Like every other year, 2018 has been full of joys, sorrows, and tons of lessons. For me, the lessons tend to repeat themselves. It’s like the same things keep showing up in different formats. It reminds me of that quote by Pema Chodron: “Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” Or, as I feel it applies, things keep showing up until we finally learn the lesson. Below are my three big lessons for 2018 – I’m hopeful I’ve learned them sufficiently enough, but only time will tell.
You’ve heard it before (and so have I): forgiveness is not about the other person, is not done for the other person or to condone what they’ve done to hurt you. It’s done to free yourself. This past year, I found myself needing to forgive a couple of people in my life who I thought I’d forgiven already, and maybe I had. However, despite my desire to forgive in the past, the hurt showed up again as a result of the same patterns of behavior that hurt me in the past. At first, I didn’t want to forgive. It was the same old story of, “how could they do this, AGAIN?” “Why haven’t they changed?” And then I realized, they weren’t going to change – years of the same behavior and my repeatedly trying to forgive and forget resulted in me continually being hurt. So, I decided that this time, forgiveness didn’t need to equate to these people remaining in my life. Nope, they weren’t going to change, and the more my expectations of them changing were destroyed, the more I got hurt. Therefore, I chose to forgive from afar; to trust that they truly don’t know the impacts of their behavior and keep them out of my life as much as possible. And that is the lesson- forgiveness is to bring me peace, and in this case, to release the other people my life. There are no hard feelings anymore, just a sense of acceptance that things are exactly as they are meant to be. Which brings me to the next lesson…
Some people and things will never change. Despite how much we want them to (or how often we forgive), things remain the same. Once we realize that and stop trying to push against it or will someone or something to be different, acceptance can take hold. Life is also going to throw us curve balls, things we would rather not deal with and never planned for; case and point: my 11-year old dog woke up in the middle of the night recently and was obviously in distress. Fast forward three weeks, countless vet appointments, tests, hospital stays (for her), and we find out she had a stroke (from which she recovered fully) and had a number of other different (not good) things going on with her. Did I want this? No. Did I plan on it? No. Do I hate more than anything watching one of my animals suffer and be in distress? Obviously. And yet, what can I do? Yes, I tried to resist the situation and fight it and lost a lot of sleep over it, but ultimately, it’s not in my control. So, what else can I do but accept it? I may not like it, but once I accept it and let go of the resistance of fighting it, my mind and heart are clear enough to actually deal with it. And that was the lesson, resistance breeds confusion; acceptance breeds clarity.
My last big lesson actually came as a result of the second one of acceptance. I strained my hamstring earlier this year and suffice it to say, it took a long time to rehab and heal. It also prevented me from running for many months. During that time, I didn’t have my regular running time through the beautiful, peaceful country roads where I live. I also didn’t realize the toll this was taking on me. At first, I resisted the fact that I couldn’t run (of course). It made me cranky and angry. Then my dog got sick, and between the stress of her situation and my inability to run, I felt like my head was going to explode. I was also experiencing acute stress responses in my body. It was in a moment of one of these stress responses when I finally accepted that running was not an option to release some of my anxiety (nor was any other alternate workout going to do it). I also realized that I had 11 acres of mother nature in my backyard. Our property is mostly wooded, totally peaceful, and equipped with walking trails. I went out and wandered through those trails on a chilly Fall day and felt more peace and acceptance than I had in months. Just breathing in the fresh air for 30 minutes, listening to the sounds of the wind and leaves rustling in the trees and hearing all the birds talking instilled me with instant peace. I continued on those daily walks until I was able to start running outside again. Mother Nature is a healer. I know this and have always known this but forgot about it for a while this year. That is one lesson I know I will never forget.
What have been your lessons this past year?
I hope they were meaningful enough that they’ve taught you all you need to know.
Wishing you a fabulous start to 2019!