That's a Wrap, 38!

IMG_2058.jpg

Years go by fast. This day a year ago feels like a lifetime ago. It's been quite a year, this 38th of mine. A lot has happened, a lot has been conquered, and many things have changed. 

So here's my 38th year in review...

SUMMER

IMG_1805.jpg

Summer was tumultuous. Two days after I turned 38, Trash With Money, was optioned. Something I wrote under the pressure of someone who believed in me, and knew I had lost my ability to write in the last couple of years. I'm glad he was a pest. 

A week after my birthday, I received a call about some lab work that had been done during my annual exam. I was told I had endometrial cancer. This is something I'm not ready to talk about yet, and I am superstitious and don't want to declare victory until the one year point. 

This diagnosis, surgery, and subsequent treatment gave us a huge #Yolo attitude. Even though there was a very slight chance this would be the thing that kills me, suddenly I wanted to face down the things I had let shape me in the past, and fix myself. 

IMG_0812.jpg

A reinvention of sorts happened, the hair became red (because it would be thinning with treatment red was chosen to hide that along with extensions), I was sore and sick at the US Nationals we covered, and again, I was nudged back into skating once I was medically cleared. Even though I was physically miserable, I fell in love with life again. 

I also learned what true friendship and commitment is. The people who show up when you are sick are your people. The people who change dressings, clean up puke, drive you to the doctor, don't get scared by the 'C' word, and don't let you fail are your people. This diagnosis was the beginning of the end of a couple of close friendships with great people, because it affects how you prioritize and relate. 

The summer of 2017 set the tone for my 38th year. It would be about fighting the good fight for MYSELF... 

and winning. 

IMG_0873.jpg

FALL

IMG_0678.jpg

The fall was an absolutely blissful time. The worst of my illness was over, and that's when we began traveling to get my projects off the ground. The three of us became a well oiled machine of teamwork to get this career to the next level. One traveled with me, one took care of the homestead. One proofread my work, the other got meetings. I had to learn to believe in myself enough to sell my work and my worth as an artist. 

IMG_1409.jpg

I saw many cities I had never seen before, and grew in intimacy with people in ways I thought I could never connect. 

It was during this time I became very committed to my physical and mental health, and made living a life of balance my priority. I committed to no longer being bullied, or having other people control my life, and put a long term plan in action when it came to the rest of MY life and my children. 

IMG_1577.jpg

Then I got the call...

My baby brother called me to tell me my mother was dying from white matter disease that had become degenerative dementia. The flood of emotion this gave me was almost too much to take. The day I thought I would feel relief, I felt nothing but sadness and pain. I cruised around the rink crying unable to skate the day I found out. Then it turned into white hot rage because she did it to herself and wanted to die a forgiven martyr. 

Both of my parents had a hand in their own demise. I could spit with the amount of resentment, anger and contempt I held for both of them. I was created by a couple of weak, selfish assholes. 

But, I talked about it. I went to therapy and put those feelings into context. Forgiveness is overrated. You do not have to forgive. It's very woo and Oprah likes talking about forgiving people, Jesus is a fan. 

I'm not. I'll let these feelings go, but she did not get my forgiveness for the things she did to me and the people she changed as human beings with her abuse. It's a horrible death, I felt guilty for, believe it or not. I don't want anyone to suffer. 

A friend reminded me that sometimes suffering is warranted, and we have to pay the tax for how we lived. 

IMG_1597.jpg

The end of autumn became the closing chapter of a lot of open books. I decided to let the dead bury the dead, and let the miserable keep each other warm. I have a new chapter to write. 

WINTER

IMG_1892.jpg

For the first time in years, I wanted to be festive and celebrate my favorite time of year. I craved the closeness of my little family who had been through a lot in the last few months, who seemed to just be getting stronger. I decorated, cooked, baked, and felt like myself again. 

I wanted it to be the best Christmas/Hannukah for everyone in recent memory, and my little family wanted that for me, too. There was a malignant independence brewing in me, but it hadn't reared its ugly head yet. 

IMG_1861.jpg

I accepted the commitment of a man who couldn't be chased away and always showed up. Who always says to me, "You're not that bad." 

However, after Christmas in Chicago, I changed the script, and stubbornness and this newfound malignant independence began to rear its ugly head. Looking back, I see that it was my reeling from the news about my mother, and I became drunk on, "Fuck you, Mom. You were wrong about everything." 

I felt the need to conquer my terrible marriage and the situation it has left me in with my kids. I vowed to make something of myself and return to Chicago the conquering hero riding in on a chariot of fuck you and fuck off. 

IMG_0315.jpg

I threw myself into skating, competed, and then pivoted into throwing myself into writing. My relationship heaved and gasped on the fumes of me pushing everyone away because this was a fight I decided should solely be mine now, and made ambition the thing that sustained me. 

Our little party of three kind of became a party of 2.5 as I became married to myself. 

SPRING

IMG_0087.jpg

Spring was a whirlwind. A thaw happened, if you will, and I began to open my eyes to different solutions being available to me rather than the one I thought was the only way. Only there wasn't time for that, and I put it all in the back of my mind while I went on the road because my career went next level.

IMG_0881.jpg

Thousands of miles a week, crippling exhaustion, but I was still making my mental and physical health a priority. I looked and felt healthier and happier than I had in over five years. There was that nagging anxiety about my lingering relationship in the back of my head, but I had a good excuse that there simply wasn't time, because I was so busy keeping my head above water, and getting to Chicago. That was my laser focus. 

IMG_2134.jpg

I reconnected with my oldest daughter with a new understanding of each other, and I also began to pay forward the kindness that was given to me three years ago, to someone in a similar situation. I started to mend the fences with the hurt people I left behind back in Chicago, and subconsciously began to pull away from my life here in Atlanta. I felt good about my decisions, but that panic in the back of my head became louder and louder because something wasn't right. 

SUMMER

IMG_1115.jpg

So here we are. Last week, I listened to that panic and the beautiful life I was leaving behind to whither on the proverbial branch while I distracted myself. And as always, a week before my birthday, I GOT IT. Not everything has to be an intellectual exercise, or check off the boxes of what should be. I had that spin out a couple of weeks ago because I knew it didn't feel right to stick to the plan I made in January. 

No one is meant to be an army of one. You don't lose your independence becoming a team and staying a team. 

My birthday weekend was probably the quietest one I've had in recent memory, but it was by far the best. I was sitting by myself watching tv in the other house Sunday morning, and I looked around and loved how effortless it felt to be there in that moment with someone in the next room sleeping. Maybe I'm not so in love with being alone anymore. Perhaps I'm ready to be vulnerable again and take the next step in all of this. Still haven't managed to run him off. Maybe it's my turn to show up and participate instead of reminding everyone I'm bulletproof and don't need them. 

38 was about being okay with myself, fighting to believe in myself, putting some demons to rest, and learning about how love should make us flexible instead of doubling down on ideal outcomes.

38 was about no longer negotiating my worth under any circumstances. 

38 was about honesty. 

38 was a success. 

On to 39, tomorrow. Last year I knew 38 would be about reinvention. So now that I've been somewhat rebuilt, maybe 39 will become about settling down, needing people back, and letting peace in. 

signature.png
Jennifer Gulbrandsen