The last decade started with empty promises. At a bowl game in Houston, the Sugar Bowl, I think? I really know nothing about football. I just know that his college team was playing and by that point, he was my boyfriend in name only, though I desperately wanted some future that seemed worth fighting for. Despite the suspicion I had become good at ignoring. He was unfaithful. It was something I wouldn’t confirm until a few months after we broke up, but its unspoken presence, well, their unspoken presence, these secret women who held half of my place in our relationship, left me feeling empty and unfulfilled. And so, as that first winter of the decade, or whatever passes for winter in Los Angeles, ended, so did a relationship long past its expiration point.
Los Angeles itself was teetering on wearing out its welcome. I had spent the better part of two decades there. The first one punctuated by everything coming of age that you might do when you turn 18 and leave home - discovery, college and grad school, exploration of a new life away from Texas. It drew to a close with almost two years of living with my sister as adults, kindling a great friendship as peers, surrounded by our community of friends.
The second decade began by tearing Wendy away from me, and her death was the start of a ten-year fight to survive the new world I lived in, the one where I was now an only child. A journey to prove I could be on my own, a time to hang on to every connection we shared, the places we ate together, our favorite beach, even the street where her life was taken.
When it was time to come home, I knew. I was ready for the warmth and safety of family, the promise of a new journey. I didn’t know I was heading into battle. If the 90’s were my decade of discovery and the early 2000’s were my decade of survival, then this past decade has been the fight of my life. I opened and closed a business with a lifelong friend. It was a battle every day, sometimes big, sometimes small. First with contractors and property owners, with banks and vendors – we fought to get the best deals, make our space beautiful, raise enough money. Then we fought competition, we powered on through fear and uncertainty, we even fought with each other sometimes, but we always held on to what was most important, and in the end, despite the closure, I think we won because we came out stronger and smarter and still lifelong friends.
Little did I know that my career challenges would pale in comparison physical war about to be waged. 2012 brought an emergency appendectomy, which was small potatoes next to 2013’s gift of necrotizing fasciitis. 11 surgeries in 3 weeks, almost a month in the hospital, and an all-out fight for my life and my leg, which I got to keep, though it’s now decorated by a 22-inch scar, and will never quite be the same. And that should have been enough, I would think, but 2017 had to show off with a breast cancer diagnosis. A double mastectomy and two reconstructions later, I am now a collection of scars. But I am proud of them. Reminders of battles fought and won. There are scars on the inside too. An emotionally abusive relationship cut some pretty deep wounds and as the decade was winding down, I was tired of fighting. Enough already. And suddenly I didn’t have to, at least not alone. I met someone, quite by chance, who without warning, joined my little army. He is the opposite of everything that marked other relationships. Where there was fighting and yelling, there is now calm, not to mention rational, conversation. Where there was dishonesty, there is nothing but heartfelt truth. And when I have to fight through something, we fight through it together.
The end of the decade brought with it what I like to call the year of celebration. And I’m not gonna lie, I feel like I’ve earned it. Engagement, wedding, honeymoon to end all honeymoons. A Christmas filled with both his family and mine. A blowout New Year’s Eve spent dancing in the glow of a giant Christmas tree, surrounded by beautiful, beloved friends. And this year, on New Year’s Day, I spent it with my husband and our three dogs, doing nothing, but doing it together, as fulfilled as one human can possibly be. And this new decade is full of nothing but promise.