2020: The Antagonist to my Life and Why I Finally Learned to Listen

I’ve started and stopped writing a blog post many times recently. Some times the grief from losing my Dad still catches me unaware and I start writing about something funny that happened on my son’s birthday and end up devolving into a sobbing mess writing about missing my Dad. I trash those posts. But it’s like a train wreck. I can’t stop writing them once I start them; it all pours out at warp speed.

Then I step away for a few days and come back. 2020 brought a lot. You know that because you’ve been through a lot too. Most of what I’ve been through has taught me life lessons and I’ll be better off having gone through most of 2020 than not. Up until November I kept thinking 2020 still wasn’t as bad as 2019 when my Dad died. But I hit my wall in November and have decided now that it’s as bad as 2019.

But I’m not going into the train wreck today. I have to reframe and remember that much of 2020 experiences will be so much better for me personally and professionally in the long run. They are painful experiences. Hurtful and I feel raw. But I feel hopeful. I don’t feel like I’m starting over because I’m not. I’m starting from the middle of my story and I’m at that part when the protagonist feels lost, beat, and hopeless because all the stuff they were trying to prevent through the whole first half of the book happened anyway. Thank-you 2020.

The protagonists of my favorite stories come out the other side a little darker, a little stronger, and ready to kick some ass.

That’s about where I waffle between….deep dark loss of hope and looking ahead ready to kick some ass.

It doesn’t go well when I try to write blog posts in the dark moments.

I have to take my own advice though and listen to what I tell my clients going through major life stressors.

I never say, “This too shall pass” because that saying generally irritates me. Everything passes. Even super constipated people eventually poop. Still can hurt like hell.

I do say things to clients like, “You are strong. You are resilient. Look at what you are surviving and thriving through. You have an inner strength that impacts people around you. You are empathic and that’s not a weakness when you learn how to harness it. It’s okay to let go of toxic people and relationships. Learn from your relationships. Learn what needs of yours were being met even if it was toxic or abusive. You stayed for a reason, and this isn’t meant to shame you at all, it’s meant to allow yourself to examine it more objectively so you don’t repeat the same pattern. Allow yourself time to heal. Allow yourself to define and examine what your needs are….”

Not all of these apply to my 2020 but a lot of them do.

When you have kids and twins it was easy to lose sight of my needs and my feelings because I became so entangled with theirs. But they turned five this November. We survived five years of twin boys. My practice survived three years. I’ve survived one year and seven months without my Dad.

I think what’s important as I reflect back on the events of this year is that I conducted myself with poise. I never disparaged any one, as I sorely and dearly wanted to in multiple instances, and I like to think that I acted in a way that will be a good example to my sons. They will encounter hard times with hard people and I want them to act in a way that maintains their integrity. I swear a lot. But I’m honest as fuck. Swearing is my one vice. I don’t even smoke pot. I’m that person.

I certainly won’t come out of 2020 unscathed. But I have learned so much about my friendships and placing my trust in the right people. I’ve learned how important the professional relationships I’ve built over the years are to maintain a successful practice. I’ve appreciated more than once this year how I’ve never burned a bridge before when leaving an employer. I’ve learned that I have a tendency to ignore red flags and it’s something I need to work on. It sounds so easy and stupid. But it’s impacted me in many ways.

I think most important of all is that I have learned to listen. I work in a listening profession but even in my own work I have to remind myself to shut up and listen (I say this to myself internally during sessions not externally). It’s easy to want to immediately respond either with an affirmation or a question to further clarify….or whatever; it’s harder to sit in silence and truly hear another person and swallow my initial response to try and answer more thoughtfully.

I’ve been listening more to my friends, to therapists I work with, and to clients. I’ve also been trying to listen to my kids more. One of my sons was having epic anger outbursts and instead of going head to head I’ve been trying to listen and not immediately respond. It’s been mostly working. We’ve had one epic meltdown since I started this new tactic but one in a few months is better than the almost weekly that were happening.

I think we all want to be heard. I don’t think I was listening enough to others and to myself.

I’ve worked on listening to myself. Listening to my gut. Listening to my basic emotional responses. It’s led to a lot of very heart wrenching decisions. But decisions that will be better for me in the long run.

I feel that protagonist in the novel who has lost so much- family, friends, and most importantly the security that she knew what the future would bring- I feel that on a visceral level. 2020 still has roughly forty days left. I’m sure it will be like nothing I have imagined. But I will lean into those last forty days feeling a little darker, a little stronger, and ready to kick some 2020 ass.

I’m breathing a sigh of relief because I didn’t start sobbing during this writing. We are going to talk about the super messy and unpredictable intensity of grief in my next post. Cuz damn.