What I Learned From 2019

Happy New Year!

A couple of weeks into 2020 and I'm feeling great. I spent the end of the 2010s and the start of the 2020s in Australia, on a road trip along Great Ocean Road. New Years Eve and New Years Day we were at the famous 12 Apostles. The experience was beyond my wildest dreams, but the ups and downs of those few days embody the last decade so thoroughly it makes me giggle.

Keep your eyes peeled for some reflections on the previous decade coming soon (she was a doozy). In the meantime, in no particular order, here are some things I learned in 2019:

1) Fitting in and belonging are not the same. Belonging happens when you don't need you to change who you are, you just get to be who you are. "Fitting in" gets in the way of that.

2) I don't believe that everything happens for a reason. Sure, some things happen for a reason, but certainly not "everything." That's a mantra we often repeat without considering its meaning, particularly when someone we care about is drowning in immense pain. But, the way I see it, every moment (good and bad), everything you choose to do or not do, and even everything that happens to you without your say, is all part of the journey. It leads you to the place you are now, and will lead you to the place that you will be later. Maybe there's no rhyme or reason that your child died or your marriage ended or you mother doesn't recognize you anymore. But it's still part of your journey. Everything got you here. Everything will get you where you're going.

3) Your parents are people with unresolved trauma, too.

4) Whatever gets done or doesn't get done, whatever good deeds I do or mistakes I make, I am worthy. I am enough.

5) ^ even when I struggle to believe it, I'm still enough.

6) Ask for help. The world is not divided into two groups, those who help and those who receive help. We're all both. "When we attach judgement to receiving help, we attach judgement to giving help." (Dr. Brene Brown)

7) True friendship allows for a certain amount of ghosting to go unnoticed 😉

8) A healed person understands that the behaviour and actions of others have nothing to do with them. A non-healed person is slighted by everyone.

9) ^ I can be found somewhere in the middle of these extremes.

10) Healing is exhausting.

11) When you hit a wall, find a new way. Be it in relationships, at work, when playing charades, or when trying to communicate in a foreign country. If what you're doing isn't working, try something else.

12) Anyone can fall in love. It's the holding on bit that's the tricky part.

13) Commitment is a choice you make when things are good but especially when things are bad.

14) People really can change...if you're self-motivated and you work on it. It's not for someone else or about someone else, but if you're lucky, it can be with someone else.

15) Living with compassion requires boundaries. The root of compassion is acceptance, but it's hard to accept people taking advantage of or hurting us. Setting boundaries and holding people accountable for their behaviour allows us to be more compassionate without building resentment, without blowing up. Kinder but firmer.

16) Communication goes a long way. Simply saying, "I'm feeling grumpy right now" can sometimes be enough to nip an argument in the bud.

17) There's a difference between a reaction and a response. Reactions are involuntary. Responses are choices.

18) The best way to manage emotions like anger over your past or entitlement that you weren't dealt better cards at life is to just feel them. Accept the emotion but don't linger. Avoid overthinking, and try not to attach judgement. The best way out is directly through.

19) ^when you do this successfully, will these feelings disappear forever? Fuck no. But you'll get through today. And you'll get through it the next time it happens, too.

20) When I was 11 years old, my teacher suggested I could make use of a free tutoring service the school offered by pairing elementary students with students from a nearby high school. I needed some extra help with spelling. My family placed a lot of value on academia and on "natural abilities," so the reaction to my needing extra help was...less than ideal. The look on my dad's face said it all. "The world has cursed me with this imbecile of a child."

I insisted I did not need this tutor (I did). I closed myself off and refused to benefit from her help, letting my mind wander when she talked and making zero attempts to take in what she said. I was steadfast in my belief that I already knew what I was doing. I mean, I had to be. Anything less than perfection was unworthy of love and acceptance and dear lord did I ever need to be worthy! So I ignored the facts and soldiered on.

A word I distinctly remember my poor tutor trying to help me learn to spell was disappear. To this day, I still can't spell the damn word without spellcheck. Like, literally, in the above paragraph, I spelled it "dissappear."

So...I have just accepted that I need to get over this. I did need a tutor and that didn't make me unworthy. I will try to remember how she broke it down: "dis-ap-pear."

Thank you, spelling tutor, for trying your best to help that hurting little girl ❤️

21) I refuse to dismiss what I feel, and I refuse to become what I feel.

22) Check your motivations. Ask yourself what's at the root of what you're feeling.

23) It's possible to do something, to behave a certain way and be conscious in that exact moment that you don't like what you're doing.

24) Hustle for your life, hustle for your dreams, hustle to achieve whatever it is that you want to achieve. Do not ever hustle for your worthiness.

25) ^ever.

26) If you gossip about others, others will gossip about you.

26b) ^tbh, people will probably gossip about you anyway, but I don't want to be that person.

26c) ^sometimes I suck at not being that person.

27) Life is a series of choices you make each day. The choices you make matter so much.

28) "Individuals who experience what might be thought of as a martyr attitude see themselves as giving all they have to others. They see this as a form of loving, but in truth the love that they give is contaminated, because it is so filled with sorrow for themselves. A sense of guilt and powerlessness clouds the energy from their hearts, and so when their affection is felt by another, it does not feel good. It feels somehow thick with need, a need that is never articulated so their love feels like cement pulling you." (Gary Zuchov)

29) Sometimes your loved ones have love to give. Sometimes they don't. Replenish your own cup.

30) Everyone is doing the best they can.

31) Not all problems can be resolved in a single conversation. Actually, most real problems can't. You don't need to say everything on your mind as soon as it occurs to you. Solutions are rarely clear right away. Life requires a certain amount of impulse control.

32) Tradition: peer pressure from dead people.

33) Your "best" is relative. It changes from day to day, year to year. Whatever your best is today, do that.

34) ^but. Missing the mark on what makes your best still doesn't make you unworthy.

35) Anyone can change if they want to. Once you name the behaviour you want to change, there are three simple steps. Step 1: recognize when you've behaved undesirably after it's over and try to make amends. Leave your ego, shame and blame at the door. Step 2: catch yourself in the midst of the behaviour you want to change. Learn to stop it in the moment, and try to make amends right away. Again, no room for ego, shame or blame. Step 3: catch your reactions before they become responses. So that means understanding your feelings, and separating how you feel from how you act, so you end up not doing the undesirable thing.

Of course it's not a, "Step1-2-3 and you're done!" kind of thing. It doesn't happen that quickly and it's not always linear. You might find yourself repeating Step 1 a lot before your first ever Step 2. It could look something like: 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 1, 3, 2, 3, 3, 2, 3, 1, 3, 3, 3 and so on and so forth. As it is with most worthwhile tasks in life, changing your behaviour may be simple, but by no means is it easy.

36) Throw your own parade.

Disclaimer: I don't believe there's a "one size fits all" way to heal or live our lives. Some of my thoughts may work for you and other things I say may not. How great is it that we can disagree and our minds don't implode?

For the last 7 years, I've been sharing my mental health journey. What I do works for me (mostly), but I don't think my way is the only way. Maybe what I write resonates with you, maybe you disagree with me vehemently, but in so doing, you might be inspired to create your own ideas and theories on the best way to live and improve your own life. Great! Maybe also none of that happens. That's fine, too. Everything is part of it 😉

Many of the above are personal observations and revelations, things that rang true for me specifically in 2019, but also mountains I've been climbing for years (and some my whole life). Some of the above are ideas inspired by or even directly lifted from authors I've read this year. I highly recommend anything by Dr. Brene Brown, but if you're new to reading her work, I'd start with The Gifts of Imperfection. I also gained a great deal from The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zuchov, but unlike the work by Dr. Brown, I wouldn't recommend this book as strongly to as many people. Where Brown is a researcher with data to back up her points, Zuchov's beliefs are discussed as if they are facts. Unless you're a firm believer in souls, karma, and reincarnation, I would take the advice in Seat (I think a lot of it is great advice, even if I did eye-roll a lot) with a grain of salt.

Of course, I will forever be an advocate for therapy. If you want to explore this path in 2020, I fully support your decision! If you can't find the time or budget for traditional therapy, here are 5 Online Alternatives to Traditional Therapy you should check out. If you or a loved one suffer from suicidal thoughts, please visit suicideprevention.ca to find a local number in Canada. Outside Canada, here's a list of international suicide hotlines in 35 countries, and the International Association for Suicide Prevention. You are not alone.

Here's to the 2020s friends! May this decade reap the rewards for everything you've put in to your life ❤️

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