Being proud of ourselves – of our bravery, courage, persistence, and strength is not bragging and it is not self-centred. It is important, critical even, to witness and own that we have agency and choice even in the middle of the fiercest storm or darkest season.
2020 was rough for everyone and devastating for some but in my case not so much because of Covid. When my son ended his life in late 2019, it had already been a long, scary, painful journey as we loved him in his deep suffering, advocated for him, and tried to keep him alive so that maybe, one day, he’d find hope and the help he needed not just to stay alive but also to thrive.
2020 for me has largely been about trying to keep breathing and engaging with life as I limp stubbornly through my days with a vital piece of my body and spirit, of our family, missing. It feels at once like a pain so deep and wide that surely there is no way to survive it and also a time of stark clarity and rootedness and even deeper freedom.
I Write My Way to Freedom
My writing over the past year has felt inadequate and raw but also honest and has only come in fits and spurts. In the earliest days of loss, it triggered panic attacks but also saved me. I felt like I would die if I didn’t get some of my pain and longing and desperation out of my body and mind onto paper or a screen.
I write in messy lists and hopeful reminders and unfancy reflections that bubble up to the surface in the middle of panic when my wise inner self speaks truth and life quietly, calmly, assuredly, soothing the cacophony of fear and despair. She reminds me to be still and listen when my body screams at me to run and hide.
I write because it’s easy for one day to blend blandly into another, for one year to merge to the next if I am not intentionally choosing to live awake and present. I don’t know if I get a tomorrow and I have no idea if the long-term plans I love to make will ever come to be. But I also know that today I have a choice – I can live fully today. I can say yes to the fullness of life today. And writing keeps a record of this.
I am proud of my son. I am proud of my husband and daughters. I am proud of myself. I encourage my friends and clients and the members of my Brave & Beautiful Community to be proud of themselves. We need to cheer ourselves on like our own best friend because even if we have amazing friends and many people who love and support us, there is some work we must ultimately do for ourselves.
If we don’t love ourselves well, if we don’t witness our strength and beauty and own our inherent worth, if we don’t agree that we are worth fighting for, it is unlikely that we’ll thrive in this beautiful but oh, so messy world.
I’m going to finish my book Unshackled in 2021 (the working title at the moment is Unshackled: Remembering my Way to Freedom). Publishing books is not a money-maker for most of us, and it’s not all that great for the ego. It’s hard, humbling, soul-stretching work.
It feels to me like baring my soul knowing I might be judged, misunderstood, and possibly harshly criticized. But also, it feels like saying yes to life. And there is something so deeply and mysteriously satisfying in playing with words and attempting to capture emotion and experience in a simple story, in discovering what I think and believe as I write, in owning my journey shame-free, in connecting with other messy humans across oceans and social and cultural boundary lines and helping them feel seen and heard and reminding them that they are not alone.
You are not alone.
I don’t set goals or intentions for the new year (though I do this around my birthday each year) but I value this slower period between Christmas and the end of the year as a time of reflection and listening in. Of looking back to note some of the ways I chose life and showed up well and of telling the truth about what I want to leave behind.
A few resources to help you reflect on the past year and/or tune into the season you are in:
Below is a list I quickly wrote out this morning of what 2020 has looked and felt like for me (this is part of writing my way to freedom) and I invite you to share in the comments some of the ways you are proud of yourself, what you’re ready to release, or how you’ve overcome and kept on saying yes to the fullness of life this past year.
•I took my daughters on a trip to the UK in Feb (hopefully our first of many “girls’ trips”) just before Covid locked us down ♥️
•I met my beautiful friend, Betsy, face to face (@betsy.huggins on IG)
•I unexpectedly met someone in a London hotel who recognized me from my online work (@umay.shine on IG)
•I continued building and serving my Brave & Beautiful Community of women through panic attacks and grief and modelling strength and bravery
•I breathed through my son’s birthday and his death date and with your help raised $11k in his name not because it makes life without him easier but because I believe he mattered and because I will never stop shouting that being a hurting human in a messy world is not a failure of character or worth!!!
•I leaned into the gift of local and long-distance community and friendship and I don’t know if I’d have made it on my own
•I practiced resting and simplifying (and lowering the bar) instead of quitting when life was at its hardest
•I used my strengths and practiced self-compassion to keep me rooted, and honoured my wiring and the season I am in. I remind myself that I am imperfect and life is messy but I want to show up fully anyway
•I worked with many beautiful humans who allowed me to come alongside as they handcrafted or honed small businesses and sustainable, compassionate lives of their own
•I deepened relationship with some friends and released other relationships in which I did not feel safe or heard and in which I had not felt safe or heard for a long while (though I love these people and it is possible to love someone and not want to be in relationship with them)
•I watched with sorrow and also deep love and pride as my daughters navigated trauma and the loss of their big brother in their unique way
•I welcomed a rambunctious and beautiful kitten to our home to ease our pain and increase laughter and joy after the one year mark of our son Jairus leaving this world
•I said yes to life every morning and every evening and this was not an easy thing to do
•I continually stripped away obligation, expectation, and even desire to unearth the essential, my “enough,” and continue walking out the vision I have for who and how I choose to be in the world
•I met a group of fiercely strong and amazing women acquainted with child loss and/or suicide loss and while I hate being part of this club, I am so grateful for them and their example
•I used my voice and resources to advocate for equality and for a kinder, safer world for all and will continue to learn, grow, and practice
•I’ve said yes to writing and publishing deeper works
•I practiced truth-telling
Thanks for being here with me,