2017: A (Wild) Year in Review
It’s year-in-review time on the blogosphere! Here’s the moment where we’re supposed to do all those sum-it-up, look-back, or predict-the-future posts. Most talked-about moments of 2017. Favorite products of the year. Top trends forecasted for 2018.
As always, I want to take things deeper. If I have taken anything from my tumultuous 2017, let me learn something significant from it. And perhaps share that learning with you.
Or as Instagram so succinctly put it:
2017: Thank you for the lessons.
2018: Let’s do this.
I hope this inspires you to do your own review of sorts. I didn’t do anything fancy, just a mental stock-taking that I drew from a chronological (or perhaps reverse chronological) page-flip of my year. Tim Ferriss also recommends an 80/20 analysis of your year, in which you assess the 20% of things, people, experiences etc. that produced 80% of your joy, or pain. I’m definitely journaling on that topic too.
I’ve summed my top 10 here. Read on for my look back:
- The universe delivers painful things in order to spur change.
- You teach with your presence.
- Change/growth can be VERY uncomfortable. That’s OK.
- Life should have ease.
- Be unapologetic - firm but kind - in sticking to my truths and setting my boundaries; learn the phrase “That’s not ok with me.”
- Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.
- My environment matters a lot.
- Joy begets joy/follow the fun!!
- Change the negative scripts. Get in touch with the FEELING of what the things I want to manifest feel like.
1. The universe delivers painful things in order to spur change.
This time last year, I was frankly just emerging from a number of months of emotional trauma and grief. I also emerged from the doctor’s office with a portrait of ill health and exhaustion that had no better diagnosis than: lifestyle problem. Faced with daily digestive distress and debilitating fatigue, I was getting a pretty clear message: quit your job and change your life.
(If you’ve been following along, you’ll know I did pretty much that.)
Far from easy, this painful lesson from the universe was also a huge opportunity, and one that it still very much unfolding in my life. If you’ve experienced any kind of significant loss, health crisis, etc. you may recognize this refrain. Sometimes the best things arise from the hardest things.
Attributed to the Buddha: “Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.”
My takeaway? Lean into that. Don’t fear it.
2. You teach with your presence.
This is borrowed from Gabby Bernstein, and I like it because it so simply echoes one of my biggest takeaways from my time teaching. While I may not be returning to my classroom of middle schoolers, I don’t regret my time with my students at all. I may have regrets about the 4:45am daily alarms, and the microwaved slammed-down lunches at 11am, 10+ hour days, and the 12+ hours I spent in the car every week. (You know what? I don’t really regret the last one. I listened to some life-changing books in those hundreds of hours… But I wouldn’t choose a commute again.)
But the connection with my students taught me this: it isn’t so much the concrete things you teach people that matter (although those are all very good and important). You teach with your presence… with your love and non-judgement and joy and patience and vulnerability and authenticity. It is how we are with others, how we connect meaningfully with others, that truly matters.
And when I feel like a “failure” for leaving my career or for not having accomplished more “impressive” success up to this point in my life, that is what I remind myself. Because I succeeded tremendously there.
3. Change/growth can be VERY uncomfortable. That’s OK.
Over numerous major transitions this year, I learned this. And I learned it through tears, honestly. Leaving my home of five years, and some of my closest friends; not having a home base; temporarily moving in with my parents; packing, unpacking, repacking, living out of a suitcase; crying in therapy; searching for a place to live by myself 3000 miles from home. It was anything but comfortable. And I’m sure it will continue to be, at times.
But I’m becoming more of an expert at sitting with the feeling of discomfort.
Here is what I learned, in the words of the inimitable Seth Godin: Change creates a feeling you are not the expert (i.e. incompetent). If you don’t like the feeling of incompetence, you will fight the feeling of change. Getting comfortable with the feeling of being incompetent is one of the most important things you can do. (Nailed it, Seth.)
Or as Pema Chödrön so beautifully puts it: “Let the hard things in life break you. Let them affect you. Let them change you. Let these hard moments inform you. Let them be your teacher. The experiences of your life are trying to tell you something about yourself. Don’t cop out on that. Don’t run away and hide under your covers.”
Frankly if you do not have a burning desire for growth that exceeds your aversion to discomfort, the change will not come.
4. Life should have ease.
It seems an oxymoron next to the previous one, but I don’t think it actually is. Facing fear and learning to sit with emotional discomfort are different than living without a sense of physical rest & relaxation, taking care of yourself, and feeling flow.
I’m not going to overcomplicate this one. I believe this so purely, but I have not been succeeding at living it. This July, after I quit my job and started my “grand adventure” with a month-long Ayurvedic retreat, I put one word down on a piece of paper in watercolor: ease. I have been carrying that paper with me. And I have gained a lot of conviction about the necessity of ease in whatever I choose to do. Not that every moment or every day always feels easy (um, see above!). But if the underlying feeling in doing something isn’t ease? No can do.
5. Be unapologetic - firm but kind - in sticking to my truths and setting my boundaries; learn the phrase “That’s not ok with me.”
The trouble with the Universe is that she’s a persistent little bugger. She doesn’t just give you one test to learn your lessons; she keeps coming back over and over to make sure you’ve really got it.
The thing is, my intuition always knows what is best for me. Sometimes I hedge and get all cave-y and compromising because my brain gets in the way, or I don’t want to displease people, or I’m out of touch with my strength and my backbone.
This is one of those lessons I think I know, but then I’m reminded that I still need to really live it.
6. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.
I don’t know why this is so hard for me. But I know it is for a lot of people too.
We put a lot of pressure and expectation on ourselves. We are mostly nowhere near as kind to ourselves as we are to others. For some perfectionist, perfect-child, people-pleasing reason, I still think that I have to have everything together and do it all myself.
But major change rarely occurs without the help and support of others. Internalize that it’s ok to: Need a therapist. Fall apart. Admit it’s hard. Ask your family, spouse, friends, teachers for help. It does not make you a failure. (Got that, Jessica??)
7. My environment matters a lot.
I really want to be able to tell you that happiness comes completely from within, that no matter where you are or what is happening, pure joy is accessible inside yourself. And that is probably true.
But there is an addendum for myself, possibly.
My environment does matter a lot — in the ease with which I can access that clarity, flow, positivity, energy, and joy inside me. There are places where I feel a much more lively connection to “kindred spirits” around me. There are places where the sun and the temperature and the ocean and the terrain all serve to lighten my being, give me easier access to my state of “flow.” Then there are places that draw me too much toward my tendencies of introversion, and I feel isolated and like a lethargic hibernating bear.
Not that these exteriors are an absolute barrier to one’s state of being. But right now, for myself, I feel part of my work is to: “Go where you feel most alive.”
8. Joy begets joy/follow the fun!!
As if I didn’t know this about myself already (geez), 2017 has reminded me repeatedly that my brain has a TERRIFIC tenacity in finding things to grab onto and worry about. I won’t bore you with the nature/nurture details of how or why I am that way. But I will say that I have realized this year that it is possible to change that patterning. And I am good and ready.
Here is my mantra: follow the fun!
The old, wise adage says, we can’t change others’ behavior or the exterior circumstances. We can only change our response.
And so when I notice myself start to glom on to something to worry about (or feel negative about)… I notice/don’t judge… and then I work to replace the narrative. There is always some kernel of good. As Gabby Bernstein so beautifully puts it, you have to stop the momentum of the negative thinking, the “out of alignment.” So you find SOMETHING joyful to focus on, and you milk that.
It’s as though with repeated practice, I might actually be able to force a more frequent feeling of joy, and ease up on my worry. Because what you focus on grows. And I have really appreciated the manifesting work I’ve encountered, because I do believe that joy begets more joy, and misery begets more misery. You call into your life more of what you cultivate. And most importantly, that is not totally out of your control. I am learning to change that worrisome thought patterning to something more positive. And I have even become intentional about what messages I’m letting in from others (or the news!). If I’m trying to change my own scripts, the outside ones that fuel the old, negative scripts need to go too. Because what is worry except a negative expenditure of energy over something that hasn’t actually happened? I don’t want to live like that anymore.
9. Change the negative scripts. Get in touch with the FEELING of what the things I want to manifest feel like.
I’ve had a couple of breakthroughs in the last couple of months. Maybe it’s that I’ve been sequestered in the middle of nowhere, alone with my own company, and that I’ve been doing lots and lots of meditating. Maybe it was the adventures (scary, lots of work and cost) to prepare for my move and next big life chapter. I’ve been writing monthly intentions, and getting in touch with some of the limitations I’ve had on rotation in my subconscious. I’ve been getting acquainted with some of the work on manifesting, in the vein of Abraham Hicks, via Gabby Bernstein and others.
Here was the palm-to-forehead, lightbulb-illumination moment: laser focus on the feeling of what my desires feel like, not so much as the nitty-gritty details of the desire, or how to get there. What does prosperity feel like to me? What does being with my partner feel like? What does my perfect home feel like? You can bet I got busy with my journaling. It felt very significant to get clear on this for myself, to write it down, to read it aloud to myself. I keep coming back to it, so I am continually sitting with those important feelings. Sometimes I read it again after meditation. And the thing is, it feels pretty amazing at 35 years old to finally get clear on what having those desires feels like, that I have previously wanted in some hazy, can’t-quite-admit-it-even-to-myself way. In that process, I discovered some pretty important things about what I want in my life — and, notably, how absent some of those particular feelings have been in my work and relationships. In 2018, I feel mightily ready - and worthy of - making those things reality.
Which brings me to perhaps my word of the year…
I have done affirmations before. I think it’s great to get specific about what you want and send it out into the Universe. But here’s what I did: I put out there what I wanted. I even wrote it out and posted it on the refrigerator. But honestly? I didn’t really believe that it could happen, or that I deserved it.
The desires made me uncomfortable to admit, even to myself.
I have been selling myself short. I have been engineering staying small in my work, or the jobs I applied for. I have sought to “solve” some sort of lack in myself by (over) attaching in relationships, or hoping for the right one to solve the things in my life I didn’t like. I have been sending myself the message that I hate money and never have enough.
The core of that problem? Worthiness.
That is what I am leaving behind with the last whiff of 2017 — any sense that I am not worthy of or capable of: Prosperity. Living with ease. Creating my own business. Unabashed joy and love. The highest caliber people in my life. A relationship where I am deserving, and deserved. Power… not over others or how my ego is perceived, but a sense of relaxation and agency, rather than powerlessness and anxiety.
This sense of deep worthiness is what I am birthing for 2018. I welcome the infinite possibility of what the Universe may unfold when I really feel worthy of incredible things. I am so grateful for all the tumult of 2017 (and before) for leading me here. I am grateful for my tenacious desire for growth. I am ready to own that feeling of worthiness, to get so clear in its belief and feeling, that I call into my life a perfect exterior mirror of that limitless interior.
I wish for you deep reflection at year’s end, clarity in your desires, peace with where you are, and the courage to keep flying forward to greater fullness. You deserve the very best. Let’s do this, 2018.
Image: vintage Victorian postcard, circa 1917