The Year That Was

Photo by Matt Grigsby

2017 was by far the worst year of my life. At the end of 2017, I felt completely exhausted, drained both emotionally and spiritually. Over those twelve months, my friend Sandy ended her life (I still feel guilty that I didn’t do more to help her), my friend Michelle was lost in a brutal and heinous crime that made national news, I had to serve on a federal jury in Sacramento (extremely stressful and also in the news) and I came to the sudden realization that my 14 year relationship had been over for quite some time and I didn’t know.  Sometimes things just don’t work out, no matter how hard you try.

That entire year was filled with stressful and impossible events and I spent a lot of time holding my breath, waiting for the next horrible thing to come along and take a swing at me. And along they came, a boxing match I couldn’t leave. I felt completely helpless and at the mercy of things I was woefully unprepared to handle. By New Year’s Eve I knew I was at a crossroads of my life and I had to fix things. HAD TO. I couldn’t spend another year watching and waiting for bad things to happen.  I couldn’t be a spectator.  I couldn’t have panic attacks at the grocery store.

My resolution one year ago was “I am not repeating 2017 again.” I said it again and again, repeated it out loud, like a mantra. “I am not repeating 2017 again, I am not repeating 2017 again.”

And I didn’t.  It was like being granted a wish I was too afraid to ask for.

I got out of that relationship on January 2nd, and I approached my life with a different strategy. I made a commitment to myself to make things better. For the first six months of the year I felt like I was in a daze and I spent a lot of time trying to sort out my feelings and priorities. I said yes to lots of things I normally would have passed on.  The idea of walking into a party solo terrified me (still does), but I sat in the car and took deep breaths and walked in with a big smile and loads of fake confidence.  I tried things differently and asked myself hard questions and I let go of some baggage I had been lugging around.  Sometimes I would lie in bed in the morning wondering how to face the day, and I would think “I am not repeating 2017” and pulled myself up and got going.

There were some really key moments during the year that certain people said exactly the things I needed to hear that changed my thinking and set me free from the past. I can only imagine how much it must have sucked for my family and friends to stand by on the sidelines of my life, watching me get taken down again and again. But they all stood by me and didn’t make me feel shitty for not getting out sooner. I hope I’ve told those people what that meant for me, and how they saved me.  Most of my relationships deepened, and I grew closer to people as I started sorting things out.

In June I found exactly the right therapist at exactly the right time, and she helped me understand my problems and my obstacles in a positive way. One Saturday afternoon I was sitting on the couch thinking about what she had said, and I abruptly got up and drove down to the YMCA and signed up for a three month membership before I could chicken out. Literally just like that.  So I started working out and I pushed hard and I didn’t give up on the days I wanted to just lay down and weep at how sore I was. Now it’s been six months and I still work out six days a week, no matter what.  I got a lot of support and encouragement from my Facebook Tribe when I checked in to the gym each morning, and a great deal of indulgent patience when I talked about my Gym Crushes (no names, of course).  Considering the cheers I got when I could manage two pull-ups, I imagine there will be a parade when I can do twenty.

When the Carr Fire happened in July/August, no one could have been prepared for that absolute horror and how deeply we were all shaken by those events. But let me tell you right now, it was the changes I made in my life this year that helped me get through all that. It didn’t break me, it didn’t make me freeze in place, and it didn’t make me afraid of the future. It made me aware of how much stronger I am than I was. The fire also made me see how tight people can get with each other, and how brave we all can be, which has been inspiration beyond measure.

I wish I could read this post of December 31, 2018 to the Matt of December 31, 2017. I’m so proud he didn’t repeat his 2017, and I’m so proud of the people he has surrounded himself with who enrich his life more than they can know. I was scared to death of the changes I needed to make but I got my shit together, and grew up a lot and even though I fell down A LOT, I didn’t stop. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I can build on what I’ve already done. I’m not dreading 2019, I’m looking forward to new things and more growth and extra hope. And more Gym Crushes.

2018 has been a monster of a year, and in many ways it was far worse for most people than 2017 ever was. But trust me when I say, if you can start off the new year saying “I am not repeating 2018”, you’re one step closer to making sure you don’t. You can’t stop crap from coming at you, but you can stand your ground and handle it.  You can be brave.  I was.  And I am.

Matt Grigsby
Matt Grigsby was born and raised in Redding but has often felt he should have been born in Italy. By day he's a computer analyst toiling for the public good and by night he searches airline websites for great travel deals. His interests include books, movies, prowling thrift shops for treasure and tricking his friends into cooking for him. One day he hopes to complete his quest in finding the best gelato shop in Italy.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

48 Responses

  1. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Oh Matt. What an inspiring story and what an inspiration you are. I’m a fan of all the Younger Next Year books, and one of their seven rules is to work out hard six days a week. You certainly proved that rule. I hope one of your gym crushes or other chance meetings develops into a fulfilling relationship. It’s no wonder Eleanor chose you to be the keeper of the Fire Bird Phoenix. You, too, have risen from the ashes of despair.

    • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

      I haven’t heard of the Younger Next Year books, I might need to check those out. Working out six days a week is definitely a challenge but I don’t ever let myself off the hook and force myself to get to the gym. Even a bad workout is better than none.
      I wouldn’t be opposed to a Gym Crush becoming something more, but if nothing else I’m feeling better than I have in years and I’m in the best shape ever. This has been a Phoenix Rising year for me.
      Thank you for your kind words!

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        The first YNY book was for men but was so popular that the authors wrote one directed toward women. It has much the same information but with a slightly different slant. Next came Thinner This Year then an exercise book, and the latest one concerns the back and spine. All are available on Kindle from Amazon. I reread some of them from time to time for a boost.

        You looked absolutely great at Doni’s donors/bidders get-together; so your gym time is paying off. When I read today’s article, I wanted to take you in my arms and say that everything will be not just OK but so much better in 2019. But I fear that would be the exact platitude that your niece admonished us for in her article of a few days ago.

        • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

          That’s so sweet of you Beverly, and thank you. The good news is, I am such a different person than I was a year ago that I’m looking forward to 2019 with hope and anticipation, something I haven’t had in many years.
          May 2019 be amazing for both of us!

  2. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    I think 2019 will be a great year. To start off tomorrow, the 1st, a first in the nation law will go into effect in California. Pet stores may only sell pets from rescue/pounds and they have to have papers. No more puppy mills. Hopefully the rest of the nation will follow. Utah has lowered the DUI requirement to .05, the lowest in the nation in a much needed effort to combat impaired drivers. Other common sense laws are also being enacted.
    Arizona is now officially a purple state and this should lead to more cooperation in Arizona politics. Still some wing nuts out there but they are losing their base. Governor Ducey stated that despite the shutdown in DC, Arizona is open.
    2019 will be a great year.

    • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

      Politics weren’t really my point here, or my message. I was aiming for the opportunity for change and personal growth and trying to share how I pulled out of a nose dive. Apparently I missed that mark.

      But you do you. If you’re pleased with your political future, have a nut.

      • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

        Mathew, you didn’t miss the mark I missed the interpretation. My future hopes for a great 2019 depends a lot on what happens politically while personal growth has nothing to do with politics, sorry.

      • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

        Matt, you did not miss the mark at all. I think it’s pretty clear to the rest of us that politics had nothing to do with your message. 🙂

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      To Bruce: we are thinking very seriously of leaving our once-beloved California because of the idiocy coming out of Sacramento. I just read an article that corporations are leaving not only because of the high taxes but also because of some Catch-22 laws. I can’t give an exact example, it it’s something like: you must abide by New Law A but it diametrically opposes Old Law B but Old Law B is still on the books and must be obeyed. Then there’s the money pit of the high-speed rail. There must be something in the water in Sacramento that affects gray matter.

  3. Avatar Eleanor Townsend says:

    Dear Matt, Keeper Of The Fire Bird Phoenix, I am so happy to read your article this morning! I have been working out six days a week (except for the eight weeks when I had a broken hand, no push ups or down dogs for me!) and at the very least it brings structure to the days. 2018 has not been an easy year, of course, and I’m facing 2019 with some trepidation for issues that probably aren’t going to go so well, but that I cannot fix (which I prefer to do) so must deal with elsewise (sorry, Google grammar, but it’s my word). You are giving out great vibes today, thank you, and maybe you’ll give us a mid-year update.
    Gonna check out those Younger Next Year books………

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      You’ll enjoy the writing, humor, and great information in the YNY books, Eleanor. Start with Younger Next Year for Women.

    • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

      Good for you for working out so much Eleanor! There are many days when I finish at the gym that I say to myself, “No matter how the rest of the day goes, I accomplished this.” It’s no small feat, and it’s good you took the time off to heal your broken hand.

      I hope 2019 turns out well for you after all, and in a year we will be recounting our victories.

  4. Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

    “And along they came, a boxing match I couldn’t leave. ” Oh, how I get this. You have not just prevailed, you have triumphed, and you continue to do so each day. I’m so proud of you, and will always cheer you on! MWAH!

    • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

      Deb, your cheers have cheered me greatly and I can’t tell you how great it feels to know you’re pulling for me alllllll the way on the other side of the world.


    • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

      Deb, I have become totally hooked on the BBC programs streaming on Netflix. I just finished Shetland and now am watching Hinterland. Coupled with your articles and pictures I need to go to Scotland.

      • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

        I haven’t seen Hinterland, Bruce (will have to look for it!) but Shetland is one of our favorites! Sadly you’ll only hear maybe one actual Shetland accent in it, but it’s still a great series 🙂

        • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

          …and now I need to go check out the Shetland series.

          • Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

            Yes! There have been four seasons and they are pretty good :). Great scenery too – I would love to see Shetland and the other islands one day.

  5. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    I am so proud of you. I would be proud of you no matter what, but this just makes me so happy for you.

    (Fiernze is calling. She needs you!)

    • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

      Thanks Barb! And I can hear my sweet Firenze calling to me from across the sea. I can always hear her, but she’s getting louder. While I’m still not nuts about traveling solo, maybe this is the year I just make that leap.

      • Avatar Janet Stortz says:

        I would be happy to go to Italy or Scotland with you. It could be Marvelous Matt’s enlightening tours.

      • Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

        Oh Matt . . . we all face struggles . . . every day. . . but you so eloquently framed the feelings and situations that stood in your way, that we are all able to apply to our own battles. Thank you for sharing. That must have been an effort and a battle all it’s own. Thank you, you opened up a window and shined light into some of my own battlegrounds. Like a good slap!! I need to say, “Thanks, I needed that!!”
        BTW . ..if you make it back to Italy, check out the island of Ischia just off Naples. Same area as Capri (about15 miles apart), but WAY less “touresty” than Capri. Lots of natural hot spring spas. Just the perfect setting for your spa-ready body!!

  6. Avatar Janet Stortz says:

    I too am so proud of you, I have also enjoyed being your friend and now you have shown more of the amazing depth that gives you that sparkling life force.
    Rock on.

    • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

      I enjoy being your friend too Janet. Your wise words and wicked sense of humor amaze me more and more all the time!

  7. I’m with Barbara: I’m proud of you no matter what, but you’ve taken hold of your life, and yes, as Beverly pointed out, you’ve risen from the ashes stronger than ever.

    And now you demonstrate yet another facet of your new-found courage by allowing ANC to publish your personal year-end story, an inspiration to us all, and the perfect way to show 2018 the door. Take THAT 2018!

    Thank you, my friend. I love you!

    xo d

    • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

      I’ve had the love and support of all the right people this year, including you, and how could I fail?

      2018 can make way for the even-better 2019!

  8. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    Hi Matt, you’re an example of someone that proves it’s never too late to deal with life’s continuing bug-a-boos….life is a hurdle, but somehow with friends, family and that perfect therapist, we make it. The best little Gelato kiosk is in Sacile, Italy. Yum.

    • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

      I certainly did my part to overcome the hurdles, and hopefully there will be fewer of them in the new year!
      I have to test your theory of the best gelato being in Sacile. Where’s my passport??

      • Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

        Just a note: the very best gelato we found in all of Italy (in our rather extensive research . . . ahem) was a little shop called Dimaggio’s. And yes, they proudly claimed to be related to Joe and had a huge poster on their wall. It’s in the little town of Isola de Femmina just south of Palermo. . . Go do some research!!

  9. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    This was a great piece of writing, Matt, and there are people out there who will be helped by it.

  10. Avatar Cathy Stone says:

    Matt, Not many people pay such close attention to the positive stirrings within when it’s so much easier to wallow in the negative. That took courage and determination! Be proud of yourself. Wishing you the best for 2019!

  11. Avatar Eleanor Townsend says:

    Happy New Year, everyone!!

  12. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Thank you Matt. I needed to read an article like this right now. I lost a lot this year. Friends, my home and my pottery studio. I’m now relocated too far from the gym I joined last January, but I need to keep moving and exercising everyday. Thank you for talking about your pain instead of hiding it like we’re supposed to.
    Thank you for this beautifully written piece… Here’s to a great 2019…

    • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

      Joanne you really did have a horrific year, with troubles no one should have to bear. But you’re still here and that isn’t nothing.
      There’s so much that happens in our lives every year, things we never could have anticipated, but after spending all of 2017 being too scared to breathe, I realized that entire year was lost to me. We have precious few to spare and I’m glad I resolved to face my life.
      Here’s to a bright, shiny, beautiful new year filled with great things and a heavy dose of good fortune. You’ve earned it!

  13. Avatar Peggy Elwood says:

    Thanks, Matt, for sharing openly and honestly with us. Always remember. there are a whole lot of folks who care deeply for you..some of whom have never met you!!

  14. Avatar Cathy Allen says:

    Matt, I said it on FB, you are amazing! I love you.

  15. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    ANC is truly a place for love-fests: for Matt after his terrible 2018, for Doni after being betrayed by her ex and best friend, for Deb during her move so that Sem could be closer to a treatment center, for so many who have suffered the tragedies of the Carr and Camp Fires. We may be only screen friends, but I hope that those affected realize that many of us truly care.

    • Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

      It is indeed a community here and I truly care for all those people who share their lives through posts or comments. I’m so proud to be part of things here and Doni has assembled quite the crew!

  16. Avatar Carolyn Dokter says:

    I heartily agree to what my friend Peggy said!

  17. Avatar Carolyn Dokter says:

    P.S.- I lost a 19 yr old grandson this last year, Jared, who chose to end his life. He was loved beyond measure by all of our family, but his depression was unconquerable for him. Sometimes I feel I shall never get over it, let alone life for my dughter.

    • I am so sorry for your loss. Jared’s decision to end his life, despite how much he was loved by so many, only illustrates the insidiousness of depression, and its horrible grip on those who suffer from it. My heart goes out to him, for his pain, and to you and your family as the survivors of his death.

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        Such a tragedy that someone so young was in the clutches of this horrible disease. Our hearts and thoughts are with you and your family, Carolyn.

  18. Avatar Carolyn Dokter says:

    Thank you, Doni and Beverly, for your kind and thoughtful words. It means a lot!