It was not the hardest year I have ever known. There have been plenty of those, but it feels like a year of significant losses. Where did it go? This year? All the seasons? I feel it – the hard sigh after an exhausting undertaking. 2016 for many of us was a difficult undertaking. It wasn’t simply because so many icons from our childhood passed away or because a horrid man was elected president, but what we uncovered about ourselves and the people around us which left us feeling broken open and bleeding out. There were many things we had to push through, redefine, and look at honestly. 2016 was the year of many tears.
What is the next, best, first step after a difficult 2016?
Following the US Presidential election, I lost steam or hope or wonder – I felt increasingly unclear about where I stood in the world and with the people around me.
- How does my life fit?
- How do I fit?
- Do I even want to fit?
- What does it mean to fit?
- How do I raise children who REFUSE to fit?
- It left me thinking about the type of people we are attempting to be – as a family, as a nation, as a church?
Every day since I sit out on the front porch swing – this front porch which has been stripped bare for winter. I sit out amidst the emptiness and I breathe deep.
I exhale hard as if every breath is an exhausting undertaking.
I know what it feels like to physically struggle to breath. When we had no clue my body was dying – when the blood clot stuck deep in my lung and began to kill the tissue, collapsing the lung around itself, refusing my body the oxygen it needed, suffocating the life from me – every. Single. Breath. was an excruciatingly painful, difficult undertaking.
I survived, but it hurt to breathe deep for months afterwards. Often I was afraid to even try.
This is how the last few weeks have felt for me – like it has been hard to catch a full breath without pain.
I know it isn’t wise to sit here in the despair and brokenness for long so I gave myself six weeks. Six weeks to evaluate. Six weeks of difficult breathing. Now I am asking myself – what is the first, next, best step in the new year?
After a Difficult 2016 – Moving Forward
The first, next, best step is one in which I seek understanding and wisdom. I do this not by obsessing about the world around me and who/what I cannot control, but by looking inward.
- How I react to the world?
- How my emotions play out? Am I ruled by them? Do I ignore them?
- How I respond to criticism and praise? (does it immobilize me?)
- How do I react when I cannot control what is happening around me?
- Do I know how to be at peace no matter what comes ahead?
“At the root of all the harm we cause is ignorance.” – Pema Chödrön*
When the pain in my life has been excruciating I have always had a choice – to lean into myself and learn why I hurt OR to seek out revenge to harm the people/person I believe is the source of my pain.
At the root of all the harm we cause is ignorance – ignorance at how we are and why we are and who we are; ignorace at how others are, why they are, and who they are.
The biggest question I began to ask myself following my near death experience, “How then shall I live?” Every year since I have sought to answer that question. So far the answers I have discovered are more about HOW I navigate the world, being aware of who and how I am, the familial patterns I have taken up as my own (because this is how it has always been done), the toxic belief patterns which were a part of my upbringing, and how I make choices based on a number of healthy and unhealthy past and present defaults.
I do not want to repeat the faith and familial patterns I have always known which harm myself and those around me. I want to live AWARE. Aware of who I am and why and how.
Being aware requires I wake up a bit more every single day.
The more I live asleep and blind the more harm I do to myself and those around me.
So I have made plans. Turning the page on a new year is the perfect time for gathering truth and understanding. I am looking at my priorities: relationships, spiritual, emotional, career, learning, and more. I evaluate my defaults – those toxic life, relationship patterns I cannot seem to break. Also I lean into myself to understand even more about how I navigate the world and what I pass on to my children. It is essential to do this with my eyes wide open. I consider different spiritual practices and exercises – yes, the ones I was warned my whole life were demonic and might cause me eternal, spiritual harm (hold on to your yoga mats).
My desire is to live a life which offers less and less harm to myself and the world around me while offering more and more life. I want to learn to live in the overflow – while fully awake.
“Not causing harm requires staying awake. Part of being awake is slowing down enough to notice what we say and do. The more we witness our emotional chain reactions and understand how they work, the easier it is to refrain. It becomes a way of life to stay awake, slow down, and notice.” -Pema Chödrön*
How do you face the ending of a difficult 2016?
Three things you can do next:
- SUBSCRIBE in the box below or at the top of the page to receive my FREE Goal/Priority planning workbook. You will receive an automated Welcome email with a link to a printable/downloadable pdf.
- Check OUT this book (AFFILIATE LINK) from Pema Chödrön “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times” She’s an American Buddhist nun and so wise.
- JOIN our Facebook Group – Conversations From the Front Porch – HERE for a private, safe place to set goals, talk about priorities, deconstruct, and more – quietly. One place on the web where we aren’t shouting at each other.