Lessons from 2017

Well folks…it’s December, nearly Christmas, and we have reached the closing of another year. 2017 has been monumental in ways both negative and positive. First of all Donald Trump took office and our country is going through a racial divide, never before seen in my lifetime. Beyonce’ gave birth to twins Rumi and Sir and the hive LOST their minds. Followed by a slew of hurricanes and more terror attacks than I’d like to sit and think about. I personally gained an angel in my beautiful mother Kathy Lee Brooks and married my best friend. It’s been a hard one to say the least and it seems like it’s been a rough year for a lot of us. 

JUST THROW THE WHOLE YEAR AWAY!

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Wait…even though this year has been trying it has successfully spawned a host of lessons and takeaways, to implement in the coming 2018.

Lesson 1: It ain’t nothing to cut them off

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Why is it so difficult for us to let go of things that are unfavorable? Be it a diet, lifestyle, an addiction, or even a person in our lives? Man, I wish I knew the answer…but regardless at some point in your life you have to come to terms with the fact that EVERYBODY IS NOT FOR YOU. Yes, I said it. Your ride or die from high school or college. Your significant other who you’ve been rocking with for 5+ years. That one person you’ve known since childhood…let me be the first or the thousandth person to let you know that everyone isn’t meant to make it to 2018 with you. 2017 has really made it easy for me to hit anyone with the…

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And let me be clear…it’s not about being messy, ugly, or wishing any ill will upon anyone. It’s about realizing that everything and everyone placed on this earth isn’t for me. && I’ve learned that that’s okay. The world will keep spinning. My life will go and so will theirs. But listen here…if you are holding on to the wrong people out of fear than you are a long way off from finding peace. If someone takes from you more than they are willing to give…CUT THEM OFF. If she only calls when she needs you and never to see if she is needed…CUT HER OFF. If he is draining your self-esteem, your peace of mind, and your sanity…CUT HIM OFF. Take this next year to stop allowing the enemy to cripple you with the fear of making healthy decisions, in your life. The freedom you will feel when those strongholds are gone is unmatched. 

Lesson 2: Stop Worrying About What They Think

I was having a conversation with my mother in law recently and it brought to light another way I’ve grown this year. I’ve finally realized that the perception that others have of me is their problem…not my own. People are always going to be worried about things that don’t concern them. Things that don’t affect them in any shape, form, or fashion. Why? I have no idea but who really cares? 

not me

I used to feel the need to defend myself against opinions of me that were erroneous. Then I realized everyone whose opinion even remotely matters already knows whats up. You are always going to have spectators, skeptics, haters, and other people who just want to dissect the issues they can see in your life because they are tired of facing their own. In fact it’s normally the people who don’t have their own affairs in order who are going to come at you. Why? Well I actually know the answer to this one. Lol. It’s because the people who have their lives together aren’t wasting time focusing on the next household and what they are or are not doing. They are focusing on building the people around them up and not bringing them down. But in any case I’m GROWN. I don’t have time to concern myself with the life that others think I should be living. Pleasing God, my husband, and making sure that my child is MORE than well taken care of are my only focuses. Get to a place where you are so sure of who you are that you do not look to others, to validate the way you feel about yourself.

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Lesson 3: Positivity Is Key

Why is it human nature to see the glass as half empty vs half full? There are so many beautiful things in this world but for whatever reason, we choose to highlight the negatives. Over the last month I have dealt with pain and heartache greater than any in my life. I had to take time to learn how to best heal and protect my heart and mind from the day to day struggles that seemed to pile atop of another. The answer was actually pretty simple. Remain positive, search to find the beauty or lesson in every hardship, and always keep my eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel. I won’t say this is something that I have always been proficient at (because I definitely haven’t)…but I began to develop a deeper understanding of the phrase “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” So instead of taking time to focus on all of things that went wrong this past year, I began to focus on all the ways things went right (which I highlighted in my last article “2017 a year of growth, loss, and restoration”). In 2018 adjust your view of failure, struggles, and even heartaches. There is a lesson in every journey we find ourselves in. Take time to reflect and find each of these lessons through meditation and prayer. In doing this you take the negatives in your life and redefine them for good. It’s good for your soul, great actually. Master this and you will gain the ability to find peace in the midst of any storm you encounter.

Lesson 4: Treasure the genuine people in your life

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It goes without saying that loss has a way of making you appreciate what you have. Having a strong support system is vital, guys…like really! I could not have gotten through this year without God and the people he has placed in my life to keep me uplifted. First of all…I’m a newlywed. I married the man of my dreams on November 3rd and my heart has been convulsing with joy ever since. He has truly been more than I could have ever imagined. There is no greater feeling than coming home, falling into his arms, and feeling safer than I’ve ever felt in this life. Safe from the world, safe from heartache, safe from ever feeling alone. His eyes ground me, his warmth calms me, and his laugh soothes me. He is my escape. Anyone who know me knows I will go to war with anyone over that man…and if I don’t say it enough…

Kenneth Christian Cole…you are my AIR.

&& as if he wasn’t more than enough I have an inner circle of friends who has held me through so many tears. From my best friend taking the trip from ATL several weekends in a row to just be by my side…to every one of my closest friends allowing my tears to drench their shoulders, at one time or another. God knew that this was a road I did not need to travel alone. && as if they weren’t more than enough I have a family biological and in laws who have rallied around me and given me more love than my heart has room to hold. These are the people that you treasure. The people whose mark on your heart and in your life is so transcendent, that their absence would leave a hole. In 2018 do not take for granted that these people won’t be here forever. Cherish them, love them, make time for them no matter what season you are in. My mom, who will always be a monumental force in my life (whether she is here or in heaven) will always know how deep my love and appreciation for her goes. God will bless your life with people whose love knows no conditions and those are the people that are supposed to finish the race with you.

 

Lesson 5: Enjoy the Journey

Every obstacle I’ve faced this year has made a mark on who I am. We are ever changing and evolving beings. We need hardships to mold us and to help us grow. Sometimes we are so anxious to get out of the storm that we forget what a blessing the rain is. 

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Don’t take for granted the journey to becoming the flower…for without it our petals would never smell as sweet. There is beauty in the journey. You just have to find it.

Life isn’t about being perfect. It’s not about never failing or making mistakes. It’s about the way you bounce back. It’s about striving to be the best possible version of yourself at all times. In order to do that you have to make sure you surround yourself with the right people, stop stressing about things that are out of your control, know when to make life cuts, and remember that what is for you WILL ALWAYS BE FOR YOU. 

Be better. Be braver. Take educated risks. Love some one. Love everyone. 

LOVE YOURSELF.

Conquer this new year like no other.

&& Stay. GOLDEN. Y’all.

2017 A year of growth, loss, and restoration

New Years day of 2017, I realized something. I was beginning the year like any other…resolutions, healthy eating, goals, and a newly found appreciation for the gym (for the 3rd year in a row). But 2017…I just couldn’t put my finger on it but there was going to be something special about this year. God placed it on my heart over and over again that this year would be a year of change. 

 

That became apparent in early April, when things went haywire at my job. I had been there almost 5 years at the time and had several run ins with my director and her floor minion (aka the office snitch). Yes, apparently adults like to wear the hall monitor sash, as well. I was determined to get out of there. So I started applying for a million different positions. Some that I was even over qualified for but nothing was working out. Why, you ask? Because God had a plan.

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Fast forward to May, when my company was going through their own rebuilding phase. They decided to completely change the business model and approached it as a start up company. Which gave me the option to either apply for a new position or take a severance. After some time discussion with Chris, my mother, and God, I decided to take the severance. I was unhappy there and needed a fresh start. May 31, 2017 was my last day there and began a brand new chapter in my life. 

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If you know me personally than you know that my mother had been battling a blood cancer called Mycosis Fungoides, for many years. So this newly found freedom wasn’t just for myself. It was about spending time with my then 3 year old, assisting my mother in anyway necessary, and getting a fresh start towards achieving some of my goals.

I was on top of the world.

My tension headaches ceased, my energy level sky rocketed, and I had a brand new lease on life and I was ready to conquer the world. Fast forward to August 5th on the day of my close friend Brittany’s wedding…when I received a voicemail from my mother. I was crazy busy that day trying to make things as least stressful for the bride, as possible. I stepped in and did some photography, assisted with minor setup, and aided the Bride in anyway I could. I was so busy I didn’t get a chance to check my phone. When I finally listened to the voicemail my mother let me know that she was at Vanderbilt. She had been dealing with an infection that had spread throughout her body. I stayed as long as I could but before the weddings end I had to leave to go and see about her. Chris drove me straight to the hospital and when I walked in the emergency room my mother was weeping. She was tired. She had been in the E.R. for several hours and hadn’t eaten anything.  She had been fighting the progression of this disease for many years. When I left her hospital room that night, I didn’t make it to the exit sign before the tears began streaming down my face. Chris, who was in the car with our daughter silently rubbed my back and held my hand, as we headed home for the night.

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This was the moment that I decided that I wouldn’t be able to go back to work for a while. I began cleaning my mother’s house twice a week, doing all of her grocery shopping, taking her to all of her appointments, while still trying to keep my own household afloat. The emotional stress, was at times unbearable. I tried daily to keep her spirits lifted and her thoughts positive. Fast forward again to the beginning of October when my mom was set to begin a new treatment. We got to Vanderbilt early, she got her labs done and we went to see her Dr. who recommended one last treatment. The treatment was an experimental Amino Acid Therapy. It was not FDA approved,  it had only a 30% chance success rate, and could possibly damage her liver and kidneys. I was not comfortable with it and asked her many times to reconsider. She wanted to try it. So we went that afternoon for her infusion. 16 hours later I received a frantic call from her. She had passed out face first in her bath tub but managed to get herself out and call me. I was at her doorstep in 12 minutes. I tried to get her in my car but could not get her to stand. I had to call 911. She was taken to Vanderbilt that day and stayed in a medical facility for the next month.

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It was the longest month of my life.

So many tears were shed in that month, happy and sad. I became engaged on October 13th to my very best friend and the father our daughter, Arianna. I was ecstatic because lawd had it been a long time coming…but it was perfectly imperfect and so was our love. Mom’s condition began to decline and by the last day of October we were told that her illness was terminal. She wasn’t conscious for the majority of her last week but there was no way I could get married without my mother present. So on November 3rd I exchanged vows in the Vanderbilt ICU with the love of my life, my beautiful mother, and some of our closest family present. && became Mrs. Cole.

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It was beautiful.

She passed on the morning of November 8th. My heart shattered. I felt cold inside but God knew what he was doing all along. For the first time in my life I was filled with unwavering faith, even in the midst of the greatest loss I’d ever experienced. As much as it hurt, she held on until she knew I was going to be okay and as much as it does hurt…

I am okay.

God had ordained every one of my steps from the start of this year until this very moment. None of those jobs I had applied for in April worked out because I wasn’t supposed to be working. God made it possible for me to not only leave a job that was mentally unhealthy but also made it to where I left that job with a check in hand. I was able to spend my mothers final 5 months by her side…&& when I replay this year in my mind I truly understand what being thankful is. 

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GROWTH

I have grown immensely. After she passed I realized that all the things that amazed me about her, I was becoming. She was without a doubt the strongest person that I’ve ever known. I always admired her ability to get things done, no matter how difficult the task, and would often ask her how?! It seemed so effortless. It seemed like second nature for her to get things handled but now I realize…most of those amazing things I seen her accomplish weren’t necessarily easy…she got it done because she had to. Because she had people counting on her, because she had three daughters to raise. 

So many people have made remarks on my strength throughout this time and as tears well inside my eyes I now understand, that it’s her. It’s always been her. She is the reason I am the woman I am today. She’s the reason I still have faith. She is the reason for my strength. 

LOSS

A year ago, six months ago, or even a couple of months ago, I would have never been able to handle a loss of this magnitude. As my moms condition began to decline it was almost as if she was giving me pieces of herself. && while I still feel as though I have suffered a great loss, I understand that she has won. Her faith in God and her healing has placed her exactly where she needed to be…in the arms of her father, no longer hurting, and eternally restored. 

RESTORATION

From the moment this year started God has been preparing me. In hindsight I can see every phase of his perfect plan and how it ended with restoration for my beautiful mother and myself. I am not the person I began this year as. I am stronger, wiser, and more courageous than I have ever been…but at the same time I am still very much myself. Just a better version.

I have a new lease on life and the ability to start a brand new journey that will be pleasing to both God and my new angel. I want to start each new year with a promise to be the best possible version of myself. I want to make her proud.

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Thank you, mommy. You have given me more than you will ever know. You will always be held on the highest pedestal in my heart. && I will honor your loving memory until my final breath. You now live inside of me, my sisters, and all your grand children. 

Thank you, to my support system. To my husband who has worked ridiculously hard this last several months, so I could take care of my mother. To my best friend and inner circle for constantly praying with and for me. To my family for pulling together to make mommy’s last days as comfortable as possible. 

2018 will be the most amazing year of my life because I have all of you by my side and I have her in my heart.

STAY.GOLDEN.YALL

In loving memory of

Kathy Lee Brooks

Sunrise June 20, 1959 – Sunset November 8, 017