"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflections on 2015

Another year in the books! As I reflected back on 2015 I re-read my year in review post about 2014 I was struck by my closing words. "As I look back at my year in pictures I'm struck by how much is missing. There are very few pictures of fun times, vacations, family get togethers and cherished moments with friends. This year has given me huge amounts of time when I could do very little but be still and think. I've realized that I didn't do enough living this year, I was simply surviving... I'm looking forward to 2015 which I'll welcome with a renewed focus on doing things that I know nurture my soul and bring me happiness." 

2015 was a tough year in many ways with many experiences I'm glad are in the past. Despite all the challenges, bumps in the road and heartache, I succeeded in doing what I was determined to in 2015 -- I lived! I survived the challenges by staying focused on doing things that nurtured by soul and made me happy. Here are some pictures showing highlights from my year. 
January 25: Birthday surprise - a gorgeous vintage dress from my dad.
Celebrating my bestie's graduation from college!
Treasured time with my grandpa.
Mother's Day with my girl.
 Marching in the Salt Lake Pride Parade
Girlfriends aka The Glitter Girls at a Willie Nelson concert
Utah State University Ladies Football Clinic with my co-workers - a summer tradition.
My already fun summer got even better after meeting KC at a country music festival
(in Tooele of all places)! A month later we were enjoying sunny San Diego together.
First Willie, then his son - Lukas Nelson concert with the girls.
Gillian. She really made me earn my parenting chops this year!
Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. Love these two! Sharing our message of hope and healing.
Christiansen Family Thanksgiving
Christmas in San Diego
I spent some of the last days of this year oceanside in San Diego. This was the view from our balcony. I tried to take a few minutes every day I was there to look at the ocean and simply soak it all in--the sounds, the beauty, the vastness of the ocean, and all the twists and turns in my life that brought me to that day and that place. At the beginning of 2015 I never could have imagined the journey I would take this year. If I learned one thing this year it was to let go of things I can't control and just let life happen. When I'm able to do that good things come my way. Letting go--learning, living, loving. That's what I'll be focusing on for 2016. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Love Wins

Yesterday was one year since I had back surgery to repair a herniated disc. To celebrate I went for a run outside. Normally that would hardly be worth mentioning except a year ago I didn't know if I would run again, which is why I decided going for a run was the perfect way to mark the day's significance. As I ran I reflected on the last 12 months and the many changes in my life during that time. What a difference a year can make! It hasn't been an easy year. In fact, the first half of the year was one of the most challenging periods of my life. Somehow though, I survived. As much as I'm loathe to admit it, that old saying is true--what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. 

In April I wrote this post about me and my daughter: Parenting Confessions. Things were pretty bleak then, and they got much worse before they got better. As I re-read that post and the comments people left for me I noticed my mom's comment, "Love wins. That doesn't mean there won't be heartbreak, but in the end all that remains is love." She was right, as moms often are. There was plenty of heartbreak, sadness, anger and betrayal while Gillian struggled to find her bearings in the world and I fought to maintain control. Controlling another person is impossible, of course. If there's one big life lesson I really worked on this year, it was learning to accept that I can only control myself. That's an easy thing to understand intellectually, but for me, accepting it and learning to let go of things I have no control over was a real challenge. 

It took hours and hours in a therapist's office for me to learn to acknowledge my lack of control over others, including my teenage daughter. I also had to learn to trust my own judgement and set appropriate boundaries with people I care for. For a few months earlier this year it seemed like I was going backwards in my life. In order to move forward I first had to rid myself of hurtful, damaging relationships and set really firm rules of engagement with my daughter. After more than a year of stops and starts and hanging on by a very thin thread, I finally found the courage and strength to make the final break in a 4 1/2 year relationship that just wasn't working. That gave me the emotional energy and mental clarity to focus on the one relationship that really mattered--the one with my daughter. We also took a break for a while. Again with encouragement from my therapist, I accepted that it didn't mean I was a failure as a mother if I acknowledged we needed a break from living together. Gillian spent over four months living at her dad's. Making that decision caused me great pain, and I really doubted it was the right choice. I finally took a giant leap of faith and trusted the words of my therapist and my mom, who both said essentially the same thing, that love will prevail in the end. Which it did.  

The time we spent not living together was time well spent for both of us. We both needed time to heal and to forgive each other. We talked nearly every day and saw each other frequently. I learned to enjoy my daughter again as a person. I also thoroughly enjoyed my time alone! I stopped feeling guilty that I wasn't "mothering" 24/7 and simply enjoyed my freedom. I forgave myself. I had a great summer doing whatever I wanted, when I wanted, and didn't feel the least bit guilty about it. Instead of feeling sad and lonely about being single and going places alone, I embraced it. I was free! For the first time in years I felt truly happy and at peace with my life. 

I'm not sure exactly when things turned the corner, but life is really good right now. Gillian is doing excellent in school again, has a nice boyfriend, is enjoying the freedom of owning her first car, working, and making plans for college in the near future. As for me, I smile a lot these days. Once I learned to let go, accept things as they come and live my life for me, I found someone who makes my heart happy. Life is good. My mom was right. Love wins every time.