There is no hesitation for me when I say that 2016 has been the worst year of my life. It started out excruciatingly painful and by April, I just wanted it over. I thought it could not get worse, until it did in June. Any recovery I had scratched out for myself to that point was smothered in a new round of despair. I found myself slipping under the surface time and time again, hoping that the decisions I was making were the best for my future and my self-preservation. I have never felt so alone, so sad and so invisible.
Slowly, so slowly, I have been moving forward and trying to find solid footing on this shaky, unstable ground. In the course of re-establishing my life I have been reading. Books, poems, song lyrics, really anything and everything that may, in any way, connect me to some sort of idea on how to proceed from this darkened space. In this massive literary consumption I came across a poem that truly spoke to me.
Not Waving, but Drowning
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.
I began to research Stevie Smith and learned that this was her most famous poem, and I can understand why. Smith’s words perfectly captured my feelings of obscurity. That I was as far out to sea as one could get, yet no one saw my signal for help. I had become irrelevant in my own world. And I cried, but there was no one to see my tears. I hid them like I always do because I don’t want to upset my family.
The truth is that I pretended that I was waving, not drowning. And, it was not just this past year that has been the root of all my pain and problems. When I really started being honest with myself, and looking at the pattern of my behavior, I realized that I have been drowning for several years. I told my family and friends that I was waving the entire time but the reality was that I had been drifting further and further from shore. I had not been happy for some time and was trying desperately to figure out how to fix myself without inconveniencing my husband and children. This mid life quandary is impossible to navigate alone, but that is me, and how I deal with everything, on my own. It took the ensnarement of this massive rip tide of the last 12 months for me to finally ask for help. I had to realize that my friends and family want to help and we both gain from that exchange. I have been trying to change these engrained behaviors of mine for the last few months. It’s very hard for me because this often requires me to think of myself as a priority, and I am not wired that way. When I have managed to remember to include others and let them into my personal space, it has worked well and I feel better, prideful even that I acted against my nature and let others know what I am feeling and thinking.
The last two months have found me in a better place than back in June. I have started this blog and connected with many interesting people, which I hope will continue to grow. My husband and I are more connected today than we have been in several years. We are spending more time together exercising, traveling and laughing. I have been able to find the gratitude in the small things that one takes for granted in a long term relationship. If you think that is easy, wait until you have been together for three decades to render that judgment!
So, as I end this ugly, unpleasant year I want to start fresh in 2017. I can’t control how other people act, but I can control how I respond. I will…
-Stop putting my needs last
-Ask for help when needed
-Not be the last priority in my relationships
-Have my own back
-Continue to exercise for stress management and fun
-Remember that I deserve happiness too
And to start a regular gratitude segment for my blog to remind myself how good I have it, how lucky I am and how great things may be in the future.
Happy New Year!