Here are 9 things I have learned in 2018.
1. I CAN PERSUADE OTHER PEOPLE TO HAVE SEX WITH ME!
My self esteem has never been that high, and was frankly AWOL this time last year, so this came as something of a surprise.
I started dating at the end of the summer and it turns out I’m actually quite successful in this department.
(I’ve literally quadrupled my lifetime penis exposure in 4 months).
Either I’m more attractive than I thought I was or I’m just giving off some serious desperate middle-aged housewife pheromones…
At this point who cares?
2. I CAN ADULT
No not that kind of adulting – already covered.
I mean I can face my post, pay my bills, do my finances, mend shizzle, and organise single-working-parent life.
Okay, look, stuff is mostly mended with gaffa tape or by looking pathetically at neighbours, I rely on school mums and nursery staff to remind me about important stuff, friends often have to support the post opening and form filling-in, and I have to call my dad before I can look my bank account in the face,
I’m not quite the 1950s helpless housewife I was.
And you know what? Sometimes asking for help IS adulting.
3. I AM FLAWED
I’ve done a lot of soul searching, and a lot of counselling in 2018. And sometimes when you take a good hard look at yourself, you don’t like what you see.
I’ve learned a lot of hard things about myself.
I don’t like how I handle stress, how I become obsessive or fixated under it, how I batan down the hatches under fire, how much I peace-keep, avoid conflict, and how much I crave approval. I don’t like my need to be liked. I don’t like that I change myself to please others.
I don’t like living with the resulting imposter syndrome and inferiority complex, the continuous self-doubt, and that nagging, un-continuous dialogue – where no matter what our history, with 90% of people I know I still feel like I have to start at square one to prove myself to them, every time I see them.
All of that has seriously damaged my career, my friendships… and my marriage.
And all my worst bits – all of the above – basically stem from one thing. My fear of abandonment.
And recognising that is helping me start to change it.
4. I AM FABULOUS
Sure, I’ve done things wrong. I’m flawed.
But I am not mean.
I am not callous. I have never been cruel.
I’m nice. I’m funny. I’m kind.
The people I’ve had to cut from my life in 2018 are seriously missing out. Because I really am pretty okay, actually.
In fact, no.
5. I HAVE BOUNDARIES
If you follow this blog you know I struggle with the boundaries. I overshare. Like, a LOT. (See point 1, for instance).
They became confused by an interesting and toxic combination of baby brain, depression, fatigue, isolation and emotional abuse.
My instincts, my social skills, my confidence – were all eroded.
But I can and have set NEW boundaries.
I don’t keep the peace for the sake of it, anymore.
I’m learning what’s picking my battles and what’s losing my voice.
I don’t let people treat me badly, or watch others treat me badly and pretend it’s okay, because otherwise they might have to face some awkward truths. Wah.
I am learning where my borders are, and how to defend them more effectively.
6. MY EMOTIONS ARE NOT A WEAKNESS
I’m not mad. I’m not sensitive. I’m not over-emotional. I’m not unstable. I’m not over-reacting. I’m not intense. I’m not over-thinking. I’m not misinterpreting.
My feelings are valid. They’re telling me something important. They ARE my instincts.
They are my heart, my empathy, my essence – the core of my okay. My GREAT*.
And it’s okay to have them. It’s okay to be sad. Sometimes that’s an appropriate and reasonable response to external stimuli. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be as happy and as exuberant as I like.
When I listen to my what my emotions are telling me, I make GOOD choices.
I will no longer let my emotions be used against me.
They are my superpower; not my kryptonite.
7. CONNECTION IS EVERYTHING
For me, life is about connections, first and last.
It’s about sharing meaningful, joyful and tragic times.
It’s about family, friends old and new, my village offline and online – all the connections I was starved of because I was lost and hiding.
Each one of them is a lifeline I am grateful for.
Thank you all.
8. I AM STRONG
So I don’t look it (I weight just over 6 stone after the divorce diet), and often I don’t feel it.
But then I remember.
At the end, when things were SO bad, he wouldn’t have behaved to a friend, acquaintance or a goddam stranger the way he behaved towards me.
And when I finally saw on one particular evening that it was having an impact on the on the Big Small, too, I said STOP.
I did that.
I did that for me. For the Smalls. And actually, for him, too.
That’s how bloody strong I am.
9. I AM LUCKY
When everything has been razed to the ground, at first it looks like utter devastation. But then there are new tentative shoots, reaching for the sun again.
There is new life, new growth, and new opportunity.
I’m going to be 40 this year, and I’m starting over. And I’m also starting to see how wonderful that is…
How many people get the chance to rebuild themselves, reassess their life, their choices, their values, their direction? How many people get to change the patterns they’ve fallen into? The grooves they’ve worn in their relationships, their work, their own sense of themselves?
That’s what I get in 2019:
I get to change the habits of half a lifetime.
I get to live more than the half-life I was living.
The truth is that I’ve been blinkered and buried and stifled and stumbling. Now I get to look up and see clearly again, with new eyes. Or at least slightly cleaner glasses. Now I get another chance.
Oh, I didn’t want it – I had to be exploded out of the old life, and there were some injuries. Some of them serious.
But there it is.
The last present of Christmas. A new future…
I get to carve out time to write, and paint, and run, and read, and dance, and LEARN again. All the things that make me feel like me. All the things I compromised. All the things I abandoned in survival mode. I get to be the mother I want to be. I get to be silly when I want and sad when I want. I get to have the art I want on the walls, and the cushions on the sofa, and to let the books get out of control again. I get to go to bed when I want. I get to pick up the strings of my career. I get to pursue the friendships I neglected, and the ones I have since forged in grief and relief. I get to have the sort of sex I always wanted but was too tired for – or assumed was just for other people. I get to fall for someone again. I get to have the flipping stomach, and the butterflies, and the giddy HEAVINESS of it.
And in all of that, through all of that, I get to fall for ME again.
I get… POSSIBILITIES.
Now all I have to do is make the most of them.
Happy New Year.