2020: A Year of Endings

I entered 2020 uncertain of what the new decade would bring for me.

My relationship was sitting on rocky terms. University felt like it would never end. I was not enjoying the job that I was doing. I was in the midst of getting over a depressive episode.

Then things started to look up.

My relationship seemed to stabilize. My classes were going well. My depression seemed to subside with the help of my new medication, which meant that I actually started to enjoy my job again. I even won a trip to San Francisco to attend the Samsung Unpacked event.

It was an incredible experience, even if it took place as Covid-19 was starting to ramp up. We were even given masks and hand sanitizer in our welcome kits. One of the other amazing perks that came with winning this trip was that I would also get the new S20 Ultra, with one of the best cameras on the market, plus other amazing features. I met some amazing folks on the trip, who were all extremely talented photographers. It was the experience of a lifetime.

Within a month after I came home, not only did I find out that I was successful in getting the new position that I applied for, but we were sent to work from home due to concerns regarding Covid-19. That was an entirely new experience of its own. Trying to deal with slow internet connections and being part of the first group to actually test the systems they created for us was intense. Eventually, it sorted itself out though.

That is about the only thing that did though.

A few days before I was to begin my new job, I found out that my grandma, my mom’s mom, was not doing well. She didn’t have Covid-19, but she had been fighting a battle with cancer. It was a battle that she had previously won several times. Due to the pandemic, only her children were allowed to be with her. In those few days, I wanted nothing more than to be with her, to be able to say one last goodbye. However, I am forever grateful that my mom and her siblings could be there with her.

On March 27, 2020, she passed away at 86 years old. She lived a beautiful life, filled with love, laughter and lots of hugs. She was one of the more beautiful souls in the world. She welcomed everyone with open arms and an open heart. Despite the fact that it has been almost 10 months, it still does not feel like it has sunk in. We have not been able to go up and spend time with our extended family. We have not had a celebration of life service. We are in a holding pattern until we can be together.

There are days it doesn’t even feel real. Then I remember the video that she made in her last days. It was a video for her grandchildren. She spoke of her love for us all and most of the time, I can still feel that coursing through me. She loved fully and with all of her heart. Losing her hurts every single day, as has the loss of each of my grandparents. Their love and strength keep me going though. They may not be here with me, but I know they stayed as long as they could and that if they were here, they would be proud.

If that wasn’t enough, on May 25, 2020, my wife of 4 years told me that she was no longer happy in our relationship, that she didn’t think she could find her way back to loving me. We had a long discussion. The end result was that we were going to separate and file for divorce once the year passed. We told our family and closest friends before announcing it on Facebook. We did this because we wanted people to know that there was no ill-will between us, that it was ended fairly mutually, that we wanted to remain friends.

It was devastating for me. I would have fought for our relationship, but she was done. I don’t blame her. She had to be true to herself and her feelings. However, that meant it only hurt more when friendship was removed from the table. She found someone else, someone who didn’t like that we were trying to be friends as exes. So less than a month after we separated, I also lost my best friend. She was the person that I thought I would spend the rest of my life with and when that didn’t work out, I was grateful that we would, at least, be in each other’s lives as friends.

It was not to be.

12 years in a relationship. 10 years living together. 4 years married. Lives intertwined together having to be separated for the first time. Discussions about who got what and who had to pay for what. Amicable, but frustrating.

This is not meant to air dirty laundry.

I do not blame her. I do not blame myself. I do not consider our marriage or our relationship a failure.

We had an amazing life together with fun times and sad times. We argued and we made up. We survived family drama and homophobia. We ended things before we could come to hate and resent each other. I hope that she has the best of lives going forward, even if I am not a part of it.

It was a good thing for me too. I’ve been in one relationship for my entire adult life, but that doesn’t mean I’m forced to maintain that relationship forever. I want to grow, to evolve, to better myself. I want to cultivate the parts of me that I left by the wayside because it didn’t fit in that relationship.

I want to be myself fully.

It may have taken the ending of a relationship and a heartbreak of epic proportions, but I know that I am better off for it.

Of course, going through a separation is never easy, but there is an additional level added when there is a global pandemic. There is isolation that cannot be be shaken off when you spend all day, every day alone, especially after 10 years of having someone in your space. Thankfully, I have an amazing support system. They helped me move out of my apartment and home to my mom’s house.

It wasn’t soon enough to prevent the full mental breakdown that overtook me in mid-October though. After extensive counselling, increased medication, time to work on myself, it became clear that I was operating in the ‘on’ position for years. I never really had the chance to breathe between everything I had going on before. My body and mind had reached a point that I could no longer continue at the rate I was going and essentially shut itself down.

I was terrified that I was a failure, that I was letting everyone down, that I was taking advantage somehow. However, as my counsellor and I have discussed multiple times, I feel that way because I’m used to being the one taking care of everything. That relinquishing some of that control was increasing my anxiety, which was interacting negatively with my depression symptoms that were at an all time peak. It created this vicious cycle that I had to struggle to break.

Eventually, we discovered the best way to handle it was to focus on 1-3 tasks that I had to complete each day. I would write them down the night before and then, I only had to do those things. If I finished them and was feeling good, I could get other things done as well, but as long as I got those things done, I was okay. It worked as a balm to soothe the anxiety and a small step in the direction of surpassing my depression.

The first day, I wrote down one task, to write one page of one of my essays for school. I woke up and knew I only had one thing to do and then I could do what I wanted. So I pulled up the document and started writing. I ended up writing two pages. Then I let myself relax. Each day, my capacity grew slightly, built up by allowing myself to relax after I did the things I had to do that day.

The impact of this one exercise was so incredibly helpful for my mental state. It helped me get my assignments in and show up to work. I still continue to utilize this practice over a month later. While before, it included things like shower, clean cat litter, take my pills, my daily tasks are now things that make me feel better, but that I might skip if I don’t put it to the forefront. So it includes doing yoga with my mom, taking time to journal. They are things that are necessary in a different way than at the start. They keep me sane, rather than just keeping me alive.

This, of course, leads to the other ending that 2020 brought me. I have finished my final semester of university. On December 15, 2020, I submitted my final assignment for my degree. I was a bit in shock after it happened and it didn’t seem real that I was actually done. I know that I am done too since I’m set up to have the best marks since I started university this semester. I already have one mark back and it is a 94%. I think another will be around the same range of 94%, while the third one will probably be closer to 85%. I am overjoyed that this has been such a successful semester to end on.

It has been a long 11 years while I worked full time and attended university part time (even full time some semesters). Hell, since 2020 started, I have completed 7 different university courses. I could probably just sleep for the next month and be extremely happy since I’ve basically been existing in sleep deprivation for the past 11 years between school, work, and my relationship.

So why did I decide to tell this story? Why share all these personal details and discuss the endings I am living through?

The reality is that people are often not good at endings, myself included. We can see the end coming, yet we resist it, trying to back away from the inevitable. This year has been a practice in learning to lean into it, to embrace endings, to recognize that endings inspire new beginnings, that they are not always bad.

Despite the heartbreak of my losses earlier this year, I am grateful.

I am glad that my mom was able to be at my grandma’s side as she passed away. I am grateful that my grandma is no longer in pain. While I do not believe in God, I hope that her version of the afterlife was accurate and that she is enjoying reconnecting with those who left before her. I am grateful that I have an everlasting legacy of her in the photo albums that she painstakingly created for her grandchildren each year, in our family, in my heart, and in my love.

I am grateful that my ex ended things. We both had growing to do that could not have been achieved within our relationship. I will never regret the time that we had together since it was so often filled with love and happiness. I also have three adorable pets that came from that relationship, so there are no regrets there. Our marriage may be ending, but it was not a failure. We got out before resentment could build and create problems that were too big to surpass. We may not be friends, like we hoped we would be, but life can take a different direction than we ever anticipated.

I am glad that I essentially fell apart in the aftermath of everything. It allowed me to create a system where my capacity is on a dimmer, rather than an on/off switch. I was able to realize that I don’t have to be ‘on’ all the time, that I can build up to where things feel stable and comfortable, that I don’t have to go beyond that. It gave me permission to say ‘no’ when things are piling up and I am starting to reach my max. It gave me the chance to save myself from something that I didn’t even realize was tearing me apart.

I am grateful to be at the point that I essentially have completed my degree, that I no longer have to read assigned works, that I can read what I want when I want with no homework assigned. Let’s be honest, I don’t consider this blog homework. It is a fun way for me to discuss the books that I read without the pressure of using big words or grammatical correctness all the time. I can work on my novel and start to move towards the publishing stage. I have time to relax and enjoy things because I pushed through, did the work, and got it done.

Endings are not inherently bad. Some can be amazing, while others teach you things you didn’t realize you needed to know.

2020 has been a strange year all around, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Not even the endings.

2 thoughts on “2020: A Year of Endings

  1. Patricia Cassell-Ogilvie

    A powerful story of love of others & love for yourself. Of loss, struggle & finding the sun behind the clouds. Of depression and fighting your way through, A story that will help others as they travel their journey.. You are my hero..Love you more than you will ever know.. grams❤

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