It was my birthday on the weekend, and I couldn't help reminiscing.
Mostly about last year's birthday, in 2009.
We had arrived back home from a family holiday in Samoa the day before.
The holiday had been gorgeous; the best family vacation ever. We all agreed.
As we'd been eating and drinking a lot that week; not to mention enjoying sun, sand and a temporary taste of luxury, I'd told my now ex-hubby not to worry about a present.
I wasn't expecting him 1. To forget my birthday and 2. To not worry about a present. After all, he'd bought his sister one at the resort, and had a tattoo done for himself, and I'd expected, just maybe, a tiny piece of the cheap but gorgeous jewellery I'd admired whenever we went past the shop near the gym. But no. Hey, I'd just had a lovely family holiday, so I wasn't about to complain.
Still. It was a pretty lonely birthday, not least because we were living in another country, and I had no family support and only a couple of friends there.
The previous year, my lovely big sister had arrived (surprise!), and we'd spent a lovely weekend together. Possibly the best birthday ever.
That year, there were no surprise visitors.
The kids had school that day, my Ex had work, while I had a travel story - on Samoa - to write from home. Not exactly party stuff.
Dinner was uneventful, partly cooked by me, and I went to bed early with the kids.
I've been used to grown-up birthdays for a long time now, so shouldn't have felt disappointed, but still I felt, quite empty really.
The following day I took the kids on my own to the Auckland Christmas Parade while my ex fought battles and killed things on his computer.
I should have known then, that something was wrong, because just a few weeks later the marriage and my family and life as I knew it, was over.
I think a tiny part of me already knew it. Which is probably why I cried when I said goodbye to the childrens' teachers on the last school day of the year, not to mention the friendly couple at the corner shop, and our nice building manager. I am pretty sure I already knew that was the last time I would see them, but I just couldn't admit it.
The next day, the kids and I found ourselves on a plane to Australia, even though we'd hoped to do some more sightseeing in and around Auckland first. Yes, it was nice to be coming home to see our families, but it would have been nice to have had a say in it.
It was the Beginning Of The End.
I can't go into details of course, but a lot of my lovely followers are aware of the fact that this year has been the toughest of my life.
I've been lower than I've ever been. I've cried longer and harder than I ever thought possible, and I've seen my inner pain reflected in my eyes.
I've fallen, I've gotten back up again, and I've pulled myself together to hold out my hands to my kids to stop them from falling. But there have been great highs as well.
I've learnt a lot about myself and my life and why I do the things I do. I have forgiven myself for occasionally taking the wrong path, and dammit, I actually like myself!
The kids and I have a stronger bond than ever, and when we are together, we can be happy and just be. There is no tension; no fear of doing something wrong and being punished or put upon. We're a team, a family on our own terms, and we are solid.
I've rediscovered how awesome my family and real friends are. I've been aghast at the fairweather ones, who have stayed as far away as possible; which has made the friendship and support that has come from sometimes unexpected quarters, even more special.
I no longer feel ashamed to admit to battling depression and anxiety. As my psychiatrist says - and yes, I do see one - there would be something wrong if I didn't feel depressed and anxious after the hell I've been through.
Depression and anxiety are a part of me, and like so many illnesses and diseases they can be treated and managed. And they are being being managed fine, thank you very much.
As one always finds with adversity (Blimey, I sound like the Queen here): You either sink, or you swim. And as the late Winston Churchill once said; When you're going through the hell, you bloody well get your head down and get the hell out of there. (I may have just paraphrased him there).
I started the year broken, but by my birthday, I'm stronger and wiser than before. I am fully in touch with my values and my beliefs; which battles I must fight, and which I can choose to let go.
The cracks are still there, but a little emotional superglue works wonders.
And on my birthday, I was overwhelmed by the love and kindness from all my peeps - online, offline, family and friends.
Thank you for making me feel special, not just on my birthday, but every day.
And a super big hug to my kids who are the most amazing humans I've ever met. I love you guys. All the way to the moon and back, and even more than that. You are the best gift a girl could ever ask for.