I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I don’t like making promises to myself that I’m sure to break.
For the last two years, however, I have been choosing a word for the year – something that sets my intention for a direction I want to head. Two years ago, I chose “fearless”, because I was in a place where I knew that I was letting fear hold too much power in my life. Sure enough, when you set an intention like that, the challenges show up to test your resolve. I was brought face to face with a lot of fears, some of which I met with the necessary courage, but some of which got the better of me.
Last year, because “fearless” had brought up a few too many big issues, I thought I’d be more gentle with myself, and simply accept what was meant to come. I chose “journey” as my word for 2010.
Little did I know just how far the journey would take me.
First there was the journey to a new way of being in my body. After years of contemplating it, I finally went for breast reduction surgery. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about deliberately changing my body in such a dramatic (and really rather violent) way, but in the end it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I have been granted a new freedom, with less of a burden on my shoulders, more opportunity to wear the kinds of clothes I wanted to wear, and improved posture that made me feel better about the way I carried myself in the world.
The most beautiful outcome of my surgery has been that I have discovered a joy in running. I run at least 3 times a week, and it has become about so much more than simply seeking a more healthy body. When I run, I meditate, pray, and open space for my mind to explore beautiful possibilities. A lot of wonderful ideas come to me when I run.
A few months after my surgery, the journey took me (and my family) down an extremely rocky road. While I was in Chicago at a conference, my dear husband had a serious breakdown. I came home, hoping it would turn around, but it didn’t. His mind went to that ugly place that mental illness takes you, and when he couldn’t find peace, he attempted suicide.
Fortunately, the suicide attempt was unsuccessful, but we still had a rocky road to navigate on the way back to health. Trying to balance the needs of three daughters with the needs of a husband in the psychiatric ward is one of the heaviest burdens I have ever been called on to bear.
We all survived, however, and Marcel was soon on his way back to stability and health. Our daughters, too, showed strength and resilience, and before long, we felt like we had finally reached a smooth place on the road.
Summer was a good time for us. We camped, we went on road trips to soccer tournaments, and we spent a delightful, relaxed week at a borrowed cabin by the lake.
In the summer, I did what I’d been longing to do for about a year and a half, and that’s when the journey became really interesting. I handed in my notice at work. It was one of the scariest things to do, knowing we didn’t really have the financial security we needed to raise a family, but somehow it just felt right.
In one of those delightful moments of serendipity, within minutes of coming to the conclusion (together with Marcel) that it was time to give my notice, I got an email from the university inviting me to teach three courses in the coming year. It was just the sign I needed to convince me that I would be able to thrive in self-employment.
In October, I left my job and started a brand new journey into self-employment. The month of October was my transition/sabbatical month, and so I spent my time relaxing, reading, and meditating. Possibly my favourite moment of the year was when I traveled to Ontario to attend a circle/story workshop with one of my heroes, Christina Baldwin.
Since then, I have finished teaching my first course, and discovered that I LOVE to teach. I’ve also done some freelance writing, started this new blog, created my business website, joined the board of UNPAC, met with a lot of people, and explored a lot of possibilities.
This new self-employment journey is so many things rolled into one – it is exciting, challenging, fun, nerve-wracking, discouraging, frustrating, delightful, confusing, overwhelming, and freeing.
I wish I could say that now, three months after I left my job, I have it all figured out. But that would be a bald-faced lie. There is so much of this that still feels so frustratingly ambiguous and sometimes I beat myself up for not having more focused. At the same time, though, there are so many beautiful possibilities opening up that I know that it’s better not to trap myself into a narrow framework that will end up leaving me feel trapped.
One thing is for sure – given the way the last two years have gone, I am being very careful what word I choose for 2011! More on that later.