been over a month since my last one and I had mistakenly thought I was past the needing one part.
I was wrong and my shaking hands only proved it.
I looked at the clock. I needed to get up. I needed to feed my child. I needed to learn how to live again without my soon-to-be ex-husband there to take care of me, but no matter how much I willed my legs to move; they wouldn’t. One hundred-pound logs weighed down by cement that wouldn’t move.
I cried and I kept crying.
I cried for the life that I had lost and the child who was now caught in the middle. I cried for the potential that I knew I once had but had wasted. I cried for all the plans and dreams that once filled my head but instead were lost at the end of a bottle and the front of a fist.
I cried for the husband who I had only seen through rose colored glasses. I cried for what felt like the loss of my sanity. I cried because I suddenly felt as if I really had lost my mind.
“Maybe I have,” I thought.
I cried from the paralyzing fear that I would lose her. I cried out of the fear of the unknown; because I knew with more certainty than I had ever known anything before that I absolutely couldn’t take care of myself and I certainly couldn’t take care of her.
I cried until I was certain I didn’t have a single tear left, but the tears never stopped coming, my hands never stopped shaking and she continued to look at me with a worry like no five-year-old child should ever have.
Still, I sat on the floor at the foot of a butterfly covered bed and cried.
“You’re better than this.”
Buried and forgotten long ago, those words came to me. They weren’t my own, but words spoken to me exactly ten years before. Words spoken by a high school Sociology teacher to a drug and alcohol addicted teenager as she turned her textbook back in so that she could drop out of high school for the final time.
They were words spoken with no thought as to how they would impact that naive girl’s life. Words that one man had no idea would change not one person’s life, but four over time.
Words that were said to a girl who couldn’t have cared less. Words that were ignored at the time they were spoken, but were planted deep and hidden away within the dark recesses of her mind only to take root when she would need them the most.
Words that would change the very core of who I was.
Four simple words.
“You’re better than this.”
I sighed a sigh so deep it rattled the very bones of my soul. I needed to get up. I raised my head, looked at those three bags and then at my daughter. She smiled that innocent and angelic smile that melted my heart each time I saw it. She was so forgiving, and this time was no different. For a moment, I wished I could go back to an innocence like that.
It was time to get up off the floor. Time to take move on and time to put the pieces back together again. Time to learn how to be the Mother that she deserved; time to learn how to be human again.
I don’t know that I fully believed those four words, but I could certainly pretend for a while that I did. Over the past few years, I had gotten very good at pretending. Pretending that everything was okay. Pretending that I wasn’t hurting or that I didn’t feel dead inside. Pretending that I was sober; pretending that I was okay with being sober.
Wiping my eyes, I willed my legs to work once more. Finally standing, I ran my still shaking hands down my legs to steady them and pasted on my very best “fake it ‘till you make it smile.”
“Come on. Let’s go get an ice cream.”
I had exactly six dollars in my pocket.
Ten Years Later
I sit at my desk this morning writing on a website that was not even a far fetched idea that afternoon ten years ago. Tomorrow, we face the beginning of not just a new year but a new decade.
Quiet reflection is the name of the game today.
Ten years ago, I was an entirely different person. I’m sure most of us were, but I quite literally almost was.
- I was a drunk.
- I was broken from abuse.
- I was scared to stand on my own.
- I was homeless.
- I had never once supported myself and I had never once supported my then five-year old daughter without the help of a man.
- and I was terrified of a world where I was on my own.
But if the past ten years have taught me anything, it’s that I am far stronger than I ever thought I was.
We left that shelter at the end of 2010 and by 2012, I had begun to figure you who I was. I had sobered up, become the mother my child needed and created a business that would carry my family to heights I had never dreamed of.
Since then I have ended not one, but two relationships, married the one I should have waited for, gained a bonus child and more.
I have lost friends and gained others.
I have lost family and I have willingly walked away from other family members.
I have taught and I have been taught.
I have fallen, climbed back up and at times, been carried by those who love me.
and I have carried those I love when they have needed it.
I have overcome.
and most of all, I am finally – after allowing years of heartbreak – happy and right where I want to be.
Because in reality, this decade has been a truly amazing one and one I am incredibly proud of.
Happy New Year 2020
I don’t know what the past decade has been like to you, my dear friends. What I do know is this:
You have a clean slate tomorrow and every day after.
Make the next ten years what you want them to be and go find your happiness if you aren’t right now.
Don’t spend the next ten years regretting.
It is my sincerest wish for you and every reader of this blog that 2020 and the decade following it is one of the best of your lives.
Happy New Year!