December 30, 2015

2015. What a Struggly Year.

It has largely been a shitty year. Not just for me. For some reason 2015 seemed really hard for a lot of people. There's a general consensus among my friends, that they too had a tough time. It was struggly. And whether we were just "due" or a planet/star/force field got way too close to us for too long and made our brains all squirrely, I'm sure glad it's over.

The plus side to 2015 being generally obtuse, is that everyone seems to have a brighter than normal hope for the year to come. 2016 has to be great - or at least better than 2015 - and that in itself feels amazing! It's like we've just become brave enough to poke our heads out from the dark holes we've been hiding in for the last few months - afraid to make a move for a new level of karmic punishment - and optimistically look around. We're recognizing how tough this year has been for our friends, family and community. We see their fear, stress and hardship and recognize it as our own.

In all the struggly though, I learned a few things this year that I'll carry with me into the next.

1. Stop dismissing your feelings. 
A friend of mine had a particularly bad day. Her feels were all over the place. She was stressed and overwhelmed. But in the middle of explaining her feelings, she said but then I saw someone who was having a worse day and it put it all in perspective. She forced herself to perk up on the spot. She grinned with clenched teeth.

Ok. Seriously. Can we stop this? There is always going to be someone having a worse day, a better day. There will always be someone doing more than you, succeeding faster than you, being skinnier than you, having a harder time than you .... We need to stop dismissing everything in our lives and downplaying everything. Not recognizing our feelings no matter how they rate on the global impact scale leads us to dismiss ourselves and how we respond and grow to things. It breeds beige into our lives, our stories. It stops us from feeling, expressing and creating intimacy with our friends and family.

2. It's ok to say, I'm done. 
Ok, nothing new here. Everyone parenting blog has an article about putting yourself first so that you can take care of other people. But what I've learned this year is that you don't have to pretend to have more to give when you don't. It's ok to say, I need a break, I need something for myself, I need time, I need space. It's ok to reset boundaries with friends, family and colleagues. For me, I need to recognize this point before it goes beyond breaking ... to see it coming and plan for the R&R I need before I become a total basket case.

3. Sometimes when you have nothing left to give, that's exactly when you should focus on someone else. 
Earlier this year I was having a wee bit of a meltdown. It lasted 3 months. It was scary and was largely due to stress, recurring adrenal fatigue, lack of sleep and more stress. All of it self-induced. All of it mis-managed. I enlisted the help of several experts to help me get a plan together - my doctor, nutritionist, acupuncturist, personal trainer - they all worked together to help me get out of my own way. And with a plan in place we had our course of action.

The funny thing is though, at a time when I could barely get my bearings, it was the perfect time to help another friend who was also having a struggly year. Giving to her what I was struggling to give to myself - support, kindness, an ear, love - not only reminded me of what I needed to do for myself, but fed my soul and reminded me that underneath everything that I was going through I was still ... me. A generally good person, with a kind heart, who was just having a tough year. And that it was the former, not the latter that defined me as a person.

4. I have long been over FOMO, but it took me until this year to actually be ok with it. 
I have a theory that you only get so many years to party each decade of your life. And I used up all of mine for the last two decades in my early twenties! I am 100% happy at home with Netflix, a glass of wine, a good book and the ability to get up early on a Saturday so that I can read the paper, have a coffee and go to the gym without feeling the effects of a late night. FOMO has not impacted me since I was 27. At least, not enough to actually make me leave the couch.

But it wasn't until this year that I realized I needed to stop hiding behind excuses and just own up to the fact that, as one friend put it "you turn into a pumpkin at 11." It's true. And if everyone else already knew this, then why was I constantly trying to dream up reasons for not wanting to go bar hopping. Friends, please don't ever stop telling me your plans, one day I may say I'd like to join you. I will continue to ask you to join me at the gym, the opera, an art gallery, or to brunch. Because even though some of you hate "brunching" or prefer to lounge on a weekend morning, there's always a happy compromise of lunch and day-drinking where we can both happily coexist. What I do promise, is that I'll just own up to it instead of insulting you with weird excuses you can see coming a mile away. (ps. I love and thank you for putting up with that neuroses)

5. Letting go of dreams you don't want anymore can be harder than holding onto the ones you do.
Singer Bif Naked wrote a great piece for the Globe and Mail in which she described the benefits of unclenching - the jaw, the mind. I think about it often.

For me, unclenching has been a process of releasing the death-grip I've had on specific goals and expectations I've had for what my life should look like. Much of it defined in my teens and not really considered or revised over the last twenty years. This last year though hard, has forced me to open the fingers on that tight fist and let go of some things that I don't actually want in my life ... and be ok with it. A forced hand if you will, but one that let me create more space in my life for other things. New goals, new dreams. Fresh perspective.


So friends, this struggly year is over. I commend all of you if 2015 was a year of barely keeping your head above water. I applaud all of you for just putting your head down and getting through it.

And I thank all of you who put up with my own struggly-ness. Because I think I've grown because of it, and largely because of you. 2016 is going to be great! xo

December 7, 2015

December 4, 2015

December 1, 2015