Closing & Opening, Part 1 – A look back at 2011

(To read part 2, a look ahead to 2012, click here.)

Well, 2011, you’ve been one helluva year, haven’t you? *shakes head*

I still can’t believe this year even happened. So much of my life changed. I feel like one cycle of my life has ended and a new one has begun.

A decade ago, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. Five years ago, it was diagnosed as a permanent condition and I was so sick, I could barely leave my bed and when I could, it was to spend time with the person who was abusing me. I was in a very bad place.

By contrast, I feel like this year has been all about new beginnings. I was accepted into a school I could only dream about a few years ago. I began to talk about what happened 5 years ago with my therapist and heal the wounds from the abuse.

I finally began to let go and move forward.

It hasn’t been an easy year, by any measure. It’s been exhilarating and exciting at times, and terrifying and painful at others. But then, when is change not like that?

So to mindfully close this year, and start the new one with an open heart, I’d like to sum up the Good, the Bad and the Beautiful of 2011.

The Good

Dooood, I lived in France for 6 months! I studied the art that I’ve always dreamed of! My head is so full of knowledge! Wheee!

It was the most transformational 6 months of my life. I’m still trying to find the words to explain how much it changed me.

I proved to myself that I could go off on a grand adventure by myself and not only survive but thrive. I travelled across the ocean by myself and negotiated trains and buses and subways. I had help along the way, but I did it. I know to some people it’s no big deal, but I honestly didn’t believe that I could do it.

The thing about being a kid with a chronic illness is that everyone is very quick to tell you what you can’t do anymore (and you’re hyper aware of it.) I’d forgotten that I’m a competent, level-headed, intelligent human being. I have an IQ in the 98th percentile for heaven’s sake! I’d forgotten that I’m actually a pretty smart cookie at the end of the day.

It felt nice to remember.

I also got to see my family in England again for the first time in 4 years and they finally got to meet my long-time love, Jesse, as well. I am so grateful for that. They’re important to me.

The most important thing about this year though was not only the education I received, but the education that my inner critic got. I gained so much confidence in my work, and now when my inner critic comes out to play, we’re a team. We collaborate on how to make a piece better, or figure out where we went wrong and take mental notes for the future. Less abuse, more usefulness.

I’m pretty down with that.

The Bad

This isn’t actually the bad. This is more like the hard. But “hard” didn’t alliterate as well. ;)

Hard thing #1: Finally starting to talk about what happened 5 years ago. The emotional, psychological and physical trauma. Sharing deep secrets that I’d been holding onto, full of shame, for 5 years. Finally being able to say – yes, that was sexual abuse and it wasn’t right and I got really hurt.

My stomach still drops writing that sentence. There are still the dregs of denial hanging around.

I’m still healing. I’m still feeling my way through the pain and the still-open wounds and fresh scars. I’m still working on forgiving myself. I’m still trying to find my way home to my body. It’s hard. It’s painful.

It’s important work.

Hard thing #2: Piggy-backing on top of all the hard above was my difficult relationship with money. If you’ve read my most recent posts, you’ll know that I’m still working on it. The problem with going for your dreams is that sometimes, your dreams have a bigger price tag than you had expected (both metaphorically and literally.)

Learning to let myself have enough money to live comfortably and follow my dreams is hard for me, and I think it’s difficult for a lot of people. I’m working on healing that and finding some peace in my relationship to money.

I also now have over $12,000 in school debt. Ummm, still making peace with that too.

The Beautiful

Three weeks after I arrived in France, on a warm, early summer evening, I sat in the back garden of our student house and looked out across the trees and the river below and cried and cried and cried.

These were tears from deep within – tears of release, of relief, of gratitude and joy, and of sadness and grief.

I cried for the girl I used to be, who stopped believing that this could happen. I cried for how small she felt, how much she’d let go of. And I cried with happiness, knowing that it had all come true anyways.

The crisis was over. The war was over. I could finally stop fighting, take off my armour, relax and begin to thrive, to grow. To unfurl.

This has been a year of slow unfurling.

I was talking to a friend last night about how my work had changed. She said that it was like Sarah 2.0. She described my work as being almost safe before, and she’s right. I couldn’t tell you how or really explain it, but I was painting in a safe little world. She said that now my work had more pop, more zing! More aliveness!

And I agree. Learning to paint more realistically, for me, was not about being able to slavishly copy nature. It was about gaining a deeper understanding of nature and then being able to infuse my work with life. Because nature is life and the universe and the world around us and I wanted more of that in my work. And gosh dangit, I got it!

My final painting at Studio Escalier © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2011

My final painting at Studio Escalier © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2011

6 hr sketch, © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2011

6 hr sketch, © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2011

Study: Clementine © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2011

Study: Clementine © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2011

Self Portrait © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2011

Self Portrait © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2011

The river in the town I stayed in (Poitou-Charentes Region, France)

The river in the town I stayed in (Poitou-Charentes Region, France)

La Rochelle, France

La Rochelle, France

The town I was staying in

The town I was staying in

Chinon, France

Chinon, France (and my sister who came to visit)


Dear 2011, you’ve been good to me, in a tough-love kind of way. You pushed me out of my comfort zone and set me on the path I’ve been searching for these 5 years past. For that, I am eternally grateful. Thank you for helping me to find what I was looking for.

Sarah xoxo

Got some goodbyes for 2011 that you want to share? I’d love to read them! Be sure to put them in the comments!