I’m not really a sentimental person.

Marking days of the year (like the first day of a year) as more special than others is usually something I joke about. It’s just another “yesterday’s tomorrow”, after all.

But, another year IS over. That makes more than 25 for me. And this past year was really one of the hardest I’ve ever been through, because I had to face my inner darkness in new ways.

I’ve seen sides of myself that I wish never existed.

I’ve woken up to sad memories and regrets.

I’ve been faced with uncertainty about the future, and with the real damage my failures and weaknesses can cause.

There was a lot of darkness for me in 2017. But at the end of it looking back, I feel like I’ve grown SO much compared to previous years. I feel like I’ve finally grown past some things that have been plaguing me for a long, long time. So, here’s a little list of things I learned (and relearned) this past year. I hope you find yourself not alone, and I hope that some of the things I learned can help you in the future.

1) It’s okay to feel lonely. For most of my life, loneliness and depression were voids to be filled – and I tried to fill them with everything. Ultimately, God was the only person who truly satisfied my heart (yes, being married doesn’t solve every problem) – but what do I do when I can’t feel His presence? What do I do when I can’t “see” or hear from my Friend? Fortunately, I have a wonderful wife to help me (Genesis 2:18), but what do I do when she (inevitably) isn’t enough?

This year I realized that it’s okay to feel lonely and not seek to fill it. And so, in the times where I couldn’t feel any better, I let myself feel the loneliness. I finally accepted it, accepted where I was. I stopped trying to fill it. I stopped freaking out and falling apart when I couldn’t fill it. I just felt it.

2) Facing the darkness is better than pretending it isn’t there. I’ve known this. I used to be all about facing the truth, no matter how hard it is to look at. But at some point, I started hurting bad enough that I just wanted to not hurt anymore.

And facing the truth really hurts sometimes.

When I found old, internal problems resurfacing, I realized that I wasn’t well. But much like the loneliness, I finally let myself accept and feel it. I accepted where I was and what I was – every discontentment, unhappiness, bitterness, lust – every darkness that I had been avoiding and pushing down for years.

It was a nasty fountain when I opened the hatch – but when I balanced out mentally and emotionally, I was able to start addressing my problems with hope and purpose. And as I did it prayerfully, I was able to do it without fear.

Now? I’m much healthier. Not everything is fixed, but I’m definitely doing better. Had I kept going the way I was, I don’t know what my life would look like at this very moment.

I now make an effort to keep myself honest about myself. Not doing that has cost me a lot, and it’s a price I refuse to keep paying.

3) I can’t do it all, and I need to stop trying to. Psssssssshhhh…. this is something I’m still having to put into practice. I’m currently working a part time job, running my own business (two if you count music, three if you count the blog)), while still trying to safely finish my last trimester of school. While being married. While being a Christian with a responsibility to give my time to the furtherance of the kingdom and to enjoying my Creator. While needing (NEEDING) alone time for self-care.

Guess what? You try something like that and some things start to slip through the cracks. And then you look down and the cracks are HUGE because you realize you didn’t budget time to fix the house. And then… and then…

I can’t do it all. I always felt like I could, but I’ve never actually been able to – and this year of getting honest with myself has helped me to accept that.

Things have to change. I firmly believe I’ve been given just enough time to do everything I need to do in this world on a daily basis. Seasons of life may be busier and more stressful than others, but if that’s an endless pattern, something probably needs to change.

I don’t have to do it all. I just need to do what I’ve been given to do, and I need to do it well.

4) Purposeful thoughts and good intentions are no match for a trusty blaster checklist at your side, kid. Organization had always been that “special something” that eluded me. Or that I avoided. Aren’t organized people boring, with their planners and lack of spontaneity?

Well, following point number three, the only way I’ve been able to survive this over-investment of myself during this season has been to get organized. I couldn’t keep everything in my head, and putting it all on paper helped keep me sane and helped me get things done. An online checklist helped me most because most of the work I do is online, and I could just swap tabs to make use of it instead of turning my attention to a phone or the often-disappearing piece of paper.

I’ve realized that organization is a wonderful thing. When I’m unorganized, I lose time to distraction, uncertainty, and indecision, which means less time for the things I need and love to do.

Having so few minutes to spare has taught me to make the most of the ones I have – and that means getting organized.

As I write this and think through the other things that have impacted me over this year, it seems like acceptance and moving forward have been the dominating themes.

Contentment in my circumstances requires acceptance of my circumstances, without requiring myself to change what I can’t change.

Contentment with myself requires acceptance of myself (as I am), without requiring myself to change what I don’t know how to change.

I’ve had to deal with a lot of things that I couldn’t change. A lot of things that I didn’t know how to change.

And then, in the midst of everything, I would see a few things that I actually could change. Little steps I could take. Taking those steps, rather than ones that I forced or tried to create, have benefited me the most.

I hope that this post finds you where you are and encourages you.

And here’s to a wonderful 2018, where instead of wishing for fewer problems, we more effectively accept and deal with the ones we have.

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