And Now, The Year After

My life has been a series of before and after dates. I’d push through milestones and struggles with no concept of what my world would be like afterwards. It’s like envisioning the end of a story, but then having to continue after the final chapter.

2021 was a before and after date. I can honestly say that it was the most difficult and unexpected year of my life. There were times where I thought it would be impossible to keep my head above water. I was convinced, some days, that if I stopped moving, I would drown.

Now, it’s 2022.

My initial instinct is to pat myself on the back for surviving it and, for the first time ever, there’s no “but” at the end of that statement. I am going to pat myself on the back for surviving it. I’m proud of where I am and what I have created from uncertainty.

I moved into my post-marriage home in January of ’21, ensuring that the year would be remembered as the year I rebuilt my life. Rather than rolling my eyes and saying that New Year’s Day is merely symbolic of new starts, I made it that way. Just as the ball dropped, so did my veil of secrecy. January was my opening act.

pics 2021

That’s a big part of what got me through all of this. For over a year prior to the move, I had been dealing with the process of ending my marriage with few knowing about it. Even many people in my personal life didn’t know. It was something that I guarded. It was something that I couldn’t imagine sharing with the world.

When I did, at the start of the year, the reactions were widespread. In the end, it was my story to tell in my own way, so I did. I shared my feelings rather than details and respected the privacy of all involved. I received a huge amount of support and, for that, I am forever thankful.

I continued to write throughout the year as my moods changed and my fears dissipated. The roller coaster of emotion is easy to see. Between then and now, my mood has changed and the words I choose showcase that.

My kids, the reason that things stayed glued together for so long, were always my top priority. The last thing I ever wanted was to hurt them. Many of my posts from earlier in the year were by a father who was terrified of doing that.

Today, they’re not. I’m proud of both my children and how they’ve dealt with the changing family structure we have. My ex-wife and I have always put them first and, today, we still do. They’re not only surviving, but thriving. As parents, I couldn’t be prouder of how we’ve handled this and, even through occasional missteps and personal strife, we’ve come out stronger for them. People who tried to cause friction and mistrust in our fractured family unit for the sake of drama or self-preservation were unsuccessful. I don’t care who said what to who about whatever. Save your breath. I care about my kids.

pics 2021 2

Detailing my bipolar diagnosis for all to read was a shock, even for me. My whole life had been spent feeling things harder than I knew I should. Friends, for decades, had asked questions to me like, “Why do you let that bother you so much?” I didn’t know. It wasn’t until 2019 that I found out.

When I get down, I get real down. When I get high, I fly to the moon. The middle ground in my life was rarely walked. I thought that was normal. I thought everyone experienced that. When I found out that they didn’t and I had B.P.1, it made all the sense in the world.

Keeping it to myself started to feel dishonest given how much I share about my son’s non-verbal autism. Since 2017, I tried to normalize how people see autism in a family through stories of how he was unique, rather than a stereotype people see on television. Yet, here I was, with a diagnosis that played out different than most imagine when they hear it, being secretive. It felt like an obligation I had to my son, to my readers, and to myself.

Will people judge? Sure, but that’s a small percentage. Even if it’s not, so what? That’s the real lesson here. There’s no shame in life. Life happens and all the good parts are intertwined with the bad parts. I have them and so does everyone reading this. We are all playing the same game. We are all on the same journey.

Twelve months on and my social circle has changed quite a bit. My Christmas was amazing and my life feels right. I have a long history with losing people and this year had a full roster leaving out the side door. Some were hard to let go and some are long overdue. Today, I can honestly say that those around me belong around me. The people in my life and the relationships I share are real, healthy, and the types of things I thought only existed on television. To quote Steve Austin quoting Dusty Rhodes, “No, baby. That’s for somebody else.”

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Today, it’s for me. Today, I’m happy, confident, and eager to see where things go from here. Give me a hell’s yeah.

Does all of this mean unicorns and party horns going forward? Maybe not. But if that happens, I know I’m strong enough to handle it. I never thought I’d stay afloat this year, yet here I am, gliding into 2022. Thank you for letting me vent, explain, and grow. Writing for you has saved me during a year that could have crushed me.

Hi, Blog. I’m grateful.


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