1.08.2013

"Do Not Falter, Unfold, Realize": My Words for 2013

I have this favorite charm necklace that I picked up one Spring on a trip to DC. I was doubly fortunate: I planned extra "down time" into a business trip and was traveling with a good friend. Together we visited with family (hers) and got to play tourist and visit all the monuments and museums. One lovely afternoon we went to Eastern Market, and after a delicious (and fairly inexpensive lunch) we wandered around and searched for treasure. This was my find.

And while I've had this necklace for the last two years, it is only now that I feel ready to take it's advice: do not falter; unfold, realize.

As we have now entered 2013, many of my friends are choosing either significant words or images that they feel best encompass what the year ahead will "resolve" to be. Words or phrases such as "go bold," "I can," "dream," "travel," "influence," "center," "awareness," and "lead". I know that these (and others, far too many too list) apply to my year ahead in significant and specific ways.

But before I go into why I chose my words, or rather why they spoke to me from that booth outside the Eastern Market, I think it's important to share what my word (or words) of 2012 turned out to be, even though they were not what I had intended a year ago.

Sorrow. Frustration. Bitterness.

Not very positive. Not uplifting. Certainly not inspiring. But truthful. 2012 was most definitely my year of sorrow. My step-father's death in the summer of 2011 was entwined with leaving (not under the best of circumstances or really by my own choice) a volunteer job that I had been doing for over nine years, and then the loss of my grandfather a year to the day after the death of my step-father. I raged, I cried ugly tears while standing in the shower, and I stopped eating. I internalized everything, felt every commentary, even well intended, was a criticism, and believed that I was a complete and utter failure-despite the numerous positive things and events that occurred that same year.

Depression and grief are often a wet, heavy blanket that feels impossible to throw off. Certainly some days were not as dark as others, and very few really knew (until now) how much pain I was in at the time. I was also frustrated. People I believed in, disappointed me terribly. Friends walked away without explanation, and despite my best efforts (or what I believed were my best efforts) I never had closure or answers to questions about why my time as a volunteer ended. That frustration turned into bitterness, which was unable to be expressed in a healthy way: the people I needed clarity from closed ranks and doors. So, like all well adjusted individuals, I internalized my bitterness and became "joy-less."

And a world without joy is grey. It sounds like when your ears are clogged from a sinus infection. Food has no flavor, so you just don't feel like eating.  Even the best experiences (and believe me, 2012 was filled with incredible, once in a life time moments and the building of some substantial friendships) are reflected upon as if through a glass darkly. And sorrow, bitterness, frustration eat away at relationships and situations, and leave everyone unsettled, off balance, and feeling damaged.

And I refuse to live that way any longer. Not just for myself, but because it really isn't fair to those around me. And because the sad, honest truth is: life goes on.

I recently watched an IMAX film about the "Flight of the Butterfly" and part of the film was a time-lapse segment about how caterpillars transform into butterflies. When the film focused on the lowly, ugly caterpillar the children in the audience loudly voiced their disgust, but when the butterfly emerged from it's cocoon, sounds of wonder filled the auditorium. I think my grief has made me feel at times like the caterpillar, just taking it day by day, nourishing my body in preparation of time when I could finally emerge and feel ready to take flight.

Need to make sure there are more joyful moments in 2013
so I can navigate the joyless one's with strength and self-care
So it's time.

Time to take my own advice and "do not falter." I'm fully aware that healing is a process, and it takes time. Sometimes more time than we think we will need. Sometimes more patience than others feel willing to give. But once we've been to the lowest point in our own personal valley, there really is no where to go but to start climbing to the top of the mountain again. Like in the butterfly film, the monarch's migration is perilous and not without setbacks. But they are determined to reach their destination. And it takes one day at a time. And I'm certain there will be times when the path has obstacles, or I stumble and fall backward and have to dust off and regain my footing, but with support, encouragement, and determination, and a daily repetition of "do not falter" I know I will succeed.

Unfold. That's a potent word. To me it means that I have been turning inward to the point where I need to start stretching out, reaching out, and connecting better with those around me. Which to others may be a surprising thing as so many of my friends see me as open and giving. Which is true. There is little doubt that even in the middle of all my grief I still put others first, it's just who I am. And not something I want to change. I genuinely like helping others, I gain a great deal of fulfillment knowing that I've been supportive and encouraging. But that doesn't mean I am not aware that sometimes I am taken advantage of and not appreciated by those around me. Perhaps unfolding is also about revealing or disclosing. I guess I've done that with this post. But not just about "unfolding" with others, but with myself. Unfolding is both a physical act, as well as an emotional one. I tend to be fairly private about a great many things, surprising for such an extrovert you might think, but disclosing doesn't mean having to let everyone peek at my diary, it just means being more forthcoming when I am struggling and asking for help far more often than I do.

Which goes along with previous posts about letting go. Which is tied into "realize." Realizing is about recognition, of one's self, of others, of relationships that we have, and of what we really want in order to be our best self. I am a terrific advocate for everyone else BUT NOT MYSELF. I realize this. I didn't advocate well for myself all last year. I was passive in a great many situations and with people. I suppose when you don't feel your best you let others treat you as if you are not the best. And we all deserve to be treated with kindness, care, compassion, and respect. I realize that not even I do that at times. But there is no time like the present to start being better at being, well, better. As well as a better advocate for myself. One of my favorite Jane Austen quotes is "there is nothing I would not do for those who are truly my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature." Sadly, it is time to "realize" who in my life are those who I should not even give half of myself to. The butterfly can't be a butterfly if she is always treated like she's the ugly caterpillar, can she? And how do you fly if you carry the weight of the world on fragile wings? Not well, that's for certain. Not well at all. And caring well for others means putting self care first on the list. Because you can't care for anyone else if you don't. It just won't work. Life is too short to go through the motions. If you care, tell someone. If you miss someone, let them know. And if someone mistreats you, speak up. Realize that you frame the narrative of your day, the page is blank. What story do you want your life to tell?

So. 2013. It's time. What shall we do today?




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