As the final days of the decade wind down and my memories of 2019 are called to mind, I find it impossible to share the major themes of my year without starting with the most pervasive lesson of all. Undoubtedly, my motto for 2019 was “Faith over everything”.
In some ways, I can’t help but wince a bit as I type that. I mean, it sounds so hokey, so generic at first glance. It’s like some overused slogan that someone would slap on the front of a cotton blend tee, a coffee mug, or even worse, a motivational poster.
Even as a proud Christian who thoroughly respects the concept and importance of faith as it relates to salvation, I must admit that I never imagined myself having to hang on to this sentiment as much I did this year. However, I didn’t just hang on to it– I clung onto it for dear life.
In a nutshell, 2019 was rough.
In the Beginning…
At first, 2019 started out like many of the years that came before it. Resolutions were enthusiastically developed and scribbled onto sheets of journal paper with colorful flourishes before promptly being forgotten before Valentine’s Day. For awhile, there were new diets, fad diets, and re-imagined diets, but before long, there was only a collection of failed diets. All was going according to schedule, so I wasn’t the least bit bitter about my continual inability to follow my own rules and guidelines. On the contrary, I was quite happy– thrilled even.
Despite ditching most attempts to better organize my life and strive for “small, attainable goals”, the first half of the year went swimmingly for me. Things were by no means perfect, but for some reason, the cracks in my life (and myself) were no longer as bothersome to me.
For the first time in my adult life, I was beginning to shake myself free from the countless self-limiting beliefs that had routinely stifled my sense of creativity and expression. As a result, depression, which is something I’ve battled for many years, became less of a monkey on my back and more of a powerless ten-letter word that started with “D”.
Balance and peace was fully restored to my life in 2019. You haven’t the faintest clue how much that means to me, but maybe if I go back to the beginning of the decade you can come to better understand the journey I’ve been on.
A Decade of Destruction
The last decade of my life has been unspeakably insane; if I were to divulge every detail of the past ten years, even I would be tempted to question how I’ve managed to remain sound minded. Moving forward, I think I may refer to the past decade as the Decade of Destruction because for me and several people that I know, this couldn’t be a more accurate nickname.
This particular period of time has taught me a lifetime of lessons, but the most interesting thing I’ve taken away from everything is just how resilient the human psyche is. No matter how much heartache, rejection, and adversity we go through, with the stable foundation of a positive mindset and a strong connection to the Divine, we truly can get through anything.
Prior to the latter half of 2018, my outlook on the world and my future was extremely bleak. Over the course of the decade, various negative circumstances, both within and outside of my control, had gradually infiltrated and poisoned every single aspect of my life. By the time I realized how unhappy I was, it was far too late.
In addition to my physical, mental, and emotional health being in shambles, my spiritual well-being was in a critical state of disrepair. The vast majority of my relationships were either dangerously toxic, overwhelmingly dependent, or borderline parasitic. By the time one crisis was resolved (or swept under the rug), another two emergencies would develop right on its heels, leaving me utterly exhausted and struggling to cope. Unfortunately, being fairly young and largely ill-prepared, mere survival became my number one objective; the notion of actually thriving was nothing short of a luxury.
Being able to sit where I am now and look backwards in time is such a surreal experience; it’s as though I’m a totally different person. There is such a chasm between who I was and who I am that it genuinely feels as though things were changed by magic. Of course, it wasn’t magic, but to me, it was a miracle.
God, Are You Listening?
After reaching the end of my rope in the summer months of 2016, I found myself routinely praying for God to help me. Despite some areas of my life having (seemingly) improved, something still felt amiss. I didn’t have peace. What on Earth was joy? Something deep within me was gravely disturbed. I knew something needed to change… like, everything. However, I didn’t know what to do. At the time, I didn’t know how things could look so right, but feel so wrong.
According to society, I was doing all of the “right” things at the time. I lived in a beautiful neighborhood in the suburbs and I drove a nice car. I had a reliable job that allowed me to work from home, which is something I’d desired for quite awhile.
My kitchen was well stocked with bright produce and packages with smug “Organic” stickers plastered on them. I worked out on Monday-Wednesday and Thursday-Saturday, and I faithfully took whatever supplement was the latest and greatest thing out since the last thing that was the latest and greatest… at least, until the medical “experts” decided to change their minds.
Back then, I had a phone that lit up at least ten times an hour because I had friends and associates who had things to say, memes to share, and emojis to grossly overuse. And because I deeply cared about presenting my best possible face to the world, my brows were always “on fleek”, my highlight “glowed for the gods”, and my contour was “snatched”… even if I was simply running to Walmart. What’s more, I was on the cusp of getting engaged to the first man I had managed to not mess everything up with.
According to the textbook of life, I was winning.
But according to the tears I hid from people, I was secretly dying inside. I was living a life I could not love because it felt like something I had never meant to create.
After praying for awhile, I wasn’t too sure if God was actually listening. I mean, not much in my life had shifted for the better. In fact, things had somehow gotten worse. I was still ensnared by relationships that were more draining than encouraging, my deepest darkest fantasy involved quitting my “good” job, and I was finding it harder and harder to face each new day. Despondent and questioning the purpose of my existence on Earth, I asked for a sign that God had heard my desperate pleas.
Despite having been raised by a family who largely self-identified as some form of “Christian”, I had never much cared for the idea of going to church. While the original purpose of the gathering of believers greatly appealed to me, the modern-day mega churches with frilly cafes serving caramel macchiatos and blueberry scones admittedly turned me off. I once lived behind one such church, and I can honestly say that I never once felt the urge to check it out for myself until one fateful day after praying.
A sudden desire to watch an online stream of a Sunday service eventually turned into me consistently tuning in for months on end. As I watched and listened, I would instantly feel at peace. The buzzing sensation of contentment felt so foreign, but blissful; I never wanted it to end.
Of course, by Monday morning, I’d find myself kicked out of the rose-colored bubble and back in a reality where I knew no peace of mind. However, I felt that I was on the brink of something life-changing; if only I could dig a little deeper and gain a bit more understanding, I believed everything could be made brand new in my life.
In the end, I was right, but I had no idea just how transformative and disruptive that discovery would end up being.
Be Careful What You Wish For
As the months went on, I began heavily studying the Bible. Listening to various sermons had ignited a genuine curiosity within me about who God really was and what He had actually intended for us as His creations. To me, it seemed unlikely that He would want for people to feel so unfulfilled, but at the time, I didn’t have first-hand knowledge of anything different.
Having never been raised in the church, I started coming across all sorts of peculiar concepts that I had never heard of before, much less contemplated. Faith walk? Grace? What did any of this even mean?
As my investigation intensified, I encountered people who openly discussed “their relationship with God”. What? Relationship? Scrunching up my nose, I’d usually roll my eyes and laugh under my breath. Sure, a relationship… with God.
The idea of having a legitimate, reciprocal, living and breathing relationship with an omniscient being that we’ve never heard and never seen not only blew my mind, but permanently broke it. The whole thing sounded like a fairy tale that had surely been woven from the fabric of gullible minds; I wasn’t buying it.
Looking back, I know I wanted to believe these people and their bright smiling faces, but how could I? After all, I had prayed to Him since I was a little kid. Sure, I probably only prayed when I was sick or really wanted something, but it seemed to me that 25+ years was long enough to know whether or not you could have a relationship with God.
It all had to be fanciful nonsense, but yet… they looked pretty serious about it to me. There was just something about their auras, the way they spoke. They weren’t lying. I knew it sounded ridiculous and I had certainly never experienced such things, but something within me knew that they were telling the truth.
After eventually hitting a roadblock in my research into God and His true nature, I once again approached Him in prayer. After repeating my desire for the situations in my life to be improved once and for all, I asked if I too could learn more about Him. If the people I’d come across were in fact telling the truth and did have this personal relationship with Him as they spoke of, I wished to develop one too. I don’t remember hearing anything in particular at that time, but I do recall feeling as though my wish had been granted.
It is now the end of 2019– three years later. Nothing in my life is the same.
Remember my good job? Well, I quit and haven’t worked a traditional 9 to 5 ever since. With any luck, I never will again, but if I do, it will be related to something I am actually passionate about like fashion design, art, or music. Getting paid a high salary is optional, but a love for it is absolutely mandatory.
I still buy organic, but not just for the trendiness of it all. I’ve become far more educated about food, its origins, potential dangers, and what truly makes food healthy– or not. And though I need to stop ghosting my treadmill, this is the healthiest I’ve been in years.
I broke off my engagement. In some ways, you might say that I eventually “messed up” that relationship too, but it was one of the hardest and smartest decisions I’ve ever made. He wasn’t a bad guy by any means, we just couldn’t have stayed together without one of us no longer being who we were meant to be. Me saying goodbye meant that I had finally remembered who I was, as well as what I hope to accomplish on this Earth.
I ended up having to walk away from my friendships as well because they were no longer actual friendships. Some had turned into one-sided dictatorships while others felt more like championships. If someone begins to treat you as a doormat, a token, a step-stool, or a competitor, that’s not a friend. I just wish I had learned this sooner.
I eventually ceased all contact with my family (outside of my parents) because I’ve always believed that there is far more to being a family than merely sharing similar DNA. However, not everyone shares these beliefs and I respect that. They no longer have to attend awkward holiday gatherings just so they can present the veneer of caring about other people. Similarly, I no longer have to attend the same awkward holiday gatherings and pretend that their callousness isn’t problematic. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Best of all? I developed the most beautiful and robust relationship with God. And yes, it’s very real.
When I first started asking God for a happier life, I had no idea what I was truly asking for. In my mind, a “better” life meant that all of my problems would magically disappear in a pink poof. Boy, was I mistaken!
Though the process He took me through is quite fascinating and worthy of telling, its lengthiness is best left for another day. However, He did respond swiftly to my request to get to know Him better. He also helped me to make the changes that needed to take place in my life. Many of the finishing touches were applied this year, and it has made a world of difference.
In addition to shaking loose all of the dysfunctional behaviors and attitudes I’d unintentionally picked up over the years, He eliminated every source of unnecessary stress and drama from my life. If there was an activity, habit or person that would derail my healing process or distract me from developing a relationship with Him, it was immediately eliminated from my life.
Although I had considerable trouble letting go of quite a few habits and people, I eventually gave in and allowed Him to show me what I needed to do in order to find true peace. It was scary and hard to watch my life fall apart while facing the prospect of having to rebuild everything from scratch, but I kept the faith that everything would eventually be restored one day.
Thanks to the decision I made to seek a deeper understanding and relationship with God all of those years ago, I can proudly report that I had zero drama in 2019. Nil. Zilch. Nada. Did I experience any stress? Sure, but it was so minimal that I was very tempted to say that I didn’t. In comparison to the rest of the last decade, 2019 was an absolute cakewalk.
However, you may be wondering how it is that I came to still view 2019 as a challenging year. That, my friends, is a loaded question– one I shall provide a valuable answer to in the post to come. Hopefully, it will help some of you navigate the new year and decade ahead.
© C.M. 2019 All Rights Reserved
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