I apparently began 2018 thinking big thoughts. The title from January 3 last year is growth. Tackling such a concept was a bold move. But bold is a relative term, just as growth is, its meaning shifting in shade with the context in which it is presented.
It seems we cannot help but grow if we’re participating, and I certainly did my share of stretching in the past year. But I am now presenting myself with the task of figuring out exactly how and where it occurred. Was it outward growth, as in the type that would occur from my edges? Was it from reaching toward something external? Or was it inward growth, as in the type that would occur in my center from reaching to my own depths, feeling around toward something more truly me? Did I do both? Is there such a thing as one without the other? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Look up a year from now and you’ll probably be different from how you are today, even in the most subtle ways. Maybe how you got there isn’t the point, but it might be at least some of it, if only for learning’s sake, in case you want to do it again.
I can reach for something that is out of my grasp. But if I haven’t made an alteration in my center in order to accommodate an outward change, will it last? I can decide to exercise every day in hopes that I will be healthier and look better, but if I haven’t made that decision because I’m interested in doing my best for myself, hence the need for being healthier and looking better, will the decision stick?
A year ago I wanted to learn how to get more done, be more organized, be friendlier, get more sleep, develop healthier eating habits, just be better overall. I reflect and see that I did some of those things, those external things. But when I think about how I got to them, I land right in the middle of 2018, when I hit an emotional wall and had to get simultaneously severe and really gentle with myself. Everything about where I was demanded that I look at how I’d gotten there. Everything about where I was demanded that I learn one really hard lesson — do not ignore your inner voice.
Now, my inner voice is complicated. I often want to ignore her because she doesn’t always tell me the things I want to hear and she can be mean to boot and even sometimes seemingly insane. But some time around the fourth of July she got loud enough that I had to reckon with her. If she had real hands she’d have taken me by the shoulders, pushed me down into a chair in the middle of an empty room, locked the door, and lectured me until I couldn’t tune her out anymore. I started listening in a real way, and the loudest message I got was, do not ever accept less than you deserve ever again.
That was tough to hear and it still is, because it requires that I stand up for myself, set limits in my life and relationships, give myself the gift of time and space — in essence, it requires that I send all the love I possess to my own soul first before I go scattering it about over the sources that I think need it. That’s hard for anyone. For someone who was raised in chaos like I was, it’s damn near impossible. Children of addicts are told to ignore what they see, hear, and most importantly, what they feel. But so what? I knew it wasn’t negotiable. I didn’t want to walk around feeling at odds with myself anymore. I didn’t want to demand so much of myself without ever giving any nurture to the place where all the demands’ needs are met — my heart, my brain, and my body. I didn’t want to deny truths of any sort anymore, even if the world makes it incredibly difficult to be honest, sometimes most of all with ourselves.
So I spent a ton of time in therapy. I exercised a lot. I tried to rest and sleep more. I tried to laugh as much as possible. I cried more than I probably have during any other calendar year. I did some really hard emotional healing, I have way more to do, and came to terms with knowing there isn’t a finish line in that particular marathon. I let myself feel and told myself that it was okay. I meditated. I wrote. I got really sick of turning the rocks over. I reached inward. But guess what? I’m better than I was a year ago. I’m ultimately happier and I like myself more. So I suppose that’s growth even if I can’t measure it with some yardstick made for tangible things — human beings waver in their progress, sometimes it’s two steps forward one step back or even two or God forbid, three — but I feel better, more relaxed, happier, more open, more quick to laugh and cry and even sometimes more calmly speak my mind (still working on equanimity but we all have our challenges). And best of all, I have more love inside of me, probably because I finally know the real stuff has to start with me. That’s pretty bold indeed.
Happy Wednesday, Y’all. And may 2019 hold plenty of reaching in whatever directions we wish.