2016, for me

A lot of people hated 2016. I can understand why. I know all the terrible things that happened in the year we’ve just ended. And I can emphasize. But my 2016 was possibly the best year of my entire life.

It didn’t start out that way, though.

Oh, I was happy enough when January came. Really happy, actually. I’d just signed with my wonderful agent a few months before, and I was very optimistic about the book she was going to submit for me. I think we’d gotten the manuscript where we wanted it at that point, and it was going out. But I can’t remember for sure. But I was optimistic and excited for the future, working on a new project, writing my just-for-fun fanfiction like crazy, and feeling so positive every single day.

Then something happened to me at the beginning of February that shook things up a lot. I don’t really want to delve into the specifics, but I only wrote one thing at that time – a fanfiction chapter that I’d been planning for a while. It took one day and I posted it and said I’d do more and I didn’t. I hope I do more with it in the future though. This new thing took up all of my time and attention, and I didn’t even have time to write. It was a very happy time for me.

But like Robert Frost said, nothing gold can stay. And when my project began to fall apart, I was left grasping at the wind. As the days dragged on, I fell into the darkest time my soul had ever experienced – even more than when loved ones had died in the past. I couldn’t understand why this affected me so greatly. I had several strange illnesses fall on me at the same time, and I felt like I would never find hope or joy again.

I read a lot. Nothing that was really important to me, but just something to pass the time. I would sit on my porch and read and read. Because if I wasn’t reading, I was thinking. And that was unbearable. But I had do something to fill the endless days, stretching onward to forever.

I didn’t write. I didn’t do any edits. I avoided people as much as I could. When I did have to get out, I hid it the best I could, but I was so broken inside. I found enough strength to finally contact a therapist, and I began seeing her at the end of April. It helped. Somewhat. But I was still so confused and full of sorrow. And it shouldn’t have affected me like that. It shouldn’t have. But it did. And that was all there was to it.

Sometime in May, I reread a book that had always meant a lot to me – “I’m Gonna Bury You” by Gene Neill. I had been given this book as a teenager and read it many times. This man’s journey to God was always inspiring to me. I decided to give it away, so I reread it first.

And for the first time, I noticed something. New the end, the author mentioned a book that he had enjoyed by a man named Merlin Carothers. I was intrigued by the thought of a book that had helped the man who had inspired me so much. So I took a photo of the book title with my phone. A few weeks later, I ordered a copy on Amazon. It came, I read it.

And that’s when things began to change for me. Most of Carothers’ works are about finding joy in everything in your life through thanking God, and praising Him for it all. And it says everything. Good and bad. It’s scriptural – in the Bible it says to rejoice in all things. So I decided to give it a try.

As the days turned to weeks, I began to change inside. I once again found hope where there had been none. And I began to feel truly thankful and close to God. The more I thanked Him for everything in my past and present, the more I learned to trust Him and be at peace with what was happening in my life.

I still had trouble. A lot of trouble. But I kept reading, and praising, and praying, and learning about more scriptural teachings, and things kept steadily getting better. Even when I had setbacks, I would come around within a day or two. I kept talking to my counselor, confiding in my husband, and praying. I had several Christian books on all types of subjects that I read every day. It would usually take me between two and four hours to get through my devotional time every day. But I didn’t mind it – I enjoyed it…and I’d never experienced that before in my life. I highlighted key verses in my Bible and took pictures of important thoughts from all my books, so I could read over them later. I’ve been a born-again Christian for a very long time…but this was something new. Something more real and vibrant than I’d ever experienced.

This went on for some time. Lots of good days, a few bad. Overall I was surviving. I still wasn’t writing. I still had my mind on the things had had happened earlier in the year, and what I had lost. And I kept trying to determine how to manipulate the situation. How to fix everything. How to help things.

And then November came. The year was almost complete. At the beginning of that month, I would not have said 2016 was all that great. I was excited about the new relationship I was experiencing with God, and I was so grateful for it, but I was still confused and hurting…even though I was thanking God for the confusion and the pain! But then something changed in me. I know the exact date – November 11. I was wasting time as usual (and feeling guilty about it, as usual) reading things online. And then I read something that changed everything. It was like a switch turned on for me and suddenly I could see the light.

And I can’t even tell what it is, because it’s odd. It doesn’t really make sense. But it does to me. And that’s what matters.

I have never, ever, felt a peace like I do now. And it’s been strong and consistent this entire time. I no longer worry about things. I am truly filled with a peace beyond all understanding. I still thank God for everything, and I praise Him each day. I completely trust Him with everything in my life, and I am willing to go wherever He leads me.

And self-love! Oh, man, I finally understand this concept! When that big thing suddenly clicked in my mind in November, I really loved myself…maybe for the first time in my life. I love myself unconditionally. And others I love? Also unconditional. I do not need anyone else in the world to do anything for me any more. I choose to be with the ones I love, and I want to be with them…but I don’t need them. I will still be whole and be me regardless. Not needing them doesn’t mean I don’t love them – I suddenly loved them even more. They don’t have to do anything to earn my love. My love is there, always and forever, regardless of the circumstance or choice.

I’m so free. I’m so free, ya’ll! I don’t even know how to express it fully. I finished my revision and got it to my agent. I’m getting ready to start back on my unfinished manuscript. And I’m starting to think a little bit about fan fiction. It’s just so freeing! No matter what happens in life, I have God. And I have me. Those are the only two things I really, really need. Everyone and everything else is wonderful blessings heaped on top of an already complete and fulfilled life. And it’s mine!

And this is why 2016 was the best year I ever had. All the suffering and pain, all the long days and endless nights full of questions and doubts and misery…they were all worth it. I’d go through them again a million times if the way I feel now is the end result.

And the thing is…I’m not even describing it well enough. I’m a writer but there are no words for the unspeakable joy that is within my soul 100 percent all of the time. But it’s blissful. And I don’t think I’m ever going to lose it again.

I want to thank everyone who has been with me in one form or another, loving me when I couldn’t love myself, through so many years. I especially appreciate those who loved me in 2016, when I was in the dark night of the soul. I finally found the light and I am honestly, truly well.

May the joy of the Lord be with you always. <3

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