I might not always celebrate the coming of a new year in a special way, but for the last several years, I’ve made a point of reflecting on the past 365 days. Did I learn anything? What did I do well? What could I do better?
The start of this year, in particular, was a more stressful one than I’ve had in years past. On Christmas morning, after opening presents and genuinely enjoying Christmas morning, I went down in the basement to find my sewer backing up through pipes, and rainwater leaking into the basement because of the crazy monsoon we had on Christmas day. We eventually figured out that the problem was a cement sewer pipe built in 1940, so during the first weeks of 2016, we had a crew at the house digging up our driveway and replacing old pipe. *sigh*
On top of that, during the last week of 2015, my youngest sister (25) decided that she wanted to be homeless. She suffers from schizophrenia, stopped taking her meds, and had become delusional. She’d run off with a mentally-ill boy that she met through another group home, and she only told us that she was “happier” sleeping at the mission and being on the streets during the day. We couldn’t reason with her or talk her out of it, but she finally agreed to see my dad and he took her to the ER in Nashville and got her admitted into the inpatient psychiatric facility. We’re not sure where she will be living when she is released, so the entire family is a little stressed as we come up with some sort of plan.
On NYE, I was feeling weighed down by it all. I watched something on tv that stressed me out more, and I had a panic attack. I sat and cried in my husband’s arms, and I fell asleep at 9:30pm. Not exactly the way I had hoped to send out 2015….
But despite my crummy final week of the year, I still maintain that 2015 has been one of the best years of my life. Here’s what I did well, and what I’d like to do better in 2016:
What I Did Well
Learned to feel my intuition. I’m not perfect at listening every time, but I’ve gotten much better at paying attention to what’s going on in my body when I’m faced with a decision about something. I have often made decisions based on what seemed to be the “best” course of action – what made logical, rational sense to me (and to everyone watching). Turns out, some of the decisions I made had very little to do with what I actually wanted. I have learned that when I pay attention to what my soul is saying – often by paying attention to the physical sensations that arise when thinking about the options – I make the best decision. And here’s the kicker: when I follow my intuition, things seems to fall into place beautifully.
Learned to love my body. Some women are able to do this on their own, but as it turns out, I needed someone else to love my body first. My husband loves every inch of my body, and loves the soul that occupies it. I’m not eating much differently, or exercising more than I used to, but I feel better in my skin than I have in the previous 29 years of my life. I still have moments of feeling ugly, or inadequate, but on the whole, I have begun to enjoy the body I live in and it’s a wonderful change.
Stayed present with my children. My children are happy and healthy, but they’ve had big changes in the last year. So many times, I’ve listened as they’ve expressed feelings of fear, frustration, and sadness (along with happiness and excitement) and my first impulse is always to “fix” the feeling. I quickly try to think of what I can do or say to reason with them – an attempt to invalidate their feeling so that it’s not there anymore. Watching my children deal with difficult emotions makes me uncomfortable. So instead of following that first impulse, I’ve made an effort to simply be present with them while they process their feelings. I respond to them by telling them it’s okay to feel that way, that I’ve felt that way too, and the only “fix” I offer is a hug. And you know what? The feeling passes with no effort on my part or theirs.
What I’d Like to Do Better
Have more confidence in my ability to create and succeed. I often feel “stuck” professionally, noticing thoughts that argue I can’t be successful, that I’ll always rely on someone else’s income, and that I’m just a fake who has deceived everyone thus far. This also permeates my drive to write and blog, and holds me back from taking chances. I’d like for 2016 to be different.
How I’m working on it: I’ve joined “The Creating Collective,” led by my good friend and phenomenal life coach, Allison Evans. The collective is filled with women who, like me, feel stuck in their personal and/or professional lives, and want to see some movement in 2016. I’m excited to begin to work towards my goals, give myself permission, and end self-sabotage in such a supportive space.
Accept what I’m given. I have difficulty accepting praise, help, and even love, and I’ll go out on a limb to say that I think there are lots of people who feel the same way. If my husband or children are doing chores, I feel guilty if I’m not doing the same. If someone says I’m pretty, I tell myself they’re just being nice. If someone says I’m a good counselor, I think of all the ways I wish I could do better. Why can I not allow myself to enjoy the compliments, and even more importantly, why can I not allow myself to believe them?
How I’m working on it: One day at a time. I want to say “thank you” when given compliments. I want to enjoy a good book when my husband says he’ll do the dishes. I want to give myself a pat on the back when I know I’ve had a good day at work. All these things seem so simple, but are difficult for me to do on a consistent basis.
Buddhist philosophy teaches that there isn’t such a thing as a “good” year or “bad” year. There are simply events, and then there are our reactions to them. No matter what 2016 may bring, I hope to navigate the ups and downs in a way that is authentic and intentional. I want to live in a more mindful way than I did the year before.
“In each of us, there are wholesome and unwholesome roots – or seeds – in the depths of our consciousness. […] The practice of mindfulness helps us identify all the seeds in our store consciousness and water the ones that are the most wholesome.” – The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh
The seeds of love, compassion, and forgiveness are seeds that I will be watering, for the good of others AND myself.
What seeds will you water in 2016?