Happy New Year!
I was up scrolling through Facebook this morning because Dr Marry and I are in a little AirBnB in Windsor, England, and there is no place for me to go and turn a light on that won’t wake him up. Hence the in-bed scroll.
I came across my Memories and looked back. These were some of what I encountered:
I know I can see more in my eyes that anyone else can, but the wariness behind those glasses makes me almost as unrecognizable to myself as Dr Marry is. Who are these people and what has happened to them that they are holding on to this facade for dear life even as it slips from their grasp and they fall deeper into a vast darkness?
“I have terrific fear about what this year will bring…”
I spent a lot of that solitary car ride contemplating how I was going to leave my marriage; trying to figure out the basic logistics of splitting a house, a pup, our meager finances and more. Wondering how I was going to announce this break to the people in my life. Considering the epic failure of my marriage without truly understanding what the failure entailed.
I contemplated all of that inside my head, alone. Never daring to utter a word of it to anyone else because I knew to speak it aloud was to take one step closer to a reality I couldn’t fathom. And if I’m honest, I didn’t believe I would actually ever leave, so to say it out loud and not take action was too embarrassing an idea to articulate.
Oh, and don’t forget that enormous elephant of shame sitting on my chest—shame that I had made this choice, shame that this was all I must deserve, shame that I had brought this to my child, shame that my husband was a…drunk. Shame so thick I was constantly choking on it in an effort to keep it buried and out of sight.
“I have terrific fear about what this year will bring…”
I don’t write this as a criticism of anyone in my life, but rather as a reminder that sometimes people offer little clues, consciously or not, and if we’re paying attention to anyone but ourselves (mostly we aren’t), we can reach out to perhaps give them a glimmer of hope that they aren’t alone.
Nearly 125 people liked/loved this post, and 13 people commented; some with deeply moving responses. Many of them addressed this sentence, but they assumed I meant it as fear of the political landscape, the environment, global unrest and more. I’m sure that was all part of my thinking, but no one wrote privately to see if I was personally ok.
For one million dollars, I wouldn’t have remembered this post, but now that I’ve seen it, I can’t unsee it. One of my goals for 2023 is to be on the lookout for those little comments from others and take the 30 seconds it takes to send a quick message to make sure they are ok.
They might choose not to tell me “the truth.” It’s unlikely I would have; that’s fine. I simply want to be present enough to remind people they are not alone. I don’t know what that would have done for me, but I think it would have given me one second to exhale and begin to believe I wasn’t as isolated as I had convinced myself I was.
And then, in one short year, I had this to say:
Nearly 70 people liked/loved this one. And again, no one wrote to ask me about how I managed the “difficult…heartbreaking” aspects of the year. There’s a fine line to walk between being nosy and checking in, but going forward, I’m going to risk intruding into someone’s privacy over playing it safe.
It’s amazing to realize that on this day, five years ago, I would have hesitated to say why the year had been difficult and heartbreaking. I would have stumbled over the truth behind what made it joyful, surprising and blessed because I wasn’t yet, we weren’t yet, ready to openly share our story. Perhaps we didn’t yet trust that this new phase would last, given how relatively effortlessly the shift from utter despair to absolute joy had arrived at our doorstep. I also know that shame was still part of our lives. It might have downgraded to a baby elephant, but given that they weigh 200+ pounds at birth, that’s still a significant burden to carry around.
In 2018, I never could have predicted the creation of our nine-week, 27-part series, Daily Dose or the advocacy we have both taken on around alcoholism, addiction and thriving in recovery.
More importantly, however, I never could have anticipated the hundreds of people who reached out to thank us for giving space and voice to their private demons once we did open the door and shine unapologetic light on our shame in 2020. Truly, until we did that, I still had no real idea that I was not alone in my piece of this.
And now it’s January 1, 2023. We have ended Daily Dose (for now,) I turned 50, we successfully got various members of my family to England to celebrate this milestone with us and I’m looking ahead to a new year, a new decade, a new path and so much more.
And thanks to these memories, I now have a new, additional charge to add to my plans for the year: look for the tiny clues that someone is perhaps not ok and ignore that Scandinavian instinct to look away or leave them to handle it alone. Take the moment to reach out. How someone responds is up to them, but shame on me if I don’t do my job and offer just the tiniest glimmer of hope.
My word for 2023, inspired, in part, by this reflection, is strike.
- Strike a match—to ignite a spark, which illuminates the darkness
- Strike up a conversation—with someone who might need it, anytime I feel compelled
- Strike while the iron is hot—take the action I need/want to take…now
- Strike a balance in my life—don’t work all the time
- Strike a chord—with my writing, speaking and Spark work
- Strike it rich—with more resources, I can enact more of the change I want to see in the world
- Strike it off the list—let go of what isn’t serving me, even if it seems good or useful
- Strike out—recognize that, in the trying, sometimes I will fail…and that’s ok. Hard, but ok.
What are you reflecting on this morning? What does your last year, your last five years or more look like from this fresh moment? Now look ahead: what do you see on the immediate path ahead of you? What do you imagine is just over that hill up ahead? And most importantly, what are you packing in your life’s backpack to take on the journey? What skills, curiosities, gifts, necessities and treats will you have with you going forward?
Do you need some guidance on finding your Spark to get this reflection going? Download my FREE (re)Discover Your Spark guide to get started.
It’s a new year—let’s get after it!