Towards the end of each year, I find myself in a reflective state where I look back at all the events that have transpired and brought me to the place I currently am. It’s one of introspection, observation and often times, deep gratitude.
2018, like every year before it, I declared would be “my year” – you know, the one where you hit all your goals, score the position you want, find “the one” and everything in between.
The year before had been an intense one, one that tested me in every way and at the beginning of 2018, I was still reeling from the emotional baggage of a previous relationship, not to mention knee-deep in a work situation that was quite literally breaking me down on every level. Silly as it sounds, I truly thought making my declaration for 2018, dedicating my year to the word “Aligned” (choosing a word for my year is a tradition I do every year), and only doing things that were in alignment with my values and who I wanted to be, would simply allow everything I wanted to fall into place with ease. I had told myself this year would be different, that I wouldn’t settle for less and that it was finally “my time”.
This past year has tested me in ways I didn’t anticipate. I have seen immense success and I’ve also lost it all. I’ve stood in my power and have acknowledged how talented I am, and I’ve also questioned my worth and if what I’m doing is “enough”. I’ve had my mind and heart opened in ways I couldn’t have fathomed, and I’ve also felt a deep sense of disappointment and heartbreak. It’s been a year of intense feelings and immense growth and through it all I’ve learned three things: change is loss, loss requires grief and, in that space, we can begin again.
Change is loss, loss requires grief and, in that space, we can begin again.
Change is Loss
As humans, we don’t resist change. We crave it. Every fiber of our being is continually seeking a new level, something better. We don’t resist change…we resist loss.
Even when the change is something we desire, even when the change is due to the best circumstances, it requires us to lose something – whether it be a routine, how we’re doing something, the familiarity of that thing, a relationship, a reputation or a memory. Change means unknown. Change means we have to unlearn or relearn something. Change requires us to face the hard reality that we’re not fully in control of our circumstances. Change forces us to face the things within ourselves that we could otherwise conveniently avoid if we kept things status quo.
Coming out of 2017, I wanted change in my relationships and the toxic work environment I was in. I wanted these things to change without having to really lose anything. I wanted the kind of change where you snap your finger and *poof* you change the aspects of the situation that you want to change without losing all the other stuff. Instead, I lost myself in relationships and felt the deep pang of loss when the status of that relationship changed. I found myself relocating to a new workplace, losing both the tribe of people I considered family and losing my ranking within my company, something at the time I attributed to my worth. I wanted change, but I wanted change on my terms where I could control my losses. I didn’t want to start over. I didn’t want to feel the sadness, anger, hurt and disappointment. And I sure as hell didn’t want to navigate the unknown.
Loss Requires Grief
With any loss we experience, there’s a sense of grief. Grief is something we usually associate with death, but grief is really a process of letting go and learning to accept and live with loss.
In less than 24 hours, everything I knew and had changed. I will never forget the Friday I drove from teaching to get Johnny from school. We were in the parking lot at Target when I learned I would be relocating permanently to another workplace. Through hysterical sobs on the phone with my life coach, my son worriedly tried to console me as my world as I knew it fell apart. It took MANY months for me to navigate and accept that loss – to live with the loss of what was without holding onto anger and resentment.
In the moment of loss itself, it’s unlikely (and highly unrealistic) to think we can step into the process of letting go and accept the loss for what it is. In the moments we lose everything or have our hearts broken, sometimes all we can do is breathe, even as we’re wishing things weren’t as they are. But with a little space and time, the process of allowing ourselves to feel the loss can begin.
Grief is not a linear or predictable process and it can often be surprising and strike us when we are most vulnerable. There have been plenty of moments recently where something has triggered my loss and in that moment a flood of thoughts and emotions well up inside of me. And it’s there I breathe into the process again, a process of letting go and further accepting another layer of loss.
Beginning again is never easy. We’re less sure of everything, including ourselves. But, in order to take the first step, we need to recognize that beginning again is not the same as starting over from ground zero and that requires courage, open-heartedness and humility.
When we look at a new situation as starting over, there’s a sense of erasing something – whether it’s our past and what brought us here or a part of ourselves. The problem with that is that when we look to erase those parts of our story or view where we are as completely starting over, we don’t honor who we are today.
I wouldn’t be this happier, healthier, healing person without my past
I wouldn’t be this happier, healthier, healing person without my mistakes
I wouldn’t be this happier, healthier, healing person without the previous unhappy, unhealthy, suffering person I was before
Because I wouldn’t have had to do the work of fighting for and finding my recovery.
I wouldn’t be this happier, healthier, healing person if I had started over.
It’s only in the moments we can own our mistakes and struggles that we can grow towards the always healing, best version of ourselves.
I didn’t see it then, last April, but it turned out that being relocated to a new workplace was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced with the lightness of beginning again and in that space I grew immensely. I was challenged to begin again and as a result, my skill set grew. I was challenged to learn and so I grew more knowledgeable and more adept. My entire belief system was challenged and in that space I redefined my value and self-worth.
Even in these moments where I am less sure about everything, where I’m unsure of my next best step, how I’ll get to the next level I desire – in the places where my heart aches and I feel the sadness of losing people and friendships – I remind myself that I am growing towards the best version of myself and that can only happen when I let myself exist in the space of beginning again.