I had a dream this week where I was living in an emotionally abusive situation, one I used to be in but got out of in real life. In my dream I was desperately trying to find a way to contact my husband. In my dream he was somewhere far away trying to get a place for us to live. I won't go into detail about what happened in the dream but it was one of those where I woke up with a pounding heart thinking I was still in the dream world.
The warmth of reality soaked into my trembling muscles and I realized it was just a dream. But the experience was more than just waking up from a bad dream. As I remembered all the things in my life that were real, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude for many of the realities in my life.
Compared to the places I’ve been in the past, I’m not over exaggerating when I say I am the most happy I have ever been in my entire life.
And while some of the things in my life changed because the tide of life and circumstances changed for the better, there are still many things I did to build the life I have now.
Of course, this is my own, personal, unique situation and each of these are far more complicated than one blog post can explore. But hopefully sharing my experiences will help someone else. So, here are ten things I thank my past self for every day I wake up in the life I have now:
I cut toxic people out of my life even though it hurt.
Setting strict boundaries or entirely cutting people out of my life was extremely hard and I had to grieve for the loss over several years. But my daily life is so much better now that the anxiety of impossibly pleasing other people is gone and I no longer have to expend energy dealing with unequal and emotionally manipulative/abusive relationships. Sometimes it still hurts that those relationships are gone or held at a strict distance, but I am much happier.
I am no longer at a job I hated.
All right, so I can’t say *I* did this. I was allowed to put in my two weeks, but technically the job let me go, I didn’t march in and quit.
But changing jobs has still made the complete difference in my life. At my old job I was always sick, depressed, anxious, and ashamed. I was put into situations daily that were physically dangerous, emotionally draining, and the way I responded to pretty much everything was bringing out the worst in me. I didn’t like the person I was when I was in that environment. On top of that, I was literally in such a bad space mentally, I literally thought I was going to die miserable without ever feeling good in my body or about myself ever again. No job should make anyone feel like that. I stayed because of the income and health insurance. Since quitting, money has definitely been tight. And I have been very anxious about not having health insurance with my chronic conditions. But those stresses are miniscule compared to the stress and effects the old job was having on my body and mind. I wake up every day so grateful I’m now in a job I love that is a wonderful fit for both my skills and managing my health issues. I have not felt ashamed about myself a single day since changing jobs and both my physical and mental health has improved immensely.
The part of this I can say I did was that I always knew my job situation could change drastically without notice and had prepared for that. I put myself in a situation that I could survive when I changed jobs. I made decisions so that in the future changing jobs would not be a crises for my life, and I’m grateful to myself for that.
I found ways to manage my pain.
I deal with physical pain every day and it has taken me nearly all the 30 years of my life to finally find a routine and the tools to manage my pain properly. But I’m glad I kept working at it until I figured it out. I finally (finally!) found an effective migraine medication. I listen to ASMR every day and it helps me deal with chronic nerve pain. I drink certain blends of hot teas every day that also helps me relax and soothes some pains. I know my limits and stand up for them. I forgo doing things that I know will trigger my pain, even if I’m disappointed in cancelling plans. Ultimately, these things together mean I make it to work at my Day Job and fewer of my days are spent miserable and in pain. Of course I still have flare ups (this blog post was late because of one) but the daily control and management of my pain has helped my life immensely.
I have constantly worked on my writing.
Ever since high school, writing has been a constant in my life. Even if I’ve gone through spells where I wasn’t writing nearly as much as I wanted, I always did whatever I could— even if it was just reading or writing less than 20 words a day on a slip of paper. There was a time I had no internet connection at my house and was only writing on pieces of paper in my pocket during my breaks at work. When my husband and I put everything we owned in storage and didn’t know where we were going to live, my ink-and-paper manuscript and laptop were the only things I carried with me. Time moved on, I submitted, pieces were declined. I kept working, kept submitting, kept editing, kept learning. Now have several published pieces and skills to actually begin making a career with my craft. I don’t know where I’d be without that.
I didn’t have children.
I’ve never wanted children and my husband and I have always been on the same page about that. For years after I turned 18, I tried to get a permanent procedure done. I used various methods of birth control and finally had a permanent procedure done when I was 27. I’m so happy I never stopped trying even when getting a permanent procedure felt like an impossible task.
I did things even when I was afraid.
I was afraid to open up my marriage—I did it anyway. I was afraid to write a book revealing my sexual fantasies and fetish—I did it anyway. I was afraid the first time I wore a dress to work—I did it anyway. Fresh out of school and desperate for a job I took one as a cashier at a grocery store even though I didn’t know if I could do the job because I can only feel two out of ten of my fingers and have limited fine motor skills. I was afraid to begin learning ASL for the exact same reason. But I did those things and learned about myself and what I am capable of doing. I overcame my body image issues by doing things I was afraid to do. I untangled my sexuality and built wonderful relationships doing things I was afraid to do. Every single thing I’ve ever done even though I was afraid has made my life better.
I invested in my marriage.
I won’t lie, the first few years of my relationship with my husband were rough. We both had a lot of shit we had to work on in ourselves and we had to learn how to work together as a team. But I’ve always gone above and beyond for my husband. Of course, he does the same for me and we both agree we have a healthily symbiotic relationship. We’ve learned how to communicate. We’ve left the abuse we received in the past behind us and don’t take our frustrations out on each other. We support each other and do things for each other. We take care of each other. We enjoy being at home. We don’t have to make excuses to do other things just to get out of our house. We don’t need to escape our home life. (And yes, we have an open marriage, but I’ve written plenty about that elsewhere). As it is now, we have made our home a safe and loving place, and I can never be grateful enough for that.
I changed my mind.
Growing up, I left behind many political and ideological views from my family. In recent years I have parted ways with cliques and popularity contests that get in the way of producing my best work and being my authentic self. As I grew up I gained different perspectives and I’ve applied them to my life. Because of this I now have friends who hold a variety of opinions, identities, and beliefs. I’ve been able to make decisions that are the best for my life rather than following social rules that don’t work for me.
I learned to celebrate the small things.
I revel in how a skirt feels when I wear a dress, hugging my friends, spending time outside, making homemade potato soup. And Instagramming all of those things. I love the feel of a book in my hands, the thrill of ink flowing on paper, getting lost in a juicy fan fiction. I can’t get enough of meeting new people, trying new things, and my favorite booth in my favorite café.
I used to think these things were silly or frivolous and even made fun of people for indulging in these things. But a few years ago I realized we only get so many trips around the sun and I’m going to enjoy every one of those things as fully as I can.
I’ve always known I can do better.
Each one of these things on this list happened because I knew there was a problem and I knew I had to fix it. Even now I know there’s things I can do better. I know I could definitely invest more in my health: eat better, exercise, enforce better sleeping habits. I know I can get carried away with some of my self-care habits that end up cutting into my productivity or other aspects of my life. I know there are relationships that I need to nurture more.
My real motivation for life now is to do something every day that my future self will thank me for. I might not always be able to meet my goals, my health will still throw off my plans, and I know I will face rough times in the future. But I have built a solid foundation on which I can rely on for support when things don’t work out the way I hoped. And continuing to invest in that foundation will ensure a pretty happy life in my future regardless of how things turn out.
'til next time!