Honoring the Past
This is the time of the year when many of us are fixated on the future. Specifically, on the things we can change and improve upon. A new year is laid bare in front of us — 365-odd opportunities for a fresh start. However, I think it’s also important to reflect on where we’ve been, not simply in the year that has just come to a close, but on the entirety of pasts. The vast expanse of our lives until now.This allows us to take stock of where we’re at: the foundation on which we’ll continue to build; the positive pieces of our lives that have brought us to where we are today.
As I move into this new year, here are three things I am grateful for, plucked from my own past. Without them, I would not be here in 2020, poised to continue to cultivate a life where I am in charge and ready to continue to put myself first.
- My decision to get sober: facing my emotions, fears and myself head-on. Removing the mask that allowed me to hide behind alcohol in anxiety-producing situations and to not have to really face (or feel) scary situations. Quitting drinking has been easier in a lot of ways than I imagined, and also harder in ways I didn’t expect. Getting sober was isolating (people avoid inviting the alcoholic to parties or the bar), infuriating (why can’t I be ‘normal?!), and also caused me to do a lot of introspection (what was I trying to avoid?). But the more comfortable I became with myself, the more comfortable I’ve become talking about not only my sobriety but also about my drinking. I’ve also become much more comfortable in social settings that before would have petrified me. Quitting drinking didn’t prevent me from having fun (at least not when I didn’t let it) — it freed me from shame, a lot of self-induced abuse and self-hatred and taught me how to be honest, with myself others. Plus it made me really, really proud.
- Failed Relationships: I often write (because I often think) about the hard parts of my breakups. The lasting scars, the loneliness, the fears about what this means for my future. But I am also aware (and willing to admit) that there are many really good reasons why each of my relationships has failed. And that at the end of the day, it’s not about pointing the finger or assigning blame. So it’s important to me to not lose sight of that the fact that there is a reason each of my relationships began. There was goodness at some point, no matter how messy or hurtful the middle or ending became. And that the person I was walking (crawling? being carried?) away from as at the end of each relationship is not the same person who entered them. I learned something from each of those experiences. And I am grateful for each of those relationships, just as I am grateful that I am no longer in any of them, because they were not meant to continue. So while it’s tempting to wish that things were different, I know that my current relationship status (‘single’) is indeed a blessing for me right now. I am learning to be truly strong, independent (not co-dependent) and to forge my own path instead of follow one that seems interesting simply because someone I love is headed that way.
And speaking of paths…
- Taking the Long Way: A coach I worked with once challenged me to make a list of the things I have done rather than constantly focus on those things I haven’t yet achieved. It was an eye-opening exercise and one I think about a lot. I also reflect often on my tendency to want to try many new things, just to get bored or frustrated with them easily. It feels like I am perpetually on a quest to find fulfillment and every time I think I’ve found ‘it’, I am over it again in six months. I’ve had many guides and healers tell me that my path is indeed about the journey and not about the destination. And while this does resonate with me, it also feels like life would be a lot easier if I were just trying to get somewhere. Then I could rest once I’d arrived. But looking back on that great big “Done” list, I know that’s not how I’m wired. It’ll always be about taking the long way around for me. Who cares how long it takes to get there? I’m not even quite sure where I’m going. Yes, sure I’ve got my core values and morals as a compass, but that just makes sure I have a general direction in which to head. The rest of the details are less important, and are subject to change. (Which guarantees they will.) It’s in this way that I’ve “missed out” on a lot of things I thought I’d have accomplished by now in life (marriage, motherhood, home ownership). But it’s also in this way that I’ve taught a pilates class in a dusty gym, worked at reproductive health organization, met the president of Rwanda, had dinner with Justin Timberlake, been thanked in the closing credits of a movie, adopted a 6.66 lb morkie, walked dogs for supplemental income, paddle boarded for the first time off the coast of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean and become a health coach after getting a Master’s in Public Administration. Life is weird. And beautiful. And wonderful. And a complete mystery.