Finding Light in a Dumpster Fire Year

I bet you are ready for this cluster of a year to be over. It’s an understatement to say everyone’s year has been a dumpster fire, or more recognizable to me, a hell of a wildfire, and not the fun kind that can be successfully managed. For me, this year was the kind of fire that you just have to stand back and let go until the snows of winter douse it. But even after fire destroys a forest, new growth starts immediately. Despite every hellish thing I went through, I can honestly say that I have come close to meeting my resolutions for this year.

This year I was supposed to “Relearn to be me.” I had this idea to rediscover the person I was at 15, confident, warm, able to love. I hoped to embrace my own weirdness and build my self esteem. My intention was to accomplish those goals by sheer force of will.

That resolution was quickly forgotten about as life heaved one curveball after another at me. I was betrayed, cheated on, lied to, and all but told I wasn’t worth loving. I lost a job and bounced into a place of humility, earning barely enough to cover the bills. I won’t even bring up the dreaded virus that has filled the news with doom and gloom all year and kept me isolated from needed friends and family.

I was knocked very very low. For most of the year I was my own dumpster fire of old bad habits and coping mechanisms. I drank, I smoked, I wallowed.

It became quite clear that shear force of will was going to be replaced by a crucible. If I was going to accomplish my goals, it was going to be painful, destructive, and not without great loss. And definitely not on my timetable. It was going to be a hot, fast, fire, one that consumes everything in its path, large and small, and doesn’t stop until there’s no more fuel.

Almost everything in my life was burned this year. Three times I came close to ending it. Providentially, I am still here today. I say providentially because this year has taught me about the true Providence of God. My faith was pulled out from under me very early in the year. Foolishly, in years past I thought my life was awful, even more foolishly I thought my faith was strong. However, it turned out my idols were stronger, and when they were removed, I crumbled. My life truly became awful, and I discovered just how weak my faith was.

After three brushes with suicide, I have to declare that I owe my life to prayer and the support of the Psalms. If it weren’t for various verses running through my head, and several hymns lodging themselves in my ears and playing in my mind while I put my head through a belt (at which moment I thought “I probably shouldn’t meet God like this”) I wouldn’t be writing this today. God stayed my hands with His word and feeble human words about Him. (Though an overreactive gag reflex helped as well.)

Sometimes I am not even sure who I am anymore. The years and the turmoil they brought eroded my sense of self. This year all but broke my core. Foundations have been shaken this year, with many of the “truths” I had embraced since childhood being challenged and even removed from my memory. No tree is going to be unscorched, everything has been or will be questioned. I am certain there are absolutes (God is Sovereign for one), but often I learn those absolutes are not so easy to pin down, if they are to be comprehended at all.

So numerous are layers that have been immolated away that in many ways it seems my life is back to where it was at 15. It’s like a clean slate. In the midst of all the chaos I found love, friendship, contentment, faith, self-esteem, and little bits of joy here and there. I now have a foundation to rebuild confidence, find more love, and rediscover my old hobbies.

Big changes came this year, and bigger changes are coming in the next. The unexpected and unwanted changes almost destroyed me. In 2021, I’m determined to make those changes count for better. I won’t be destroyed by next year’s troubles.

I can say honestly that somewhere in all of the mess, I’m beginning to find old glimmers of the person I once was. Only in the past few months has anything good come out of the flames. If the last few months are any indication, things can only keep getting better. Right?

2021 is going to be “the year of rebuilding.”

This means a continued dismantling of my idols. And continued breaking down of my old destructive habits and coping mechanisms. No more wallowing. No more self-pity, no matter how much I deserve it. I will not be a victim, no matter how strong the temptation. I’ll take better care of my health and sanity, even if only for the sake of my children.

I’m going to lose people in 2021. I’m probably going to lose many things. But in losing, I hope to gain far more.

I hope to gain the ability to love again, better and deeper than ever. I hope to love everyone well, my kids, romantic interests, friends, and family. The loves look different in their actions but the underlying desire to put others before self will be there. I am not the person I was told I was, I am loving and worthy of being loved. My desire to love and be loved is not a defect, it is a strength.

I hope to find my sense of humor again. I found some old cassettes that I made with my friends at 15. I was a happy, wisecracking goofball. Somewhere I lost that. Having been through a hell of a year I can only go up. I want to feel that happiness and confidence once again. I have many talents and skills. I have potential. There is no reason not to find joy in myself or in my ability to put a smile on other’s faces.

I hope to succeed in my art. I’ve allowed a lot of my passions to slide this year, in favor of TV and sleep. Trials drive creative output for many artists, for me they have the opposite effect. The concepts may come, but the will and the strength to produce evaporate in the blaze and heat of struggles. I intend to focus on production this year and not let projects go unfinished. I won’t let my own harsh inner critic keep me from building my abilities.

I hope to cut ties with the old and destructive. People, habits, thought patterns, nothing is off limits for the chopping block. It’s only when these things are cut off that real growth can happen.

All in all, I want a reset. I want the old me in a new, better, wiser package. This year seemed a destructive wildfire, but it was just what I needed to put nutrients back into the soil of my life.

Perspective

Perspective is a hell of a thing.

What we may perceive as small is actually an illusion created by our relative position to the object. This kind of illusion applies to many places in life, not just visually. Sometimes when we are distant from a person we tend to underestimate the big affairs going on in his or her life.

Sure, we may see the problems, clearly even. But because of our distance from the situation we may interpret what we see as a small issue. We may even think “we could handle that, why don’t they seem able to?”

But we don’t see how big the problem truly is to the person standing right under its power.

The only way to truly see how big the troubles are in someone’s life is to get closer to them. Spend time with them, talk to them, maybe share some of your big struggles with them to encourage them to bring up theirs.

Remind them that with time and distance problems always seem to shrink. What seemed big last week is now a tiny speck on the horizon of memory.

Of course this also should remind us all that what appears to be a little problem way out there in the future may end up quite large by the time we confront it. Small problems grow to big ones if not taken care of.

Don’t let your perceptions fool you. “Small” is not always small.

Thankfully “big” isn’t always big either.

Cautious Optimist

Fortunes change for better or worse, sometimes changing as frequently as the wind. One never knows what tomorrow will bring. Recently we have been under a bit of a shake-up, a stressful change in fortune which leaves the stomach in knots and the eyelids droopy from lost sleep.

But it’s turning out. Slowly….

All the anxiety is turning into fruitful action. We are doing, instead of just talking. We are stepping up instead of just teetering on worried legs.

We are moving ahead.

Even though the thought of change is a terrifying thing to a comfort lover like me, I’m excited to see what this next chapter brings. I’m cautiously optimistic that our decisions, as unconventional as they may be, will turn out for our benefit.

Keep reading, I’m hoping these next few months will be an explosion of new growth and material.