There are those years in life you’d just as soon forget. Some years are full of struggle, loss and frustration. Those are years you are happy to see come to an end. We all have those years.
And then there are those memorable, pivotal years. The years you got married, had a child, built your dream home, started a new career, or any number of wonderful happenings.
Or it could be a series of events that helped define who you are.
2016 was like that for me.
There was not one major pivotal event. Rather, it was a series of choices and actions that all fell in line and helped me to, pardon the cliche, “find myself”.
Over the past year, I went outside of my comfort zone several times. I said yes to things I would have avoided in the past. I took a good, hard look at myself and decided to stop worrying about life and what people think and start living more. And this wasn’t just in the past year, really, it’s been happening for a long time.
2016 was just the year that culminated in events that I’ve been preparing for probably all my life. In short, I decided to “go for it” and that made all the difference.
Those of you who are close to me know that I tend to say yes to a lot of things. Too many things, in fact. What made 2016 different was that I made a conscious effort to say yes only to things I really wanted to do. Not for approval from others, not to impress, not out of obligation, but because I knew they were necessary for my own personal growth. Yes, necessary… I knew I needed to grow on a deeper level and I knew I needed to challenge myself to do so.
So here’s what I did in 2016. These are the experiences that made the year memorable for me.
I went to Haiti on a mission trip with 11 other women. I wrote about this in a previous post and suffice to say, it really was life changing. I met some of the most selfless and inspirational people I’ve ever come across. And I learned that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. I’ve found a cause that I can contribute to and I know it makes a difference in the lives of others and it’s given my life a new level of meaning.
I participated in “That’s What She Said” – This was perhaps one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. Standing up in front of a live audience and sharing my innermost thoughts about things I’ve learned as I’ve negotiated life had the potential to either completely humiliate or embarrass myself. I talked about accepting and embracing aging. Letting go of comparisons. Saying yes to new things and appreciating all the good things in life when they happen.
I shared some of the losses I’ve endured and what they’ve taught me. Death, alzheimers, the constant feeling of not being “enough. The self judgement. It was an exercise in soul searching and soul sharing that I will never forget.
Here’s the link to my “She Said” talk Birthdays, Yoga and the “C” Word – and while you’re there, please watch the others speakers. They are all incredible!
I’ve always been one of those people who likes to have deep one on one conversations and share experiences with others. This was like doing that on a much, much larger level! I believe that I can help others (and myself) by showing empathy rather than sympathy. Saying “I’ve been there too” is more meaningful than saying “you poor thing.” For more on this concept, I recommend reading Brene Brown’s books (more details in this blog post).
Along the same theme of communication and telling it like it is, I initiated a much needed talk with someone very close to me with whom I’ve had a difficult relationship. I said I was ready to move on and put the past events behind me if they were. And you know what, it wasn’t as scary as I anticipated. We both agreed it was time to let go of the anger. And the weight that was lifted by taking this step was amazing and so freeing. I was finally at peace. I highly recommend “clearing the air” with people whenever possible.
I finally, truly accepted that I was enough “as is”. I didn’t need to keep up with anyone else. I made the conscious effort to live by a mantra: Want what you have and you’ll have what you want. And it worked. I became more accepting of myself. I become more content with my life. I practiced gratitude.
I started to appreciate all the good things more. It goes without saying that there is so much suffering in the world that it is often overwhelming and heart wrenching. It’s so important to appreciate the good things (no matter how small) when they happen and to live life to the fullest when we can.
I redefined my definition of success. The older I get, the more I am convinced that success in life is not measured by accumulating excess or impressing others. It’s so easy to get caught up in all of that (social media doesn’t help). For me, life is about using experiences to become the best version of myself. It’s about learning from those experiences (the good and the not so good) and sharing them with others. It’s about developing empathy by shared experiences. It’s about taking action to help others when we can.
2016 was exceptional for me because I chose to put myself out there. To challenge myself. To let go of comparisons. To have more gratitude. And my life became infinitely more rewarding.
Here’s to 2017. Another year of opportunities presents itself. A year of adventures. There will be joy and there will be sorrow. And that is the journey we call life.
And I say, bring it on!