Here’s the deal: seven is a great number. It’s lucky, it’s nice and odd (I love an odd number!), it’s biblical for crying out loud. It’s also a great way to mark time.
We’ve all heard of the Seven Year Itch, right? I even saw the movie way back when. And oddly enough, for all sorts of reasons, my last long relationship ended right around seven years. It’s like a boogyman waiting to getcha.
But here I am, exactly seven years into my friendships with my greatest friends, my relationship with Israel and the new chapter of life I started when I moved to Wisconsin. Though the years have been filled with beauty and wonder and fun and life, they’ve also been marked by the darkest days. In the last seven years I moved to a brand new place, felt isolated, jumped in way over my head in my late twenties by becoming a stepmom to three, I found out I’d someday go blind, I went through an unsuccessful multi-year episode of infertility, my puppy died of a horrible pancreatic disease, I buried my soulmate dog, had a cancerous chunk of my forehead removed, experienced death in my family, I totaled the car we had just paid off (!!!) and my favorite tree in the world cracked into three pieces. I was pretty darn angry and sad, worked at least ten different jobs, and felt multiple times like I had made some horrible, terrible mistake with my life choices. To name a few things.
But thank God, we call them chapters for a reason. I just went through one seven-year-chapter of my life. That chapter has officially closed. Never have I had so many moments where I didn’t think I’d make it. Didn’t even think I’d survive. I want to tread carefully here because words are important, but it’s important to share these things. I never planned on doing anything about it, but I really didn’t want to live anymore. The only prayer I could even think of was: just take me now, let me die, let me just disappear please please please.
That’s what depression does: it blinds us. As someone who has a diagnosis of blindness on the horizon, this is no joke to say. Depression blinded me more than Retinitis Pigmentosa ever will. I couldn’t see goodness, couldn’t see light, and couldn’t see what I needed to change.
Here’s another important thing to share: I was on Lexapro for two of the last seven years. And I highly doubt I’d have made it without that help. I am thankful for that little pill. I am also thankful for my husband who supported me through it all.
Now let’s get to the good part. I’m on DAY ONE of my new SEVEN YEAR CHAPTER!!!! YES, IT IS TODAY!!!!!
Yesterday, May 21st, 2015, was the first day I spent time with the guy I married: Israel. And all of our friends were on board, behind the scenes, trying to make sure we wound up together. I was smitten from day 1, but things took a little while to become serious due to our past traumas, three kids he didn’t want to further traumatize, and the reality of life after divorce. Things went slow, but suddenly we were married, and the toughest first years of almost any marriage I’ve heard of commenced. (Though I can look back fondly on some things, I wouldn’t go back in time, not for a billion dollars.)
On May 22nd, 2015, I woke up to a life that included all of the people I hold most dear. Suddenly, I had friends in this little small town. I had a budding relationship that started as a deep friendship, and a whole lot of growing to do. And grow I did. It wasn’t fun and it wasn’t easy.
But like I said, this is the good part! I’d like to simply list out the category of mindset changes I’ve made that have taken me out of my depression/slump, and into what I feel will be the brightest seven years yet. I am determined and ready, strong and capable, and looking at the circumstances in my life through new metaphorical eyes.
ISRAEL: I look at my husband, and I know I made the right choice in marrying him. He’s funny, smart, dedicated, patient, strong, and so many other great things. Oh, and he smells good! (Yes, I’ve mentioned that before, lol). I trust him, and I’ve had to be totally vulnerable with him. We’ve called each other out on our bullshit, and we’ve loved each other through real life nightmares. We’ve cheered each other on, and cried for each other’s pain. We’ve screamed at each other, and we’ve held each other close. We’ve just about broken right in half, yet held it together just enough to get to where we are. We both recognize the absolute miracle it is today that we’ve made it. Instead of feeling anything resembling a seven year itch, I am finally settling into what happy and content feels like. No day is perfect, but we’ve been smiling more, spending time together more often, listening – truly listening – to each other, and I really like who we’ve become. One of my favorite things to hear is: I like you. Israel says this to me all the time, and it means the world. He likes me! That’s great! We can love who we love despite many things. We can really dislike those we love, too. So having a marriage in which the words “I really like you,” appear from time to time is just the bees knees. I like it. I am happy to be on the beginning of year 8 together(, or year 1 of our next 7 years.) I know I made the right choice. I am thankful.
DRINKING: Another mark of a great life partner – they have tough conversations with you. Such as: I think you are doing ______________ too much. Fill in the blank with anything, really. Drinking, smoking, talking badly about yourself, forming unhealthy habits, slouching! If we start with trust and love, then a *critical* statement that comes from our loved one can be accepted. It’s not easy to accept this kind of feedback, but it’s up to us to listen. Oh sure, I got defensive. I got defensive the first five or six times my husband talked to me about the vodka and kombucha I was pouring for myself just about every night. And during the dark days of the pandemic? Forget it. I am so thankful I had someone who loved me enough to say something. And I am glad that I finally listened. Here is the main change I made: I just don’t drink at home anymore. I have gone out multiple times and not had anything, either. It is not part of my daily life. AND I AM SO MUCH HAPPIER. I literally see the world differently. My lifestyle wasn’t doing me any favors. I am thankful.
MOVEMENT: I will admit it right now – I was blessed with a great metabolism. I can be prettttttty –still – (for a lack of a better word)… and get by okay. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, and so I can just live my life, take the dog on a short walk, and be just fine. Until I’m not just fine. Until staring at my computer during those pandemic days of WFH, paralyzed by the thought that after work, I still wouldn’t be doing anything, and then tomorrow, I’d do it all over again, and so on and so on…… anyway! You get the idea. But it started to hurt my body. I had never experienced back pain before those days, and suddenly, the pain in my back was debilitating. I could hardly bend over to wash my face at night. Everything started to hurt. I was told that I should exercise, but it felt impossible. I lacked motivation and needed a reality check. Honestly, that reality check came in the form of totaling my car and being in even more pain, and then having to go to a chiropractor extensively to heal. THIS lead to going back to yoga, which I am so thankful exists. I made an investment for myself. Best damn decision I ever made. The best part of yoga isn’t even the amazing workout you get, but the intention you set for yourself. The first month I spent going to yoga, my intention was simply: LIFE. Just not wanting to die. Just please, let me want to live. And suddenly, living became a little easier. And then, suddenly, I felt a little stronger. And then, suddenly, my intention became an openness with accepting things as they are. I could write an entire book on this (and maybe I will!), but let me just say, yoga here in town at Bodhi Studios has changed my life. Maybe my body hasn’t grown a life, but it sustains my own life. I am so freaking thankful. Bye, bye, back pain. Bye, bye hating my body. Hello love for myself. Hello acceptance for what it can do- my WHOLE body. Hello hope for the future by living more and more in the moment. Also, hello muscles. Sorry, not sorry. I am freaking proud of this photo, because I am in better shape than I’ve been in since I was about 16 years old. I FEEL it. I am thankful.
VULNERABILITY: In my closest relationships, but also with my writing. My last few blog posts were very vulnerable. I talked about wanted to rip out my own womb. I talked about my body. I even received some negative feedback about this kind of vulnerability, but I knew I had to go there. I knew I had to share. Surely, I’m not the only childless person on a full out rage war against her own body? Surely, I’m not the first person with intimacy issues after such an experience? Surely, I’m not the only woman who has cried over a hundred times when the blood comes? And I am okay saying it, because it’s just about one of the most human parts of existence… and being “left out” of that part is really painful. Vulnerability is huge and has always led to release for me. Writing is like a salve on my soul. Typing away on this keyboard heals wounds, sometimes better than time does.
THERAPY: I went to traditional therapy, in which I heard life changing words and mantras to take with me. I love therapy because I am a talker. However, my body held on to trauma. Our bodies hold trauma and we need help to get loose. I am forever thankful for doing QNRT with Mallery Hammers. Doing this work with her releases past trauma from the body. It heals, and it awakens spirit. Please look this up, read Mal’s website, and book your first session. The world would be a better place if everyone did QNRT. It was an investment, and one I am so glad I made. If you have questions about it, please do not hesitate to reach out. It’s hard to explain exactly what happens, but just know that I endorse QNRT 1,000,000%.
CHURCH: When the church I loved closed its doors, my core group of loved ones dispersed. We became church orphans, wondering where we’d go and where we’d end up. And then the pandemic happened. And the places we’d chosen to go became virtual, and sitting in front of the TV became less of a “thing” and more of a “chore.” Then Big Important Things were brought to light, and many of realized we needed something different in order to live out our most precious core values. I knew I’d find something, but I was in no rush. Low and behold, I wound up finding where is now my home church. You can watch my story here. This church has been so welcoming, and aligning my soul back with my creator has brought calm and goodness back into my life. The pastor and other members of this church understand brokenness and I haven’t heard a single cheesy word or anything resembling toxic positivity. We sit in brokenness together, we love our neighbors together, and I am just getting started. This, I am truly excited about! Oh, and they recognized a spiritual gift of mine, which is writing, and I was absolutely honored and thankful to contribute a meditation throughout the season of lent. And THEN they gifted me with a printed book of the meditations. Of course, I cried. This is what it feels like to be seen. To have my spirit awakened. I am thankful.
MISCELLANEOUS: I read The Midnight Library. Yup, it’s that important and I loved it THAT much. I am thankful.
So there you have it. Seven years in, seven more to go. And then hopefully, another and then yet another. I love my life partner, I don’t rely on alcohol, I move a lot, embrace vulnerability and truth, have gone to therapy, found a home church and read a really good book that my twin sister handed to me and told me to read.
I want to recognize the total and utter privilege present here. Not everyone has access to these things. Not everyone has a spouse they can trust, or anyone at all. Not everyone has a stable home, or knowledge of where their next meal will come from. There is so much brokenness in this world, and I was blind to that, too. All I could see was my own sadness, not the goodness I’ve been given and the good I can do to help the world become a better place. My healing took time, and being able to take that time, too, was a privilege. Like my favorite yoga instructor says: we have to take care of our selves so we can truly take care of those we love. This is what that looks like for me… and I AM THANKFUL.
Thanks for reading, and please, reach out if you need to. You are not alone. There is hope. And it might be a long road to get there, but you have to start somewhere. I’d love to be in on the conversation that gets things started.
So much love,
Melinda (who is ready to enjoy the next seven years, come what may!)