Reflections of 2017

reflectionAs I sit here on the last day of 2017, I cant help but reflect on my life as it played out this past year. This year was definitely a roller coaster ride. There were highs and lows, twists and turns and thrills and chills. Overall this year for me was a year of self discovery. My life in 2017 started out a little shaky. I was still struggling to find a job but I was also enjoying that time with Asa. It was a gift that I was not afforded with Devan, my oldest. When Devan was Asa’s age I had to grind. I was on a mission to finish grad school and move my little family to a better place. I spent a lot of time working and not nearly as much as I would have liked to with Devan. I missed a lot of Devans “growing up” as I was trying to build something for us. Several months of this last year with Asa were the complete opposite. I was home full time with him. I was present with him every day. I spent time volunteering in his class and working with him at home. We went to activities at the library found other things to do in our community including helping to take care of the Childrens garden at the Shorewood Community Garden.

asa mom and dad at library

If I’m being honest with myself the first half of the year for me was a bit of a blur. While I was enjoying my time with Asa I was struggling internally with me. I was struggling with where I felt I should be and what I felt like I should be doing. If I am really being transparent there were times I was battling depression and feeling cheated out of what I felt I had worked so hard to get to. I honestly felt like a failure.

At some point I realized that I was stuck. I needed something or someone to help me navigate the journey I was on. I needed to start doing things differently but I was stuck and I wasn’t sure how. Then a glimmer of hope. Out of nowhere an opportunity arose. I jumped at it! I applied through Hearts of Valor to work with a life coach. I had always wanted to work with a life coach but had never really made it a priority. Now that I was serious about it I simply couldn’t afford it. My application was accepted and I was gifted 27 sessions with a life coach through this program. In April I began working with Di. It was life altering.

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My sessions with Di were in so many ways therapeutic for me. It was one hour a week where I was forced to focus on me. That was something that I had stopped doing all together. All of my calls with Di were via phone although it never felt impersonal or phony. Di always started our calls by saying hello and then immediately asking “What are we celebrating this week?” She didn’t care how big or how small whatever I was celebrating was. Sometimes it was a job interview and other times it was something as simple as I made time to meditate. The point was that there was always something to celebrate. It wasn’t long before I realized I had stopped celebrating. I had stopped celebrating all together. Not had I stopped celebrating the big things but also the little. Di reminded me weekly that I have to celebrate everything. I now ask myself every night what I am celebrating and grateful for that day. Its funny…..somehow I always find something. This was the start of some serious work on ME.

Every session I had with Di was enlightening in some way. There were several Ah Ha moments….sometimes several in one session. Di helped me to “switch” my perceptions and helped me to “think” differently. It was a journey solely about me. In my almost 42 years on this earth I’m not sure I ever looked so introspectively at me, who I am, what makes me happy and what I want. It was exhilarating and frightening all at the same time.  But I was committed to the process. It was fascinating that sometimes I couldn’t answer the simplest questions about me. Answers to questions that you should be able to rattle off like….what brings you joy? or what do you have fun doing? I was struggling to come up with answers that weren’t just fluff. Di was forcing me to get to know me on a whole different level. Honestly before this, I’m not sure that I realized how much i was just going through the motions every day. I will forever be grateful for the blessing that Di was for me.

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I had a great support system through all of this. My husband was supportive of me and my journey of self discovery. He was encouraging and urged me to take time to figure out what it was that I really wanted to do. My kids supported me too…in their own ways. I also had a great deal of support from my mommy group. Just typing that is still a little funny for me. For those who know me know that 5 years ago you would have never have put me and mommy group in the same sentence. This group however is special. An amazing group of women some of whom I had never met and others who I had only met a handful of times were by far some of my biggest supporters. They were there for me, no matter what time of day. They would PM me, text me and call me to check on me, encourage me and sometimes just say hello. We share an unbreakable sisterhood. I will be forever grateful to each of them for their support, encouragement and even the kicks in the ass I needed to push through.

Then came August 2017.

In August 2017 I felt reborn in so many different ways.

At the beginning of August I accepted a position with Catholic Charities as a Case Manager with the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program. To be honest, initially, I wasn’t sure I had made the right decision. More on that later. I had only begun training when Brandon and I left the country for our 8 year wedding anniversary trip. We spent a week in the Dominican Republic together. This was the first time that we had spent even one night alone together since Asa had been born. It was an amazing and relaxing week and it was great to reconnect with my husband.

me and B DR

The day after we returned from the DR I got on a plane to San Antonio. I had applied for and been accepted to go on a Caregiver Retreat being put on by Operations Homefront’s Hearts of Valor Caregiver organization. it didn’t matter that a hurricane was coming, I was determined to be at that retreat. In just over a week I started a new job, went on a romantic getaway with my husband and now I was on my way to a caregiver retreat. I was in the middle of a whirlwind and I was loving every moment of it. I wrote a blog about my experience at the HOV retreat in San Antonio if you are interested in reading more about that experience. Overall it was AMAZING! I had not laughed so much in a really long time. Little did I know, but that group of women (which we named Harvey’s Angels) would become a huge support system for me. Now, four months later, we still communicate with each other daily. Not a single day goes by where I don’t text, FB, PM or talk to one of my Harvey’s Angels. We have developed a bond that can’t be broken. We will forever be connected by our shared experiences with our wounded warriors.

HOV heart and angels

I didn’t realize it immediately, but that retreat was life altering for me. I came back a different person.  Much like my sessions with Di that focused exclusively on me, that retreat also forced me to focus on me. One of my favorite quotes is “Your self care is not about you.” This quote had never been so true for me as it was on this retreat. It also sparked something in me that I had not felt in a very long time. That spark gave me life. Its almost like a calling. Its something inside me that tells me I have to use my voice for those, who for whatever reason, cant use their own. Its a calling to be an advocate for our nations veterans and those who support them. This feeling, this calling….fit perfectly with the job that I was going back to.

I came back to a job I had just started and was still uncertain about. I had all kinds of reservations. Was I going to be effective at the job? Was I going to like my coworkers? Was the work I do going to be appreciated? Was I going to be ok not being “in charge”? After all it had been decades since I had a job where I wasn’t someone’s boss. I think I was most in fear about this. I was afraid I didn’t know how to be a part of a team I wasn’t in charge of. After several reassuring conversations with my husband, other family and friends, moms from my mommy group and some of my Harvey’s Angels, I was in a much better place. I made the decision to just take things day by day. One of the things that stuck with me from my sessions with Di is that “everything is temporary”. So basically, if I got into it and didn’t like it, I could always get out of it. This is a stepping stone for something. Now I don’t know yet what that something is, but I do know that at that moment I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be and I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

one of the feeling

I remember in my interview I was asked why I wanted that particular job. My answer: Every one of those clients could have been my husband had he not had the support system he did when he came back. That answer was as honest and true as it gets. It has now been 4 months since I started my job working with Homeless Veterans and I am blessed to be able to say that I love what I do every single day. I have been chosen to assist our nations hero’s in some of their darkest hours as they are either on the verge of becoming homeless or they are already living on the streets. Our Veterans sometimes find themselves in very vulnerable positions. When they are at war there is a thought process of “leave no man behind”. Then they return to the lives they left only to be forgotten about and left behind when they need help the most. I get to be there for my clients when they are most vulnerable.

I have found a new home at Catholic Charities and I have become part of a new family. I work with some very special people. Others who like me are doing the job because they want to. You couldn’t really be effective doing what we do if you didn’t actually want to do it. God knows we don’t get paid what any of us are worth. Yet we all show up to work every day to help those people who need it most. I am blessed and grateful for my coworkers who support me and my sometimes crazy ideas. And I am thankful that they welcomed me with open arms into their world.

I am also in a unique position to be humbled every single day that I go to work. My office in Joliet is in the same building as our Homeless Shelter. Every day that I go to work I see what Homelessness looks like. For those of you that may have preconceived notions of what it looks like or who “those people are” that are homeless, I am here to tell you that you are wrong. The people who live at our shelter look just like you and me. They are mothers/wives/sisters/daughters/fathers/husbands/brothers and sons. We have clients who stay at our shelter who have jobs they go to every day. We have clients who are single parents who live at our shelter with their children. We have clients who are fleeing domestic violence situations leaving everything behind for the safety of themselves and their children. When you really think about it, most of us are only one really bad situation from ending up in the same place as the clients I see everyday. So every night that I get to come home to my warm house where I am greeted by my loving family, where I can open my refrigerator and get food whenever I want it and sleep in my own bed, I am extremely grateful and that is something I celebrate daily.

being humble

My clients are amazing individuals in their own right. Most of them have survived things that I cant even imagine.  My clients choose to trust me in a very vulnerable time in their lives. They share intimate thoughts and details about their lives with me. They allow me into their world. They allow me to assist them in finding housing, in finding a job, in finding other resources that may help them. Sometimes they reach out just because they need to hear a friendly voice. I am honored to be that person.

Since I started my job in August I have been referred to by my clients in several ways. One guy calls me sunshine. He asked if it was ok and said that he nicknamed me that  because I “bring rays of positive light” into his life. I have been told I was heaven sent. I have been called an angel. Just this week I got a text message from a client that said “I know I’ve said thank you a million times, but I am just so very grateful for the help that we’ve received. I realize you are doing your job, but I still want to thank you Ms. Courtney”. Then there are the huge hugs I get from my clients who are kids. I have one family that as soon as the kids see me they run and give me hugs and cant wait to tell me about everything that has gone on since I saw them last. That feeling of seeing those beautiful children with hope in their eyes. The feeling I get seeing one of my clients effectively close out our program. That is why I do my job. The funny thing is, I get as much from my clients as they get from me. They just don’t realize it.

goodbye 2017

Here are a few of the lessons that 2017 brought me (in no particular order) ……

Lesson 1 There is always something to celebrate

Lesson 2 Sometimes what you perceive as a bad situations is actually life giving you a gift of something that you may not even have known you needed.

Lesson 3 There is always something more to learn

Lesson 4 There is always someone out there whose struggles are worse than yours

Lesson 5 Everything is temporary

Lesson 6 Be open to new opportunities

Lesson 7 Take everything one day at a time (one moment at a time if you have to)

Lesson 8 Be Grateful for what you do have

Lesson 9 Be kind to others – you don’t always know what they are going through

Lesson 10 I AM A WORK IN PROGRESS

Five years ago if this is where you told me I would be today I would have said you were crazy. But, as this year comes to an end I could not be more grateful. Grateful for the people who have entered my life this last year. Grateful for the opportunities that I have been afforded. Grateful that I have found a new work home. Grateful I am able to make things a little easier for others. Grateful that my family is healthy and happy. Grateful for every opportunity that has come my way. Grateful that I have figured out (at least for the time being) who I am and what makes me happy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a work in progress. But I am proud of the progress that I made this year.

this year

As we enter 2018 I wish you life, love and happiness on your journey. I’m looking forward to seeing what mine brings! Happy New Year!

2017 2018

PS…….

The teacher in me wont allow me to not post the following web site. You never know when you or someone you know may need it!

https://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/

 

1 thought on “Reflections of 2017

  1. You are truly amazing. What a gift you have been to me as well. It is with sincere admiration and deep appreciation when I say thank you. Love, Di

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