You tried your best. You really did. You tried with all of your might to break us. I give you an abundance of credit, you threw at our marriage more than a fair share of trials and tribulations. I mean, you were just a terrible year. I won’t drink your wine, I won’t save your funny calendar pages, and I won’t add you to any “best of” lists.
What I will do is take everything my husband and I learned from you and bottle it up and keep it with me every single day going forward. You came on stronger than strong in January with lessons about loss and hatred. You started out cold and bleak, with weekly counseling appointments and too many teary evenings. We wandered into February together, feeling lost and hopeless and not the least bit loving. That feeling of drifting off shore and seeing no way back was magnified in February as we fought battles we didn’t even know were brewing, dragged old hurts up to the surface and looked at each other as strangers after 15 years.
As we moved into March and April, we both were hoping for a spring thaw but that was not to be found. If anything, 2017, in that spring you challenged us even more. By May, you had asked for blood and sweat and tears by the bucketful, you demanded us to look at each other when we wanted only to look, and walk, away. You forced us into a kind of truce during waking hours for the sake of our daughter, only to push us back to our corners each night.
Spring bloomed into summer, and sometimes we could take a deep breath without feeling your dark and deep shadow looming over us, this year that hurt us so badly. We still spent more hours than we thought we ever would in our counselor’s office or doing counseling homework at home. There were still tears and misunderstandings and those overwhelming feelings of hopelessness right there with us, right around the corner and ready to spring forward at a moment’s notice. June and July were upon us, those beautiful months that we used to love. Summer also came with some personal revelations and decisions. None of them easy, none of them fun, all of them difficult to even think about, much less articulate. But, we pushed through. We had those hard conversations about what it really means to WANT to be there together in the last half of you and in the years after. We confronted the need for controlling my anxiety, for being honest, for being married to see another year for the right reasons, and not for the reasons we should (i.e. our daughter).
Sometimes you relented enough that we enjoyed a beautiful weather weekend, a date night with friends, a funny show or movie, planning the family beach vacation we had promised. But you were always there, 2017, in the back of our minds. More than once I thought “will this be our last (insert holiday/event/outing here) together as a family? Will I be doing this as a single parent next year? Sounds good to me!” And at the time, I meant it. I spent more time than I would care to admit counting down the years after yours until our daughter would be grown and our lives could disentangle; more time that I should have looking at rents and single parent budgets; more time that I thought I could daydreaming of a single, easy life.
And then one day in August, we sat in those familiar chairs across from each other in a nondescript office building in Parkville and I think that’s the day you lost, 2017. I think that night, after an intense and heartbreaking and uplifting and confusing 45 minutes hashing out our hurt and our anger, my husband looked at me and said “Oh my God. I can’t believe I didn’t see it.” I don’t think I said anything else that night. We were eight months in to you, and I had aged. My heart had hardened and things had been said that could never be taken back. But right then, I thought to myself that perhaps, just perhaps, you wouldn’t be the last year of my marriage. There was a chance that you wouldn’t be the last year of family vacations, weekend morning snuggles, family movie nights and hand holding three across.
Fall came, and we boarded a plane to California for our beach vacation. It started off rocky with some continued marital strife and I thought, oh, yep, 2017 wins again. A ruined beach vacation because we just can’t seem to get on the same page, or use kind and productive words, or figure out how to see eye to eye. But then, on day two, I looked around and realized something. I was having fun. I was holding my husband’s hand because I wanted to, not because I was supposed to. We came back, and we kept working. All of a sudden, in the waning months, we were both ready to fight you. And we were united.
The week before Thanksgiving, as I prepared for the influx of family and food and celebration, I had this epiphany moment. I looked around, and I realized that we had made it. We had beat you at your own game by doing what had made us strong for all of these years. We got over our stuff, worked together and made it happen. We changed the course you set for us 2017, because we had to.
In December, as winter bared down, we headed back to that nondescript office building in Parkville and sat around smiling at each other and our counselor and talking about nothing really. And then I knew. We had beat you. This round went to us, and as you exited quietly while we hugged friends and listened to our girl sing karaoke in her funny little voice, I bid you adieu. I know other years will try to rival you, but I also know that if you can beaten back they can be, too.