What A Year Has Taught Me

The last photo of us together taken July 31, 2010

It has been a year since my life took an unexpected turn. Since the man I thought would love me forever said those words, ”I don’t want to be in a relationship.” I’ll never forget that moment. I didn’t believe him. Honestly, I still don’t. But he seemed pretty convinced. He took me to the airport, gave me a hug and never looked back. I walked away with my head held high. I was determined to be strong…I wouldn’t let him see me cry. But as soon as I went down the escalator to security, the tears started to flow. Other than two brief email exchanges, we haven’t spoken since. I have missed him every day.

I told myself I would give it six months. Six months to hurt and to heal. But six months came and went and still the pain persisted. Apparently you can’t put a time limit on moving on. You just have to live your life and follow where the pain leads you. A lot has happened in the last year. It struck me recently as I realized Labor Day weekend would mark the anniversary of that time in my life, that I have learned so much over the last 365 days. It has not been easy. But it hasn’t been all bad either.

I have often thought about what I would want him to know. What I would say if I had that opportunity. So here is what I would tell him; what the last year has taught me about life, love and being myself.

  • No matter how painful the loss, or how fearful you are of that pain, love is always worth the risk. ALWAYS. Even in my darkest hour, and there have been many, I never had regrets. Before our relationship, I had never experienced such a deep knowing, a sense that we were meant to be together. And that everything we’d experienced in our lives had led us to each other. As difficult as this has been, I would do it all over again, given the chance at that kind of love.
  • Loving you gave me a kind of courage I’d never known before. I’m not saying there wasn’t fear and trepidation. You know how many times I ‘pumped the brakes’. It’s just that loving and being loved so deeply, helped me push past my fear. The decision to move away from my friends, my family and the only life I’d every known was huge for me. But it paled in comparison to the thought of living without you. And as a result, I don’t have that same fear of moving now. In fact, the thought of it excites me more than anything. I look forward to the adventure someday.
  • I learned to step outside my comfort zone and take a new job even though I’d been with the same company for more than 11 years. After you broke up with me I kept thinking, “Why would you walk away? Don’t you realize life is short and you have to live it right now?” And then it hit me! I was doing the same thing with my job. Playing it safe. Doing something I really didn’t like, but not leaving because I was afraid it wouldn’t work out. So, I took a leap of faith, got a new job in a completely different industry, have met some terrific people and learned so much about myself in the process.
  • I realized I wasn’t spending my time doing the things I truly love and that make my heart sing. I had wanted to write a blog for a long time. I really enjoy writing. There’s just something about conveying my thoughts and feelings through words that amazes me even as I’m doing it. So I started blogging and have been jotting down ideas for a book. I am also working toward getting training to become a life coach. I look at my life and the choices I make now more in terms of how I really want to spend my time and what’s really important to me.
  • I’m stronger than I realized. When I left that day I had no idea we wouldn’t see each other or talk again. I really still thought it would all work out. Ever the optimist. But it hasn’t worked out the way I thought and dealing with that loss has been a day by day experience. I have felt the feelings as they come, but I don’t let them consume me. If I can get through the pain of losing you, and come out with more peace and clarity of purpose on the other side, I can get through anything.  There have definitely been some dark times. Some moments where I didn’t know if I could keep going. But I did. And I do.
  • I learned what it feels like to love deeply and truly…without limits. I loved you to the depths of my soul. Until you, I had never loved anyone that unconditionally other than my children. I had hoped it was possible, but I had never experienced it. Now I know that deep, “I will love you until the end of time” kind of love does exist for me. And it doesn’t go away just because you’re not with that person. Love that deep and true spans time, distance and circumstances. I would never settle for anything less again.
  • I learned I don’t have to try so hard; that I’m fine the way I am. I like that I’m introspective, love to read and figure things out. I’m not a morning person or a neat freak and that’s okay. Better than okay. It’s who I am and I wouldn’t change it. I’m neurotic, I worry too much, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I can’t take a hint or read between the lines. I think a lot and often over-analyze things. This is who I am…I make no excuses. There really is beauty in imperfection. I didn’t believe it at first, but I’ve come to realize it’s true.
  • I learned I needed to be alone, to not have someone to ‘take care of’ right now. Because it allowed me to see what I really want my life to look like. As painful as this has been, I needed to figure it out on my own. Oddly, I am grateful for the pain. It has been a doorway to finding my purpose in life. You gave me a great gift by walking away. And though it wasn’t what I would’ve chosen, and I still miss you so much, I don’t believe I would’ve discovered these things about myself in any other way.
  • I was reminded how much I enjoy cooking. Cooking feels like something I do for the people I love. It makes me feel like family. After 15 years of having to cook for someone who didn’t appreciate it when I was married, I had forgotten how much pleasure there is in cooking just for the joy of it. This last year I’ve spent more time in the kitchen, trying new recipes and spending time around the dinner table with friends and family. And you were right. Life really is easier with a good skillet. I am reminded of that every time I use the one you bought me.
  • I learned you can love someone even though their actions have caused you pain. It’s true you don’t have to feel things so acutely when you put up that wall of anger and blame and play the victim. But it doesn’t make things easier. The pain is still there. You can love someone for the person you know them to be; underneath their fear, shame and nagging sense of unworthiness. I understand those feelings. Because I fight my own battles with those very same things. It gives me compassion. You can love someone and not be with them.
  • I realized that life is good right here, right now. No matter what is going on I always have something to be grateful for. When I say something funny and Kyle actually laughs. When a friend calls for a spur of the moment barbeque. When I find myself in a great conversation or enjoying a lazy afternoon. When I make time for a walk outside in the middle of the work day. I’m living my life more in each moment than in the future or the past. I hope you know what that’s like.

Even though we’re not together, I am grateful for the time we had. I will always cherish those memories. Loving you has taught me so much about myself. I got to see the things that still need work, like communication and feeling not good enough. And the things I’m proud of, like how much I care about people and how deeply I am capable of loving. And all the things in between that are often less than perfect, but make up the incredible imperfect me. Loving you made me want to be a better person. Not just for you or for us, but for me.

I hope you have learned something this last year too…about yourself, about life, about love. That you realize with all your strengths and all your faults, you are worthy of love. You are sweet, kind, dorky, stubborn, opinionated, loving, funny, smart, messy, strong, fearful, open, withdrawn, introspective, protective, negative, handy, and so much more. You can be both the sweetest man and the biggest pain in the ass. But I hope you realize, as I have, that there’s nothing wrong with you. I still have my fears and insecurities…my feelings of not good enough. That’s just part of being human. But I learned, through this experience, I still deserve to be loved. I hope you learned that too.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Keri Rousey
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 13:28:46

    Shannon you have moved me beyond words! You are so worthy and if I ever get home again I hope we can reconnect. We weren’t close in high school, but I think we would be now. It doesn’t take another to be the happiest you. I am lucky but i too have learned that lesson. Enjoy to the fullest, life is short and there are absolutely no guarantees. xx


    • Shannon McDonough
      Sep 05, 2011 @ 19:58:57

      Keri…thank you so much for your kind words. It means so much to me to hear my words have touched you. High school was a lifetime ago and we are all different now 😉 Let’s stay in touch. Much love to you!


  2. Deb Dow
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 13:35:35

    I will be patiently waiting for your book (okay maybe not patiently because I have very little, LOL). And… “training to become a life coach”, girlfriend your words of wisdom are truly AMAZING! Which comes from the FACT, they are YOU! Go for it now! I miss you, I thank you for sharing your life, I too express myself best through written words, as when I try to be vocal my emotions always get the best of me, whether they are angry, sad, frustrated, happy etc. Your blogging has given me an incentive to possibly do the same! =)
    It’s true that we went our separate ways after Columbia Crest but never have I forgotten the friendship we created. I’d love for us to take a day to go do “girlie” things…especially catch-up and talk talk talk! =)
    Love ya’ bunches,
    Friends always,
    Deb Dow (Chambers)


    • Shannon McDonough
      Sep 05, 2011 @ 20:03:55

      I’m going to tell you the same thing you told me…Go For It!! If you love to write, then you must. Someone out there is waiting for the things you need to share with the world so don’t hold back. Thank you for all you said…you are so sweet 🙂

      Let’s plan a time to get together. Though I’m thinking it would take more than a day to get caught up after al these years…LOL! It would be fun to see you and hear what’s going on in your life.

      Much love,


  3. Linda Jacques-Smith
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 15:37:16

    Shannon – this has got to be one of the most moving and introspective pieces I have read in forever. You have a gift young lady – and it’s great to see that you are healing and moving forward. Cannot wait to see your name on the best seller list. Then I can say – look at her – she’s my niece and I’m so-o o proud of her.

    Love ya,
    Aunt Linda


  4. Beth
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 09:49:36

    You are a very special person, Shannon. I know that you will find that person someday because you deserve it. I really respect the way you put yourself out there with your blog. You are a very brave woman! Cheers, my friend. 🙂


    • Shannon McDonough
      Sep 06, 2011 @ 10:32:46

      Thank you Beth! I know I have experienced a kind of love some people only dream about. I am hopeful I’ll find love like that again, but if I don’t I’m grateful for that time in my life. It showed me what’s possible 🙂


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