It’s that time of the year again.
Time to reflect on the year that went before, and make intentions for the year spread out in front of us. For most of my life as the year waned, I would look back on the past year and berate myself for all the ways I perceived failure in my life and how the new year offered me a clean slate to finally get it right. I would resolve to eat less, exercise more, be the best mother I could be to my children, find my potential and finally live up to it, and on and on. Sound familiar?
A few years ago I was done with the new years resolution treadmill.
It felt like it set me up for failure rather than provide a roadmap for new goals that would become a part of my daily life that led to a better me. That year I began making a list of celebrations from the past year and making a list of what I wanted to accomplish as I went forward.
Sometime during this past year I refined my process further. This year I published my book. Along the way this process provided challenges and achievements to celebrate every step of the way. It provided me with course corrections that couldn’t wait for another year to pass, it took me deeper into the practice of presence and discerning for myself what would support me as I took on what seemed like a gargantuan task at the beginning of the year. One of my goals at the end of last year was to publish my book, and if truth be told, I made that intention without really believing in my ability to do so. After I made that goal I heard a little voice inside say, “Other people are authors, you’re not an author.”
A part of my process this year was unraveling that story and meeting all of the doubts and fears that were hiding in the cracks and crevices as the story disintegrated.
I went on another turn of my grief spiral as I revisited the events of Leah’s death and how I was feeling in the early years of missing her. My life went through another round of deconstruction during this process. As stories that no longer served me fell away, I had to learn how to cultivate a structure to my life and my body that was strong enough and flexible enough to hold this new work that was longing to be born. This was a part of the process that surprised me, and it was a part that I eventually welcomed because it allowed me access to parts of myself that were long hidden.
Another experience this year also assisted with my new emergence. Dan and I celebrated our 40th anniversary with a trip to France; 3 days in Paris and a 10-day river cruise on the Saone and Rhone Rivers.
After returning from our French vacation, and we both brought with us a nasty bug that had us in bed for a week. It was the worst cold I have had in a long time. There was nothing I could do but surrender to my body and let her have the time she needed to heal and integrate whatever was going on. I realized that my grief journey has completely changed the way I meet my life, including how I experienced this particular cold. While I did want to feel better, I didn’t push it. I relaxed as much as I could into my body, without trying to make things different. I had an experience on my trip that also illustrates how my grief journey has informed the rest of my life.
While we were in Paris, we did a bus tour of the city, which took us to Notre Dame Cathedral. I’d been looking forward to seeing Notre Dame ever since Art History Class in college. As I crossed the square approaching Notre Dame, my eyes started filling with tears. I felt all of the history and splendor of the cathedral, the flying buttresses, the rose window, the arches, all of it just as described in those art history classes over 30 years ago, I was in awe. As I entered the nave the tears continued to well. I looked over at Dan and his eyes were filling too. I stood there for a moment and let myself fully experience standing in Notre Dame.
Every cell of my body was having the experience. I really have no words for what happened.
When we returned to our hotel I reflected on my experience at Notre Dame. I realized that the lessons I learned as I traveled my grief journey had served me well in every area of my life, not just my grief journey. I learned to feel all of my feelings whenever they arose, even when I was standing in front of Notre Dame Cathedral.
In that moment I had a flash of a conversation I had with someone about what is on my bucket list. At the time of the conversation I couldn’t come up with anything on my list and both my friend and I wondered why that was. After my experience at Notre Dame, I knew why I couldn’t come up with a list of things to check off before I die. I knew that I want to fully experience everything I see and everywhere I go as I continue to live my life. Everywhere I am called to visit can evoke feelings and experiences connecting me to people and places that provide deep life experiences. Certainly Paris, the Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame were amazing places to visit and I reveled in the experience.
What is the connection between this experience and the experience of bringing my book to into world?
Both experiences took me out of my comfort zone.
They both opened my eyes to more possibilities and also forced me to look at dismantling old patterns that no longer worked for me. In the process of that dismantling I had to go deep inside and listen to my own wisdom; listen to what worked for me and not listen to society’s or other expert’s advice or validation.
I was reminded in a profound way that being present in each moment, feeling my feelings fully, and being open to those possibilities can happen anywhere and everywhere. I was reminded that when I live my life with an open heart I will be led to experiences that will fill my life with what I need at exactly the right time.