2016 was a year of extreme and unexpected growth for me, which, as many of us know all too well, is just a nice way of saying that I went through a lot of shit and came out alive.
Sometimes I doubted my ability to do so, if I’m being honest, but damnit if I’ve ever been the type of woman to take anything lying down. So, despite the fact that many days it was difficult to get out of bed, I did so (almost) every day. And despite the desire to fall into a “why me” victim spiral, I did everything in my power to face my challenges head on.
I didn’t always handle things with grace, equanimity, or composure—but I did my best to course correct when those behaviors eluded me. I bit off tiny, manageable, pieces and focused as best I could on chewing one piece at a time, one figurative meal at a time.
And while I concede that I was surprised, annoyed even, by how much this last calendar year threw my way, I must admit that I did grow quite tremendously. I did learn. I did expand. And I did connect to a higher expression of myself, partly as the inevitable result of enduring struggle.
I don’t really subscribe to a “new year, new you” style of thinking and I’m not a huge fan of lofty new year resolutions, but I do think there is something uniquely fresh about the turn of a calendar.
In light of that freshness, I find that both reflection and intention are useful spaces to occupy. Can we reflect on how much we’ve grown and the lessons that we received, willingly or otherwise? With that reflection in mind, can we then begin to set intentions moving forward, taking full advantage of the feeling of freshness that the new year brings?
For my part, I’ve reflected on three major lessons the universe forced down my throat graciously bestowed upon me:
Identity is wholly self-defined and consistently in flux.
I’m a mother, a yogi, a meathead, a writer, a feminist…but not a single of those identifying characteristics comprises the sum of who I am. Society doesn’t get to define me, sure, but I must also take care not to over self identify, lest I keep myself from being able to grow and adapt.
I can’t be a warrior as long as I choose to be a victim.
If we can learn to let go of our role as the victim, however justified it may feel, we will release so much misery and resentment. As a warrior, we can step into a space of power—a space where pain teaches us and strengthen us, rather than keeps us small.
From this space we can grow and expand, transforming our pain into an energy force that propels instead of paralyzes.
There is no such thing as “when things calm down.”
Waiting for the “right time” is waste of time, and expecting life to slow down so that I might catch up is an unrealistic and ineffective strategy. Rather than wait for things to calm down before taking next steps, I’ve chosen to seek as much balance as possible in every phase of life.
Balance, as it turns out, is always available to us.
Among other lessons I received in 2016 was the realization that I am finally, after years of consistent practice, fully at peace with my body. I feel more alive and powerful in my skin than I ever imagined possible, and I have almost completely eradicated any feelings of stress or obligation around fitness and nutrition.
Upon deeper reflection I’ve discovered that while 2016 was a stern teacher, I was a worthy student. I learned so much about myself and became more attuned to my internal and external worlds. I feel more confident to own exactly who I am, unapologetically so.
I’ve gotten far more in touch with my witchy side, and in that attunement have found a deeper sense of meaning and connection.
I accepted my role as a Nasty Woman, and stopped using phrases like “TMI (too much information)” when discussing my menstrual cycle or my sexuality—working diligently to create a safe space for women to discuss these topics without shame. I started a podcast with my fellow nasty woman, Erin Brown, on these very same topics, aptly dubbed Nasty Women Radio, which launches on Inauguration Day.
I took on new hobbies and interests in an effort to become more multi-dimensional and less digitally connected.
I learned to practice patience more successfully, and the importance of creating things from a place of abundance. I got really into crystals and tarot cards. I started playing a Persian hand drum. I got 3 new tattoos and one new piercing. I dyed my hair lavender, then purple, then teal, then black.
I started writing a book of essays.
I felt deeply called to Nature and reaffirmed my intention to spend as much time with her as possible.
I worked through the FOMO (fear of missing out) way of thinking and realized that as long as I’m practicing authenticity, I am always exactly where I want to be. I learned to stand more firmly in my truth, to say what I mean with both compassion and tenacity.
I made peace with the giant, relentless, white hair that grows out of the mole on my face.
I rekindled a previously estranged relationship with my big sister, and ever since, she has served as an endless source of love and compassion in my life. I spent more time with family in general, but never out of obligation—always out of a genuine desire for connection.
I could keep going and going, but I won’t. Because the truth is that none of this is really about me at all—it’s about you. It’s about us, all of us. It’s about learning to take everything the Universe throws our way and use it to our advantage, even if comes in unpalatable, non potable forms.
Our instinct can often be to allow the challenges and negative factors to take center stage; this is, after all, our evolutionary tendency. However, I think we’re learning to transcend that urge. I think we’re discovering the clarity of purpose that comes with targeted reflection and intentional gratitude.
I think we’re learning, all of us, how to be taught.
And once we open up to being taught, to receiving lessons, we grow in directions we hadn’t previously deemed possible. With that growth comes more reflection, and with reflection comes the ability to live to live our lives less automatically and more intentionally—a life on purpose, of purpose, and with purpose.
My intentions for this new year we’ve all embarked upon together are to keep receiving the lessons, to continue to fuel more purpose and meaning into my work, to find more purpose and meaning through my work, and to finish my damn book. Finally.
More tangibly and on a semi-daily basis, I intend to spend more time in nature in the form of hikes, ocean sunsets, and camping trips. I intend to spend a minimum of 10 minutes per day on my yoga practice, and write just 300 words a day—even if they’re shitty.
These intentions are manageable, realistic, and flexible. They’re all aimed towards carving out more space for myself, and taking responsibility for my own experience of the world.
I may not choose to adopt a “new year, new me” mindset, but I do choose to take advantage of the energetic shift that happens all over the world during the month of January—the freshness of new beginnings, the desire for continued improvement and deeper knowing.
What will you choose?
How did you grow and expand during the last calendar year? In reflection, which seemingly unendurable struggles were also your biggest teachers? Did you learn to release things that weren’t serving you?
And lastly, most potently, what do you intend to manifest in 2017? Take some time to think about the major areas in which you’d like to grow: what overall intentions can you set? What daily or semi daily commitments will you carve out? What actions will you take in order to align with your soul’s purpose?
How will you allow 2017 to teach you?