Today is the last day of 2017. There is a lot that history will say about 2017, with many unkind but highly accurate words. I think most of us have already been using those words, often laced with profanity.
But this is essay is a personal reflection and, critically, a personal challenge. I am writing and posting this on the last day of the year. This is what I have to say as the calendar counts down.
The first half of my year, right up into July, I was a phenomenally productive writer. I wrote and I published and I wrote more. I had plans. I had goals. I was on track.
But all good things must come to an end, and in the end, I skidded to a crashing halt. No, it wasn’t depression; more accurately I would say the situation has been related to my PTSD. Like being the first person to flinch in a fight, I was taken down quickly when I paused long enough to lose the upper hand.
You can’t outrun that shit, my friends. Not for long.
Regrouping has taken six months and some very intense therapy. Most of you know I have an EMDR therapist, and the EMDR sessions she shepherded me through were psychologically draining and emotionally revealing – I have not cried so much and so regularly in decades.
By November, we had mined some core issues. I’m being vague because a lot of it I’m not ready to talk about openly, but I think if I had to boil it all down I would describe the fault line of my life as “caging myself inside the expectations of others.”
I was left going into the holidays wondering what my own “freedom” looks like. I journaled about it extensively and made some breakthroughs. The important thing I need to divorce myself from is the idea that I need to F I X E V E R Y T H I N G before I allow myself to live my life, to be free. I have spent years locked inside the idea that I am not allowed to plan my future, my own life until everything else was perfect and I had solved all the problems that had been dumped on me as a child. I’ve spent so much effort ignoring my own dreams/goals and instead focusing on short-term solutions to big problems (some of which were not even my problems to solve) that honestly, much of my life has drifted by me like flotsam.
About ten years ago my major breakdown was precipitated by realizing that I was a stranger in my life. I had not succeeded at fixing anything and I was drifting aimlessly. I had to come to some hard truths, most of which were ugly and painful. I came out of that fighting hard to push forward but I did not realize that I still carried my cage with me. Unlocking the cage and stepping out means turning around to face the truths that have piled up behind me on my journeys.
The truths are these: I am fat; my parents are dead; I lost their home; I don’t dance anymore; I am divorced; and I have managed my finances (when I had money to manage, that is) poorly.
They are also these: I am healthy; I have my own home; I got my master’s degree; I have a good job with great colleagues; I am financially stable; I am a professional and published author and columnist; I have many good friends who care about me; I have THE BEST DOG (ref. #justkeelythings).
These are all true things about me. They are not my limits, though. Good and bad, they are simply what I have experienced. So, I am thinking a lot about identity and freedom, and what I am doing starting now. Getting back on the treadmill of the life I’ve lived has no appeal, but I don’t want to throw those lessons away either.
In looking for answers I’ve been meditating a lot, and also rewatched Brene Brown’s now-classic TEDtalk (https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability) on vulnerability and living a life whole heartedly. There were two sets of four points she made that apply to my approach to 2018:
- Being whole-hearted means practicing:
- the courage to be imperfect
- the compassion to be kind to self and others
- connection as a result of authenticity
- the embrace of vulnerability
- To live without shame requires that I:
- let myself be seen
- love with my whole heart
- practice gratitude and joy
- believe that I am ENOUGH
This dovetails well with the seemingly contradictory meditative advice to both “let go of self” and “be present, now”.
What does that look like, for kimboo?
It means letting go of short-term panicked efforts to F I X E V E R Y T H I N G. It means not defining myself by the foods I eat and drink, the clothes I wear, the words I write, what size I am, the money I (do/do not) possess. It means setting long-term goals for myself that are born out of self-respect and self-compassion as much as out of concrete, immediate needs/problems.
It means 2018 is a year of change, but not of revolution – 2018 is the year of evolution, for me.
“I now affirm that I develop my true talents by accepting who I am.”
(Enneagram Transformations, 57)
*The title of this essay comes from a tweet by my friend and epic poet, Kiddeternity:
Also published on Medium.