One year ago today (2/28), I woke up, got dressed, pulled the papers that had been waiting for me to file for 3 weeks, called my best friend and said its time. We went to the courthouse and filed, and then to lunch. Oddly I remember some of the strangest details of that day. I vividly remember what I wore (especially the heartache and frown on my face), where we sat at lunch, how I felt sitting in the office filing those papers. Yet at the same time, I can remember feeling like I was watching all these things happen from outside of my body. I was ending the longest chapter of my life.

Now after a year has past, I find myself contemplating who am? I’m a daughter, a mother, a teacher, a coach, a friend, and a little lost, yet feeling optimistic and happy overall. It’s no secret this has been a roller coaster of a year, I have come so far. The fog has cleared, the realization of the reality that I lived in/through for so many years, making me so much more aware of who I was, who I have become, and who I hope to be.

Twenty-one years ago I was a shy, young, unsure but optimistic twenty year old who fell fast for a guy I thought was different then who he became, or was and I didn’t realize/see it. I will never regret those years. Those struggles made me stronger, independent, outgoing, gave me depth and made me more aware of my talents, faith and achievements. Those years taught me compassion, understanding, and in the end that I am worth all the things I had hoped for and looked for in a man all those years ago and now. Those years gave me the opportunity to experience the incredible joy of growing a life within me and seeing them raised into some of the most amazing people I have ever met. It allowed me to experience the intense grief of loss, and reality that life would continue despite my pain. The last year brought me to my knees and taught me that we truly must listen for the answer and not just expect the one we want when we pray. In fact it showed me in what was probably the boldest way, that prayers are answered sometimes by showing you the worst in a situation to point you in the direction you should be going. I will never regret those years.

Now as I open a brand new book, beginning the first chapter of the next book in the series of my life, I’ve been thinking about who I want to be. I want to be kind, empathetic, strong, full of love and life, open to new experience, brave, authentic and fearless. I want those around me not to feel like they have to apologize for my past, but be happy for me for my future. I want them to realize that this is a good time in my life.

I am certain about only a few things. I am certain I will have days that I want to stay in bed and stop “adulting”, because being a single mom is a lot harder then I ever imagined. I will always be surrounded by love, I have amazing children, friends and family that are there for me even when I feel at my loneliest. My biggest comfort will always come from those quite moments on my knees when I bravely turn things over to God and stop trying to be in control. And finally, I am going to mess up, sometimes epically, but I will recover.

Last month I wanted to focus on being myself as authentically as I can be, and approaching things in a more “breezy” way, surprisingly I’ve been able to continue that pattern. I’m pretty proud of myself for this one. There is something to say about not overthinking everything you do (I’m not 100% there but I’m doing a ton better on this one). Doing something for someone just because it will make them smile, even if it really has no return to you other then knowing that you put a smile on someone else’s face.

A year ago I was a destroyed shell of myself, wondering how in the world I was going to ever survive, would I ever feel whole, would I ever smile, would every day end in tears, loneliness and uncertainty. I wish I could have told that girl that in a year you would soon be replacing the wedding ring you had worn for 20 years, that represented more of the cycle of abuse then the love it should have, with a smile that you had lost. I wish I could have told her that there would be days she’d catch herself smiling for no reason and that in itself would make her smile even more. And now I find myself wondering, what will the next year bring. What will I discover about myself. What vivid memories will I hold and look back on in a year. I can only hope they are filled with memories of the smile I thought would never return, happy memories of new adventures, and moments of discovering who I am!