Happy New Year! You’ve made it to the first Friday of the year, how’s it feel? Are you liking 2017 so far??
I, for one, was ready for a new year. Out with the old and in with the new, I say! Okay, 2016 wasn’t all bad, but it definitely wasn’t an easy year, nor a joyous year, nor particularly un-depressing. But with any luck you learned some very important life lessons and made a few changes towards the better… and I’m sure some beautiful, fun, memorable, or even simply interesting things happened in your life last year as well, I know they did in mine. But with every loss and failure you suffer, something is gained whether physically, mentally, or emotionally. And whether that gain is for the better or worse, that’s up to you really. You can choose to find power through your struggles and hardships, that is after allowing yourself a moment to grieve and dwell for a bit in your loss… it’s only natural. But once you’ve moved past your initial grief, towards acceptance, something beautiful can be found there.
2016 was a hard year… in my own family alone my sister and her children lost their husband and father to cancer, I lost my boyfriend to fear of commitment (his own, not mine), my grandparents sold their house of 20 plus years to move into a much more manageable apartment in a retirement community, the world lost some pretty influential people and gained a less than ideal president-elicit, and we even lost our family dog Cody though he lived a long life of about 18+ years.
A lot was lost. A lot has changed. But a lot was gained as well. One of the most important lessons I felt that I learned in 2016 was perspective. Perspective followed closely by the importance of perseverance and adaptability. Let's discuss.
Perspective. It’s only natural to want the easy route, to skip the pain and misery and go straight for the good stuff… But the tragic beauty of life and the truth about ‘the good stuff’ is that we only truly know what the good stuff is when we have ‘the bad stuff’ to compare it to. With change, loss, failure, illness, and just plain roadblocks, we're given the opportunity to gain new insights into ourselves, other people, or a given situation. And further still sometimes what we initially identify with as being something terrible is the very thing that leads us to what we’ve been wanting all along.
Take my grandparents for instance. They were very against selling their home and downsizing, especially initially.
They had lived in their 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom house on half an acre of land in a great suburban controlled access estates neighborhood in Las Vegas for the past 24-ish years. The house was filled with both the memories of the life they had built together and years of family gatherings they had hosted there. Like for many people, their home was a sort of symbol of all their years of hard work and what they were able to accomplish. Yet, between aging bodies and illness, managing the property had become a struggle for them. To finally come to the decision to move out of their home was a hard enough task in and of itself; add going through over 60 years of possessions and memories, and deciding what to keep, sale, give away, and throw away, is no small task as well as an emotionally painful and draining experience.
However, cut to winter of 2016 and my grandparents' lives had completely shifted for the better. They moved into a beautiful two bed, two bath apartment home in a luxurious retirement community with a host of amenities including: delicious food provided in both a restaurant style dining room, as well as a bistro, weekly housekeeping and laundry services, an onsite fitness club with personal trainers, beauty salon, library, billiards room, a pool, covered parking, a monthly farmers market, and a host of clubs, wellness programs, planned activities on and off-site, and social events. Add on top of that transportation, concierge and life alert services, should they desire or need them, and their lives haven't just become generally easier and more enjoyable, but safer and healthier as well. My grandmother, now 80 years old takes exercise classes, my grandfather a retired photographer has become the communities un-official official events photographer. They're able to be more social and eat healthier with little effort and major convenience.
When I recently asked my grandmother would she have believe someone if they had told her a year ago (the beginning of 2016) that by the following year they will have sold their home, completely downsized, and be living in a new place where they would be going to exercise classes and new years eve parties, she laughed and said 'Not at all!" It's amazing how much can change in a year. What a year ago seemed like an impossible, unwanted idea, has in reality been a major improvement in both of my grandparents quality of life.
Perseverance. To keep moving forward even in the face of pain, whether emotional or physical, works our body and soul like a muscle. It makes us stronger and more able to take on whatever life dishes out and it helps us to differentiate between minor inconveniences and real issues that actually are worth the tears.
Loss is difficult. Change is difficult. Disappointment, failure, illness, and rejection, but these things all can also strengthen us. However, don’t confuse strengthening with hardening… because there’s a very big difference, another insight I gained from last year. Strengthening is having the ability to withstand and thrive under pressure; while hardening is closing yourself off in an attempt to fortify and protect yourself. Hardening makes it so that nothing can get to you, even the good things life has to offer. It’s like protecting a flame so much so for fear of that fire going out, that the lack of air squelches it anyway.
Persevering through the muck, gives us the opportunity to make the very things that took away our power, happiness, and peace of mind, have substance. Look at it this way, failure alone isn’t inspiring… it doesn’t drive us further or make us better people, artists, parents, lovers, sons and daughters, employees or employers, etc. BUT… failure met with perseverance, getting up and trying again and again, until we’ve not only succeeded, but grown in our abilities, strengthened in our talents, and widened in our views… isn’t just inspiring, it’s empowering. It gives you a taste of what you are capable of accomplishing. Manure is just sh*t with purpose. So, why not use it to help you grow?
Adaptability. I’m a planner. I can’t help myself. Big plans, small plans, fun ones, and the ones that direct the course of your life. I love planning and thrive on it. So, when my plans are met with a non-resolvable conflict… and I’m talking big life plans, not the decision to have salad and pasta for dinner verses someone else wanting pho (though that would never be a problem because both are delicious ideas) … I’m thrown off kilter. When my relationship took an unexpected leap off of a cliff at the very top of 2016… I’m talking two weeks into the year, it not only crushed my spirit, but derailed all of my plans I had for 2016. Suddenly, growing my blog, a freelance interior design business, and working on my masters didn’t only seem mountainous, but impossible and unappealing. At the time I was enrolled in one of the most challenging quarters of my design program. So, when before the end of January, I was already hit with a breakup and a death in the family… I knew right then that my plans were going to have to change.
I withdrew from the most challenging course I was taking (which was actually quite a big financial loss for me), and decided to focus my attention on the remaining two courses I was enrolled in and my own personal wellness.
It wasn’t something I did lightly, but after conversation and contemplation I realized that my well-being will always be so much more important than finances or any plans I can make for myself. I also figured I could re-enroll in the course once I was better able to focus my energy on such a rigorous class (which I did later in the year and aced). Likewise, I blogged when the mood struck me verses the writing schedule I had planned for myself, and applied for 10 design jobs a week until I could land one that suited me, so that I could find a steady job verses searching for freelance work. The ability to adapt when times were truly tough, taught me true prioritization, and by the end of the year I had found a job I loved with a boss I adored, had successfully completed several quarters of school, and had written a blog post that was picked up by an outside local organization who drove more readers to MyArtisticBliss.com.
So, coming into this, hopefully, glorious new year, fresh start, opportunity to make a difference in your life 2017, consider what you've learned over the course of the last year and allow those lessons to strengthen, empower, or guide you towards something better. That's at least the perspective I'm choosing to take this year, and so far I'm super excited about 2017.
Happy New Year!