I can’t remember the last time I felt so blissfully content. And as such I hope you’ll allow me this indulgence as I post about everything I’m grateful for today. (After all, we often do too good a job of writing down our faults and our failures, and don’t spend nearly enough time acknowledging what we have done or what we are grateful for. I’m the Queen of that!)
For the first time since the nightmare of the abuse and the financial struggles and legal troubles of the past four or five years took hold, I actually feel nothing but hope for my future. Hope, and a love for myself that has been in hiding ever since my self esteem was shoved into a back corner so it wouldn’t bother or inconvenience my abusive ex, Randall.
My goodness, I feel like the luckiest woman in the world; so fortunate to be surrounded by this much love and support.
I turned thirty on Friday; and because things were so stressful and chaotic for my family this past year, I wasn’t expecting any kind of big ‘to-do’. There was a little disappointment in my gut – a little sadness about another benchmark/milestone that would ultimately be forgotten – but I was resolved not to make anyone feel guilty about it; I didn’t want people feeling pressured to do something they couldn’t afford or didn’t have the energy or resources to plan and put in motion.
So imagine my shock when on Thursday, my mom told me to pack a small suitcase with enough comfy clothes for two nights; I asked her why and where were we going, but she just smiled and said “It’s a surprise”. So I packed my bag, cleared my schedule through Saturday since apparently I was being given a surprise little getaway, and then without any further adieu, we were off.
In the end the surprise turned out to be the beach, but a new place to stay that I’d never stayed in before; she told me that had been important when she was choosing a spot so that I could enjoy my time without any memories attached to the place. And the fact that she’d thought of that for me left me awed, but that wasn’t the end. She’d even managed to pack along a couple of wrapped gifts and laid them out for me to admire with anticipation until it was time to open them, and in the early afternoon on the actual day (Friday the 13th) I also got a beautiful rose bouquet from my father.
As if this wasn’t wonderful enough, my phone also kept chiming with messages and alerts from friends and loved ones and family wishing me a Happy Birthday.
“There’ve been so few big celebrations for birthdays for a while,” my mom explained while we were sitting and blissfully watching the water come and go, lapping at the shoreline, “I didn’t want such a benchmark as your thirtieth birthday to just get lost in the shuffle along with everything else. It only comes once, after all.”
Tears came to my eyes as she explained her reasoning, and I felt my heart swell to the point where it could have burst in my chest. I realized in that instant that I am the richest woman in the world, because I am blessed with an incredible group of loved ones who have never given up on me, and who have been there to save me even in moments when I didn’t consider my own life to be worth saving. I wasn’t even thinking I was worthy of any kind of big celebration, given all the chaos I brought into my family’s lives while I was with Randall; including the death threats at the end of it all. But apparently I was wrong. Mom didn’t forget. No one forgot.
And the greatest part of all is that as I was looking at all my birthday wishes on social media and on my iMessages, I realized that pretty much all the well wishers aren’t just casual acquaintences…they’re active friends in my life. People I actually get to see and talk to. People who I know, and who know me; who are supportive of me as I am supportive of them.
That’s such a blessing. I cannot stress enough how important the right support system is for success in any venture.
Love is the most beautiful thing in the world. Not just the romantic kind, but the love between family and friends. It can be so wonderful; but often we get so caught up in anxiety over what we don’t have that we miss it. Or we get so focused on the romantic love we’re lacking that we don’t value the beautiful love and support all around us on a daily basis from other sources.
My family came together on Sunday for a dinner as well to honor/celebrate my birthday; my uncle drove 50+ minutes through ice and snow to get there with his girlfriend, my grandmother braved walking on the icy pavement, and my parents had big smiles on their faces…all for me. And again as I was sitting at the table and looking around as people raised their glasses in support and celebration of me, I felt my heart swell to the point
where it was almost painful, tears burning the back of my eyes.
Later I finally gave in to the urge and cried, and when my mother came in to see what was wrong I asked her: “Why did you all do this after everything I’ve done and all the stupid decisions that brought so much stress into your lives? I never expected any of this…”
And mom just smoothed back my hair, put her arms around me, and said: “Because we all believe that you deserve it. We believe in all the great things you can and will do with your life. We love you, and all any of us want for you is to be happy.”
That is real, true love. Not the fake ‘real love’ Randall offered me, where there were definitely strings attached (like pulling the love out of the relationship as punishment if I wasn’t making enough money). And I felt humbled in the face of such pure, honest, genuine care and concern…for me.
I’m still not done lavishing them all with gratitude and thanks for the effort everyone made. But it really drove home the notion that true, solid friendships and family around you is critical to success in life. You don’t even need tons of family and friends, just a few core people who believe in you and love you for precisely who you are is enough. Randall always said he and I could go against the world alone if we had to; saying who cares what his family or my family thinks, we don’t need anyone or anything. And I bought into that notion somewhat for a little while…but thankfully I don’t any more. It’s not just about the love you get from a partner, it’s about so much more than that. And it isn’t about doing things to appease the family either; it’s about trusting that the core group of people who you love have your best interests at heart, and therefore when they speak up or voice concerns you should really try and listen. I know if I’d listened to even one of the countless warnings my family and friends voiced about Randall, I could have spared myself an incredible amount of heartache and scars that I now carry over my heart.
So take today and look around you at your life, everyone. Make a list of all the people in your life that you are grateful for; who love you exactly as you are, and are always in your corner rooting for you to succeed no matter what. And then tell those people how much they mean to you, and how grateful you are to have them in your life.
Our lives are far too short not to appreciate what we have today, even if there are still things you’re hoping to get tomorrow.
Meghann Andreassen is a businesswoman, author, and personal success coach who contributes to this and other blogs on a regular basis. To learn more or to work with her personally, contact her through her website for a free consultation.
**Names and other personal identifying information of some individuals referenced throughout this blog have been changed to protect their identities