It’s been two years since the Facebook post of a video of a little tree inspired my very first blog post. That little tree did so much more than just survive a storm. It became an inspiration. It became a launching pad for a new life. It was the catalyst that uncovered a gift that had long been hidden, and it helped me and so many others to discover that you can give your pain a purpose, and that there is goodness and beauty to be found in everything, even in the midst of your biggest storms. I keep a photo of this little tree at the top of my blog. It represents strength in adversity, hope within heartache, and the importance of what anchors you. It’s become a representation of who I am, and of what I want the purpose of this blog, and of my story, to be. The message is, and always will be, “Be the tree.”
That first blog was a letter to 2015 posted on New Years Eve. Last year, I posted a letter to 2016. So, in keeping with tradition, I give you my letter to this year.
In a lot of ways, it seems as though you rushed right in and are rushing right out. For some reason, it feels as though it has just flown by. I think maybe it’s because this year has been a little easier for us, a little less heart heavy. With the hardest days of healing and rebuilding behind us, we were able to breathe a little, and enjoy the goodness of where we are now.
Although you did seem to fly by, we did actually have several big milestones this year, and I had a few smaller, yet significant moments, that revealed to me where my heart is at in this healing process and what still needs to be dealt with to get to where I want to be.
I started a new job. That can be a stressful thing to do. But the transition was so easy, and although I may have had the occasional doubt, I know I’m where I’m supposed to be. I’ve gained a new work family, kept up relationships with my old work family, and enjoyed every minute of getting to work with my actual family, my two sisters. It’s been SO much fun.
My oldest daughter moved out of the house and into an apartment with her cousins a couple of hours drive away from home. That was a HUGE adjustment. I miss her like crazy when she’s not at home but I am also so proud of her and the life she is building for herself.
We reached the 2 year mark of surviving the devastation of our marriage. Most of the books I’ve read say that’s the magic number. The turning point, if you will. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say it’s somehow magic. It’s definitely not as if it never happened, and I think to say it could ever come to that point is just unrealistic. But it definitely is easier. I still think about aspects of it probably at some point of every day. But I don’t live in the pain of it. There are still twinges every now and then. But the triggers are so much less present in our everyday life. I would say that we are in a place now where things are really good, we’ve dealt with most of the outer layers of damage and pain, and a lot of the innermost injuries, and what is left is mostly just goodness and gratitude.
There are still a few things that I have to work on. I’m still working on that whole forgiveness thing. Letting go of the negative thoughts I have towards his affair partner. So there’s that. I suppose I’ve made some progress. She creeps into my thoughts less these days, so I guess in actuality, I just have less opportunity to have the feelings of anger and loathing that the thought of her incites. I don’t know if that’s really progress in true forgiveness, but I’ll take it.
I would also say that I still have some pretty big issues with trust. I’m much better than I once was. With Jeff anyway. But it is still something that doesn’t come easily for me. Not just with Jeff, but also I tend to be wary of people’s intentions in general. I suppose that’s a normal side effect of having been deceived. I’m trying to be better about it, but still have such a reflex of needing to protect myself, so I question everything. I guess it really all just comes down to the fact that I have some pretty deeply rooted residual fears.
And speaking of fear, that leads me to the next milestone of this year.
My youngest daughter got her learners permit. Now this, this has been a real challenge for me. All you mom’s out there that have sat in the passenger seat while your baby gets behind the wheel of a thousand pounds of moving metal, and all of you who have watched your children drive off for the first time, you feel me. You totally get it.
I’ve done this once before, so it shouldn’t give me quite this much anxiety. And y’all, she’s really not a bad driver. She’s not great with the parking, but she does pretty good with the driving. We had a few near misses where she pulled out in front of another car because she was confused about when it was ok for her to go, and there were a few times when she took a turn a little too fast. She also may have pulled into the driveway a little too quickly and nearly hit a parked car. But hey, we’ve all done those things. And she didn’t hit anything and they were learning moments and all is well.
But my goodness, it is SO scary.
Truthfully though, the problem is not her or her driving skills. Yes, she still has some things to learn before we let her drive off on her own, but the real issue is ME and my anxiety level.
And it’s not just with her. Some of the biggest fights between Jeff and I this year stemmed from arguments over how Jeff was driving. Maybe I felt he was following too close, waiting til the last minute to brake, turning when I thought he should have waited for the car to pass, or maybe I worried that he wasn’t paying close enough attention and maybe I pointed out EVERY single possible danger to him. Because if I didn’t, we could possibly be in a horrific crash. Or maybe just an inconvenient fender bender. I’m just being helpful. Ok, ok. And possibly my constant “helpfulness” might be a little annoying.
I owned it.
And his reaction to my “helpfulness” could sometimes be a little hurtful.
We recently had a talk about it and he suggested that maybe I might benefit from taking some sort of anxiety medication before getting in the car. Ha. I’m pretty sure we all might benefit from that.
But what I asked myself later is “why?”
Why am I having these near panic attacks every time I’m riding in the car with one of them? It doesn’t happen when I’m the one driving. And that’s when it hit me. It’s not about their driving skills. I mean, it wouldn’t hurt for them to maybe be a little more careful.
But the real issue underneath my anxiety and panic is control. When they are driving, I’m not in control. I can’t control their decisions. I can’t control what may or may not happen.
This is not a driving issue. This is not an anxiety issue.
It’s a heart issue.
It’s a mind condition issue.
And it’s not really about riding in a car. That is just where it happened to become more tangibly seen. What it’s really about is me trying to control every situation, every possibility, every outcome, in an attempt to protect myself. To protect the people I love. It’s about being hyper vigilant, because I’m terrified I might miss some danger that is lurking, waiting to jump out and destroy us. Because I still maybe haven’t forgiven myself for missing so many of the danger signs before and during Jeff’s affair. And because deep down there’s a part of me that thinks if I can somehow control everything that happens around me, I can ensure that nothing bad happens to me or the people I care about.
This is what Oprah likes to call an “aha moment”.
And so, I know that I still have big things to work through. I trust that God will take care of me. I’ve seen it firsthand. I have no reason to doubt it. But still, the thought of going through anything hard again, anything painful, it terrifies me. It’s a deep seated fear that at any given moment my world could fall apart again. And so there’s this part of me that thinks that if I just pay really close attention and do my best to control every single aspect of my life, I can ensure that nothing bad happens to me or the people I love.
And to some degree it’s true. It is true that we should all pay closer attention. There were so many signs that I missed when my world fell apart. Some of them glaring, flashing signs that I most certainly should not have missed. And I guess I still tend to beat myself up for that. So yes, we should pay attention. But when it comes down to it, signs or no signs, we can’t control the decisions of others. And unfortunately, when the people we love make bad ones, and they eventually crash and burn, we are there, sitting in the passenger seat, with no say, with no control. And many times we are the ones that take the brunt of the impact and suffer the most serious injuries.
So, this is my struggle. To find the balance. To be alert and aware, but not to the point of paranoia. To be helpful, and hold people accountable when it’s actually warranted without pointing out every single possible danger and becoming annoying.
But mostly, to learn to let go of the insatiable need to be in control. To trust that everything is going to be ok. To remind myself daily of the ways God carried me through every bad day after life as I knew it went up in flames. How He has used what was meant for my harm to bring the goodness of the life I have now.
Because to control every aspect of my life is exhausting. And in all reality, a waste of energy. And quite frankly, I’m tired.
So I’m working on it. I’m trying to remind myself to just relax. To let go. To trust that the God of the universe, the God that walked with me through my best days, and carried me through my worst, has my best interests at heart. And that no matter what comes my way, no matter if I make a bad decision, or someone else makes a bad decision, He will carry me through that too and work all things for my good.
I have to remind myself that I’m still that tree that I wrote about in my very first post, the one that stands strong no matter what comes my way, because of what anchors me.
I can’t allow my anchor to be the fear of heartache. And I have to remind myself that I am not my own anchor. I can’t serve as my own anchor deep below the swirling waters of life and still keep my head above the waves. I have to learn to really trust the true anchor.
The true anchor is the joy of God’s goodness, it is the hope and the certainty that no matter what, the best is yet to come.
So, 2017, thanks for going fairly easy on me. Thanks for making me face some hard truths about myself and the work I still have to do to move forward, to find some peace, and to become the best version of me.
As for you 2018, I don’t know what you have planned for me. And I’m working on learning to be ok with that. Because I know whatever it is, it will always turn to goodness. I’m expecting it to be a year of breakthroughs and blessings.
And I pray the same for all of you.
Happy New Year, and thank you all again for another year of walking along side us and cheering us on as we build this new life. Your support is felt, your prayers are felt, and I am forever grateful for every one of you.
Amy Thurston Gordy
* tree video credit goes to Back Road Travels on Facebook