"I Made It Through" - Celebrating a Year of Small Victories
Wow, what a year it's been! As we move into March 2021, we can all look back and say, "Whew - made it through that one!" We may not be entirely out of the woods yet. But after a year of dealing with all the many changes, losses, and adjustments of this time, we can all take a moment to breathe and celebrate. Despite the difficulties, we're still here, we're still learning, we're still moving forward. And the best is yet to come.
My Story - Getting Through My 2020 - And Beyond
Speaking personally for a minute -
My 2020 challenge started several months before Covid hit. In August 2019 I was flying high - new book published, new movie released, teaching hundreds of people at Education Week - my 20 year anniversary there. My last 2 kids were preparing to leave the nest, to go away to college in late August - leaving me and my husband empty nesters. But I felt completely prepared for that big change, by having so many other projects, roles, and happy opportunities underway.
Then in September 2019, everything kind of crashed. Suddenly - the kids were gone. The house felt so empty. The initial launch of the book was over - and it then settled into relative oblivion, amidst the hundreds of thousands of other books on Amazon. The acting opportunities dried up - just at the time when I expected the new movie to open new and expanded opportunities. The influx of new counseling clients that I usually saw every September after Education Week just didn't happen (for the first time in 20 years.) My work hours were down. My income was down. Most of all, my spirits were down - and my self-confidence was badly shaken, in the face of all these simultaneous losses and disappointments.
Over the 6 months that followed, it didn't get any better. My businesses - all of them - continued to flounder. My hopes continued to be dashed, one after another. Things I'd so carefully set in place for years, in preparation for this big "empty nest" transition, fell through - right when I needed them most.
I missed the kids. I missed the opportunities. I missed my old, confident, optimistic self. Above all - I missed my life.
Then one day, on a cold February morning, walking home from church one Sunday thinking about all of this, I crashed entirely. I cried to God all the way home - walking barefoot on a harsh unpaved wilderness path - because it matched my dark mood. Tears fell as I cried to God - "The Lord giveth - and the Lord taketh away.... EVERYTHING! Why? Why have You taken away everything I loved and valued - everything I relied on - all at once?"
The heavens were silent that day, under that cold grey February sky. I spent the rest of the day in a deep funk - feeling abandoned by the God I had long served and trusted. That silence from heaven, on that dark day, seemed to be the last straw - one more devastating disappointment, on top of all the others.
The Beginnings of Recovery
But things started to look up after that. A sweet new granddaughter arrived, bringing a massive new dose of heaven's light. And my daughter's boyfriend, who came into her life December 2019, called me, and asked me for help with his plans to ask for her hand in marriage. At the end of February, I happily "kidnapped" her from her college dorm, to deliver her to the arms of this handsome young man she adored. I watched as he knelt down and popped the question. Tears streamed joyfully down my cheeks as I watched my baby daughter rush into the arms of the man who would soon be my new son-in-law.
Over the next week, we scrambled to make happy wedding plans for them. We scheduled a date in June at a beautiful local temple for their idyllic June wedding, followed by a reception in a beautiful garden reception center that was half indoors, half outdoors. We found her the perfect wedding dress, at a bargain price. Everything fell into place so quickly, so perfectly. I'd never had such an easy time planning a wedding.
Those happy plans brought solace to my troubled soul. I loved seeing my baby daughter so happy. I adored this new young man she was bringing in to join our family. I loved my new little grandbaby. Things were looking up. It seemed that my urgent February prayers at last were being answered.
And Then ... Covid Hit.
Then early in March 2020 - now a year ago - a devastating new pandemic seized the world, and seized our nation. Within just a few weeks, both of my college kids returned home, as their universities entered lockdown. My daughter's beautiful June wedding plan suddenly became a fearful nightmare - could we even have a wedding now?
As March and April proceeded, things got worse and worse. A rush on toilet paper and emergency supplies. A mask mandate. Worst of all, for my newly-engaged daughter, a "stay home - stay safe" order that meant she was unable to see or spend time any time at all with her new fiancee. It hurt to watch my children suffer - both of their college lives interrupted, their joys smashed, their hopes shattered.
I thought again about my February cry to God - "The Lord giveth - and the Lord taketh away - EVERYTHING!" Suddenly - that was no longer just relevant to me. It's as if life was snuffed out in an instant - not just for me, but for my kids - for ALL of us.
And then it occurred to me. Those hard 6 months, from January to February - when my life as I knew it had ended - when all of my opportunities seemed suddenly snuffed out - those were PRACTICE! I had already endured months of loss and devastation. And now, I could perhaps put all of that hard experience to good use, to extend compassion and hope to others, now facing this sudden new devastation with Covid.
I started this blog. I started this mailing list. A few months later, a friend invited me to co-host a podcast with him, specifically to extend emotional support to people struggling with Covid impact. Another friend invited to me to co-write an article with him on depression recovery, that was posted in a local online magazine. My counseling clients learned to receive my service through phone and Zoom. And that mask mandate was rescinded for a few weeks in June - making it possible for us to have that beautiful June wedding (with a few adjustments from our original plan.) The new son-in-law joined our family, bringing such joy to my beloved daughter - and to me.
Over the months since then, I have used this relatively quiet time to update and expand my websites - a demanding but important task. My own suffering last year equipped me to support others in their suffering. My counseling caseload expanded. Many, many new songs came to me over this year - renewing my strength and lifting my spirits. Things were looking up. My pain had served a purpose - to help me lift and support others. It was enough.
We enjoyed a joyous Thanksgiving as a family, and then a joyous Christmas, with everyone present - all 5 of my kids with their spouses, and my cute grandchildren. It was a sweet and happy time. 2020 was ending well.
And Then ... Covid Hit Me Personally
Then in early January I suddenly started to feel VERY tired - and very, very cold. I went to bed and slept for 3 days straight. As a precaution, on Day 4, my husband took me for a quick Covid test - which came back positive. I was shocked. I'd always been so healthy. Apparently those happy holiday gatherings - as was the case for so many - had presented a perfect opportunity for the sharing of a few extra germs.
Things got worse over the next few days. One night, I was hit by a terrible cough, that afflicted me all night, making it impossible to sleep - and filling me with fear that this thing could actually take me to my grave. In all honesty - I didn't care. I felt prepared and ready to go. I felt I'd finished my life's work, and if heaven chose to take me home at this time, so be it.
But then late that night, I had an experience that changed me. I woke to a parade of faces, one after another, presented to my mind - people important to me - my children, my family members, my siblings, my clients, my students - even the unknown faces of my email subscribers, podcast listeners, and music customers - most of whom I've never met.
I realized, with new strength, that my influence in this world is still needed - that I still have things to say, music to share, people to uplift and support. That night changed me. I got through that hard night. I got through that hard year. And then rose like a Phoenix from those ashes, with a sense of renewed energy, vision, and purpose.
I ended up writing a song about that transformative experience. It's called "I Made It Through (For You)." It captures the feeling and essence of my journey - and my transition into this new year, this new time of hope and renewed energy and purpose. I hope to make it available online soon.
What Have YOU "Made It Through" This Year?
So that's my story - the story of my 2020, and the hard months that preceded it. I am aware in telling it that it is only one of millions of stories that could be told. Each of us has had our own losses, disappointments, griefs, and disruptions this year. Each of us has learned customized new lessons. Each of us has faced new learning curves and changed ways of doing everyday things.
I invite you to take a moment and consider that question - and maybe even write down your story, in your personal journey, or in a letter to loved ones, or even in your own blog, social media post, or other form of communication. There is power in sharing our stories.
What did YOU make it through? And who did YOU survive this hard year for? Who still needs your love and help? What gifts can you extend to those around you, and even beyond that - to this aching world, where so many people still suffer?
Write your story, as I have now written mine. It will bring you a clarity, and a sense of triumph, after this long hard year.
Celebrate Your Victory - And Move On With Joy Into This New Year!
After writing your story, celebrate your victory. Certainly, there are those who didn't make it through the year, who are no longer with us - through Covid or other health challenges - or even, sadly, by suicide. But we are the survivors. We are the ones who move forward from this place.
I end this post today with an excerpt of this lyrics from this new song, capturing this experience:
I wasn't sure my life still had purpose -
The journey seemed so long and hard;
Things that I loved - people I felt close to -
Seemed so far away, more distant every day.
Then suddenly, out of nowhere,
A cloud arose that nearly took my life,
And I really had to wonder - yes, I really had to wonder -
If I even wanted to stick around
For more struggle and more strife.
But I made it through - I made it through -
Guess this is my take two!
Here in the light, after that long lonely fight,
Somehow I pulled through, So I could still be here
Take a listen. Write your story. Celebrate your victory. Be there for those you're still here for.
And enjoy the emergence of this new spring - this new year - this new time. Guess this is [our] Take Two!
Onward and upward, friends! Happy 2021. :-)
-- Carrie M. Wrigley, LCSW
Counselor, Speaker, and Author of
Your Happiness Toolkit: 16 Strategies for Overcoming Depression, and Building a Joyful, Fulfilling Life
> Available as a paperbook, ebook, or audiobook.