By Jill Dabrowski
This has been the most productive year of my life.
And yet I didn’t make much money. I rarely slept. I said goodbye to a number of significant individuals and animal companions. I collapsed to the floor sobbing. I didn’t run any races or make any notable contributions to the world around me. I slipped between the depths of depression and the peaks of accomplishment. I felt the weight of the past crushing down on me. And I learned to use the stones of my past as a ladder to help find my way out.
By the usual measures of success, I was a complete and utter failure.
And yet it was the most intense and growth promoting year ever. Because I chose me (at least a few times). I dove into my suffering with a veracity and an intensity that I did not know was possible. I observed and examined and dove straight in even when I wasn’t sure that the water was deep enough.
I began to see things for what they were and released what I could back to the world.
I learned how to wrestle myself out of the chokehold of terror and flashbacks and memories of things that should never have been. I drew lines that were not so arbitrary, and I steadfastly enforced them. I uncovered old wounds to let them begin to heal. And I developed new injuries—constant abrasions from walking around with no skin on.
I have grown and shrunk. I discovered new parts of myself and let go of other parts that I no longer needed to hold so tightly to.
It was a year of anger and relief, grief and empathy. Heartbreak and open-hearted compassion. Anger and sadness and bone aching loneliness. Kindness and support and healing words and gestures. I rediscovered old strengths and developed new ones. I cried enough tears to fill a lake. And then I learned how to swim in it.
I spilled my words and saw them in print.
I unraveled my stories and tried to stop getting stuck in the pages of the past. I broke bones and shattered some of the destructive patterns that have kept me trapped for decades. I allowed myself to ask for what I needed—at least once in a while. And I advocated for myself time and again. I forgave, but didn’t forget. And I forgot, but couldn’t quite forgive. I woke up writhing in pain on far too many occasions and fell into grace on far too few.
I hugged my kids and my friends. I laughed and I danced. I let myself be vulnerable and I felt the ache of that open vulnerability. I gave freely of myself and expected nothing in return from most. I asked a lot of a few and was rewarded with more support and care than I ever could have imagined possible. I met amazing people who have forever changed my life in miraculous and undeniable ways. I started to see through the fog and stopped always being afraid of what was not yet clear. My head throbbed continuously.
I meditated and cried for all that was lost.
I grieved over the truth and the recognition of all that is and was and will never be. I let people be there in the ways that they could and began to accept the implications of that. My blood boiled with anger and my heart ached with sadness. I found new ways to be with myself and to allow the pain to be what it is while waiting for it to dissipate.
A year of awareness. Of hope. Of devastation. Of becoming. And collapsing. Tumultuous and steadying. Calm and chaotic.
A year that changed my life—because I let it. Because I was ready, and because I was able to find courageous and compassionate friends who were willing and able to walk the path with me. A year of becoming indebted to myself and learning to embrace my bravery.
The longest year—wrapped in the shortest year.
An exhausting year where the weeks flew by, but the days dragged on. A year of new experiences and old memories. Of thoughts and pain and relief and open hearted seeing. A year where things constantly changed and I learned to embrace myself in the midst of it all. A year I will never forget. A year punctuated by times of sadness and anguish and suffering that I would never want to remember. A year interspersed with moments of relief and joy and compassion that I want to hold on to forever.
A year of coming home—to myself.
Originally published on Rebelle Society
Jill P. Dabrowski spends much of her time chasing children, chickens, and dreams. She runs and writes and meditates and still finds time to wish on dandelions and falling stars. Jill feels too much, sleeps too little, and is horrible at self care. She lives for the spaces in between and the people who make her heart come alive. She is rather accustomed to chaos but still constantly craves calm. She is actively working to become more comfortable in her skin, scars and all. She has written for Rebelle Society and Some Talk of You & Me. You can follow her musings and mutterings on Facebook and on Instagram.
Editor: Dana Gornall