A Closer Look Back To Move Forward

BEFORE I GO…

It’s tempting to rush headlong into the new year, yet a fruitful start begins with a rewarding end. What to keep, and what to throw in the trash? To plan for the future, without wisdom gained from the past, would be like jumping off a cliff wearing a blindfold…and I did that last year.

Although, had I known how rough 2018 would be, I probably would’ve hid in a cave instead and not achieved all that I did. I look back with no small amount of compassion for myself, because in hindsight, I didn’t quite celebrate my wins properly. So, that’s the first keeper…

KEEP IT

Small wins. Last year roared in with with a fresh divorce and followed up with the constant change of adjusting to single working motherhood. I catalogued everything with a new series of artwork, and a soul searching blog post as I released each one. Close-ups of the work are featured above, and you can see the complete undertaking HERE.

They were hard for me to look at afterward, the posts so painful to read, that I almost deleted them. But it was all part of the healing process: just finishing each painting was a win, and every post is a goldmine for me now.

Upon reflection, most important is the need to keep self-esteem high in the midst of all the ups and downs. Each hit I take doesn’t need to be a personal disaster, if I remember that challenges don’t decrease my inherent worth. In fact, challenge secures growth. Lynda Field says it better than I do, and her book “Self-Esteem Coach” is like having a life coach on your Kindle. She makes the point that, “We all have our ‘stuff’ so we might as well embrace it, and investigate it, because this is the only way towards increasing self-respect, self-appreciation, self-esteem and happiness.”

I especially love the investigating–not just book research, but also…

Personal tarot reading. Oh, how I remember the confusion and desperation, the crying, “Someone please tell me it will get better.” I just wanted someone to say it would all be okay, but whether you believe in clairvoyance or not, the better question may be, “Would knowing the future actually be helpful anyway?”

Consider being certain that you would achieve a particular goal, because a psychic told you that you would. You’re so certain, that you hardly feel the need to work toward your goal at all. Now what happens to your success? That’s not the point with tarot cards anyway. As Amber Khan, one of my favorite tarot readers, puts it, “What I thought tarot would be like: I can see the past, present and future so clearly!! What it’s actually like: damn I just got called the fuck out by a deck of cards.” Her readings are artful, by the way, on The Quietest Revolution.

What makes tarot meaningful, helpful, and relevant is that the future is determined by our actions today. The cards are full of history and symbolism, part of our collective consciousness, so they remind us that life is bigger than one person or event. The great equalizer is that any card can come up for any person, a universal truth. In other words, they help us gain perspective when life seems small, if we’re willing to listen. And the best way to intimately use them for self-reflection is to read them yourself. There are plenty of books out there which fully explain the history, astrology, numerology, and even their connection with ancient texts like the Kabbalah. I like to research each card as it comes up, with a reputable free online resource like Biddy Tarot.

Realistic plans. Speaking of the present predicting the future, the way to achieve anything is to make a good plan and execute it. Too easy, and the results are nothing special. Too hard, and the results never happen.

The best book I’ve read in a long time about getting shit done was The 12 Week Year, by Brian Moran. I love the way this book breaks up the challenge of a successful year into workable segments, rather than an annual plan. The idea is that our goals are usually too broad, too daunting, or too far in the distance. We blow them off for later, and when later comes, it’s way too late for all the big dreams, and we often settle for less than we’re capable of. The 12 Week method teaches anyone how to be a kickass CEO of their own life. And if you totally screw up the first try like I did, chances are you still got more done in a short period of time than you usually do, and you haven’t killed the whole year. Just begin a new 12 weeks.

Speaking of productivity, I took a long, hard look this year at what has kept me stagnant, especially while nursing old wounds and keeping beer in my tears. These things have got to go…

TRASH IT

The belief that red wine is good for me. I’m not gonna lie, the resveratrol in cabernet wasn’t what I was drinking it for. Never has been. Not surprisingly, my taste for a full-bodied red was often satisfied during the divorce, as a coping mechanism. I never even thought of giving up my simple pleasure and solace during all that drama. Yet, after the dust settled and I tried to cut back…whoops. It wasn’t so easy. Huh? I had never experienced problems with willpower before. As usual, I turned to research in order to figure out what the hell was wrong with me, and I read a ton of great books on alcohol and addiction this year.

Unlike the widely and blindly accepted media blurbs that red wine is great for your heart, “This Naked Mind” by Annie Grace puts that and other fallacies about alcohol to the test with scientific facts, from credible sources. More than that, she asks us to consider, on our own, beliefs we may have picked up from society that it calms us, that it’s liquid courage, that it makes events more fun. Arrive at your own conclusions.

Of course, not everyone who drinks alcohol develops an issue. Naturally, my next question was, “Why did I?” Next on the docket was “Unbroken Brain” by Maia Szalavitz, who gives some great possible answers to that, and the causes for any addiction. As it turns out, there is no one reason and every person’s need is unique, be it heroin, gambling, or french fries. I think that childhood trauma and genetics are well-known factors, but did you know that IQ is, too? So, each solution is also unique, and ground breaking research suggests that harm prevention, compassion, and acceptance lead the way.

Which brings me to…

This is “me” masks. Sure we all play different roles, like parent, spouse, friend, or co-worker, because we all have many “jobs” in life. The problem for me has been when I’ve imagined that’s who I actually am, and have embellished those roles as “perfect, tireless mother,” or “morally superior wife.” Then, I’ve not only lied to myself and everyone else, but I’ve also made myself a martyr. It’s easy to see how a mother who gives up everything for her kid could become a hapless victim, but staying married to a person whose ethics scare me just makes me a meaner victim. Both drain my self-esteem over time.

Any mask like that is the opposite of authenticity, and it’s the people-pleasing way that so many people fall into addiction. The last book that I read on that subject this year was “Rewired” by Erica Spiegelman, but to me, it was more about living a happy life of my own choosing. I guess that’s the point: if we could all do that, then why would we ever need to self-medicate or self-soothe in the first place? The chapter titles in this book are phrases like honesty, evolution, healthy relationships, and compassion. Thank you, more please. And less of the self-loathing masks that keep all that away from myself.

Black and white thinking. Otherwise known as dualism–that everything is this or that, good or bad, right or wrong, and that I know the absolute difference for myself and everyone else.

I’ve been working on this tome, “Tantra Illuminated,” by Christopher Wallis, for a couple years, but since I started it over and finally finished it cover to cover in 2018, I’m counting it. If you’ve ever wondered, this book goes into great depth about Tantra, specifically Nondual Shaiva Tantra, as explained for the western mind. It’s the first philosophy that analyzes existence and consciousness in a way that makes sense to me, even though my brain was exhausted at first.

Something to help with that: my favorite meditation from last year uses the Magic Mantra, ek ong kar sat gur prasad, which is said in Kundalini Yoga to be so strong that it elevates the self beyond duality. Try it out, if you’re interested, but it comes with a warning.

…AND ONWARD, INTO 2019!

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