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Year in Review 2023

As the end of the year approaches, we take stock of everything that has happened, where our roads have led us, our accomplishments and our failings. Many people post the highlight reels of their lives on social media, with the best and most bright shining moments.

Sometimes, for those of us who haven't had the best year, this can make us feel let down. It makes us feel like our lives aren't enough, that we haven't accomplished what we set out to do, and that we have failed. Other people's accomplishments make us feel a sense of shame and sadness that we haven't been able to do the same.

This can be especially true for those of us with mental health issues. Some years, it feels like all we have done is to keep our heads above water. But it is important to remember that not surrendering to the blackness, and making it through another year is an accomplishment in itself.

According to NAMI,

For those of us living with mental health conditions, a lack of hope and optimism might deter us from making New Year’s resolutions at all. For those of us who do set resolutions, we might quit early. Our day-to-day struggles often make daily goals hard to achieve, causing further anxiety. If we don’t achieve set goals, we may feel like failures, which only lowers self-esteem and worsens depression.

It's OK if you don't feel like breaking out the champagne and celebrating the new year. Sometimes, knowing that you have made it through is enough. You are still here. You are still trying. You are still fighting. And that really does mean something. It shows your inner strength and your willpower. You should be proud of yourself for that!

My year in review

2023 was a difficult year for me. In 2022, my family moved to Germany, but my oldest daughter decided to stay in the US to be close to her dad's family, her friends, and her job. It was a difficult decision for all of us, and one we didn't completely understand the ramifications of right away.

You think you are starting off to build this beautiful new life, and you take for granted the fact that the people you love will want to build it with you. Being separated from my daughter was one of the hardest things I have ever experienced. I guess I was naïve, and thought that if she saw how beautiful Germany was, she would want to come live with us there. But she didn't.

It took me a while to realize that becoming an expat wasn't all that it is made out to be in these perfect Instagram videos that you see people posting, with their feet up, working on the beach. Never mind that the beach was still about 4 hours away from where we lived in Germany. We did get to go, and still, I was wracked with pains of sadness and feelings of not truly belonging.

Learning how to speak German is hard. A lot harder than I thought it would be. After all, I learned to speak Spanish in college and I can talk to people passably. But when you truly are living day to day in a new place, you eventually want to know how to say more than "hello," "goodbye," and "where is the bathroom?"

In order to truly integrate yourself into a new culture, get a job, and make new friends, you need to be fluent. You need to learn words for feelings and deeper concepts. And it is harder than I realized. At some point, I realized I would never be fluent enough to make a life there. So I decided to move back to Denver.

It was quite a few months in the planning, but I am back now, as of a week ago. It still all feels surreal. I spent most of a year trying to convince my boyfriend to move us all back, or my daughter to move to Germany with us. But neither one of them could be swayed. My tears and my pain at our family being separated wasn't enough to make any difference. People choose their path, and it hurts when that path diverges from yours.

Now, I feel lost in time and space. Torn between two lives, neither of which is truly mine. For me, 2023 was a year of epic failure. It broke my heart, my mind and my psyche in ways that I don't know if I will ever truly recover from. I feel so powerless, as though my life is forever defined by other people's choices, and never mine.

I have to live with the fact that my family is living apart. And, I am left to bounce back and forth between them like a ping pong ball for an indefinite amount of time. I perpetually question how I am supposed to build a life for myself, when I don't really have a place to call home anymore.

I am living in a home without my children for the first time in 22 years. The last time I was this 'free' was before I got pregnant with my oldest daughter back in 2002. I don't really remember what it was like to be on my own, not responsible for caring for anyone else.

For these last 22 years, motherhood has defined me. And now I am separated from my children. Responsible only for myself. So strange. I need to grow into it.

Reflecting on Goals

I didn't accomplish all of my goals for 2023 either. Maybe a couple of them. I probably set too many, to be honest. I always tell people to set only 3 goals, otherwise they won't be achievable. But I didn't follow my own advice. I bit off more than I could chew. And I failed.

But that's ok. Most people do give up on their New Year's Resolutions by February anyway, so I know I'm not alone. A lot of people can't make the changes that they mentally envision.

This year, I am going to do things differently. Take things more slowly. Allow the universe to guide my steps.

I am opening my heart up to love, to new beginnings, and to new possibilities.

I'm not even sure if I am going to do New Year's Resolutions this year. It feels like too much is up in the air for me right now, until I find a job and figure out a plan. So, I am going to trust the Universe. Trust that if I have an open heart and an open mind, solutions will present themselves for me.

There were quite a few times this year that I felt like my life was ruined. That I felt like everything good that could happen to me had come to an end. That the rest was just aftermath, and figuring out how to be there for my kids as much as possible with them split so far apart.

When your heart is breaking, it is hard to see the bigger picture. You just feel the immediate pain. So this year, I am going to take things slow. I am going to be gentle, kind and compassionate with myself. Take some extra time for self care. Find some balance again.

This year, all I need to do is to take care of myself.

I am going to find a way to do that, to honor my own feelings, wants and needs.

I have spent 2023 mourning the death of a dream. Now, it is time to stop the tears from flowing, find healing and peace, and a new dream to follow. All I know is, I want to live authentically from a place of love.

It's OK to fail

In life, all of us fail sometimes. It may be in lesser or greater ways. Maybe it is a test that you didn't score as highly as you would like to. A job or a promotion that you got passed up for. Or a relationship that went sideways.

When we are in a good space, and things are going right for us, we assume in this naïve sort of way that things are going to continue as they are. I suppose it is the same when we are in the midst of a crisis. We feel like our current state is going to be where we stay forever. We forget that,

The Only Constant in Life Is Change.”- Heraclitus.

Learning to accept and adapt to changing circumstances is something that helps to make us more resilient individuals. It helps us learn to flow. To release control.

In times like this we can remember the Serenity Prayer:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." - Reinhold Niebuhr, Lutheran theologian (1892–1971)

When things go wrong, and are outside of our control, it is a time to trust in our higher power to carry us through. You can think of this as God/ Goddess or the Universe. In any case, trusting in a higher power can help you release the need to control things that are uncontrollable. As you release, you begin to find some measure of peace.

We can't control other people or the choices they make. We can't control circumstances that are thrown at us. All we can control is how we choose to react and how we move forward to extricate ourselves from the chaos.

When we fail in life, we can take some time to mourn. Then, once we have cried until no tears are left, we begin to care for ourselves again. We begin to look for solutions and a way forward. We begin to search for a new path, a new dream, with a new sense of determination and hope.

Failure is our greatest teacher in life.

None of us likes to hear this. We all want to succeed on the first try. But we can remember that it even took Edison 1000 attempts to make a light bulb before he succeeded.

Failure teaches us perseverance. It teaches us patience. It teaches us to have inner strength and determination to keep going. Nothing worth having comes to us easily. Success takes work. So it is important not to give up when you fail.

Try one more time. Who knows? Try number 1001 may be successful. After all, that is what got Edison the light bulb. Your light bulb moment may be just around the corner. Don't give up. ❤️


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