When I asked my husband how he’d describe 2020, his word began with an S. I smiled. Another yin yang relationship that I treasure deeply for the wider perspective it offers me.
I get it, I don’t suppose many of us would have actively chosen it. For me it’s been like a Kinder Egg, one of those that keeps on giving. The tricky thing is that many of its gifts have been experiences or insights I’d have sent back. Yet at each step I also had a sense that it’s no coincidence that this is 2020. The year whose name speaks to clarity and vision.
What if I started there? What could I see with absolute clarity?
We go through life seeing life as WE ARE not as it is.
We’re constantly interpreting the world through our nervous system, beliefs, life history and even veils of tiredness. We believe that what we’re seeing is the truth and sit in wonder at how others can’t see what we can. We continually forget it’s our version of the truth. Something we might more accurately describe as story-telling. Yet we cling on to our stories as if they are real and anchor everything else to them. Unquestioned, unexamined.
2020 has offered us a window. A moment in time where, like it or not, aspects of our life have been brought up so close and personal that there really wasn’t the option to avoid them.
Our doors were closed, our distraction techniques taken off the table. In any other circumstances we’d have been busy with trips, jobs, action. Doing anything but this.
This year we got a clear message, stay home and LOOK at your LIFE.
Stay home and look at what you’ve created through a zillion decisions, choices and compromises. Sit with it. Not for half hour reflection, for weeks and weeks and weeks. And just when you think you’ve dodged the bullet, let’s all go again. Wow. Didn’t see that coming.
Here’s just some learnings and insights that have come to sit with me. I don’t offer them as aha moments or fixes. Like many I’m still in the rumble of it all – that messy part where there’s a sense of a shift happening. Its unfolding for me to see. My biggies, followed by headlines that I’m still exploring. There’s a lot to go for here, if you’re willing to sit with me.
1. God’s will v MY plan
I’m aware the G word triggers some. If that’s you, insert your own word for whatever describes the Big Picture. Nature, Universe, Reality.
The point I’m making is this; we love to control, to plan, to believe that we’ve got it sorted. It has us looking forward to things like holidays and feel secure when we look at a squiggle on a piece of paper that’s a number we like. (Or not). We honestly and truly believe it’s all down to Us.
Then comes the reminder. The curveball we didn’t account for. The plan is brushed away and it feels as though the ground has been taken away.
It seems it doesn’t matter how robust your world feels, we must keep remembering it’s simply a construct in our mind. An idea. You can cling to it all you like and pretend it’s real. You can argue and fight for your plan. Or you can see that LIFE is bigger than that.
Periodically, if we forget, it will show up and PROVE IT.
So, hold the plan lightly and get on with LIVING. Remembering that each day isn’t a guarantee, it’s an invitation to a party that you’ve been invited to. If we keep looking down at our papers and saying this isn’t going to MY schedule, we’re missing the whole point.
2. Endings are important
Most of us actively avoid endings. We say see you soon rather than goodbye. We create new paths in relationships, so we don’t have to say this is over. We move on from death because the pain and sense of loss feels like it might overwhelm us. Better to be Doing than experiencing, feeling.
I thought I was pretty good at this until someone wise said, “I want to honour that we will never meet in this way ever again”. Internally something clicked and I melted. I knew they were right and yet the finality was shocking.
By pausing, breathing this in, I was able to complete the circle and see the value of a heartfelt goodbye. To let go fully and to allow something else to be created. There’s incredible power in a full stop. A freedom we deny ourselves when we hold on.
3. Clarity v certainty
This one comes down to where you put your attention – internally or externally.
Many bank their whole happiness on certainty. “If only I knew, Nic. Then… “
Yep. Kind of.
Certainty of a job, income, money, relationships, ‘if I can nail this down then I’ll be able to…’
Blah blah. Certainty comes and goes in a heartbeat. With an announcement, a virus, someone else’s decision, a doctor’s words, a phone call.
Clarity is an inside job. It says whatever happens, I get to choose my response to it. I may not like it and I can still choose my next steps. I can decide my mindset. It says I MATTER. I choose. Everything else flows from there.
When we look constantly outwards and expect THAT world to steady us, or make us feel safe, or complete, we’ll always be on the surface of the waves. It’s inevitable. We’re waiting for something else to decide FOR us if it’s going to be an ok day, or moment.
When we look inwards and tune into our wisdom, we get to see that our radar says this is bullshit, and KNOW the relationship is shifting. It allows us to access OUR truth and take powerful steps from there.
I’m not saying it’s not ok to like certainty. I’m saying when we use it as a crutch to believe it’s a solid thing and always look externally to get it, you’re setting yourself up for a fall. And I believe deep down we know that. Some just hope they can outrun it.
4. Our pasts are a work of fiction
Think about your life. I’m guessing its full of millions of conversations, interactions. We think that we’ve recorded every single one of them accurately and used this cast-iron data to inform who we are.
When I was small, I came home to a spelling test every day. It wasn’t fun. I thought it must be a punishment. After all, I had no idea what it was for – none of my friends spoke about theirs.
One day an aunt came and was dumbfounded.
“This child should be out playing not studying.”
My parents looked uncomfortable and acquiesced and I got to watch Blue Peter. It felt naughty and amazing. The next night? A double test tonight and no television. Boom. Belief installed: Nic, fun comes at a cost. There’s consequences to play. It gets you into trouble.
This year by intention, I got curious; is the story in my head true?
There followed a meaningful conversation with my Dad. From 12 he was labelled the class dunce and sat with his face to the wall while the rest of the class studied. Many years later he was diagnosed with dyslexia. My mum taught him to read and write. In his 20s. He carried stock sentences on pieces of paper so he could copy them into reports at work.
I knew none of this.
Through tears he shared, “that’s why we sat down with you each night and taught you to spell. I couldn’t bear the thought you would grow up like me and carry that level of shame”.
That story, of punishment, meanness? Parents who LOVED.
Ask yourself, what stories are you carrying that might not even be true?
So many more. Here’s some quick headlines that one day I may share more on.
5. Arguing with Reality is a total waste of energy, life and focus. Imagine standing in poop and spending even a second thinking it shouldn’t have happened. Get over yourself, it has. I’m noticing this more and more. I still resist in some areas. Funny.
6. An explanation isn’t the same as an apology. I don’t care about the former until I feel you mean the latter.
7. Every passing is different and it’s still a shock even when you know it’s coming.
8. Shame and trauma are a silent epidemic. We’d rather lick bleach that go there. The pain in the stories is crushing our ability to even breathe some days. It’s not Us, it’s within ALL of us. There’s a different path and I’m committed to walking it in service of others.
9. I can be right, or I can be married. Every time I show up proving, I disconnect from the very person I adore.
10. It is not my role to change anyone or their journey. It has nothing to do with me. You can’t help someone you already think needs changing.
11. Our parents are humans, not idols or even suitable guardians. They did their best and we get to choose the rest of the story.
12. Every word and thought is neutral. It can’t harm us. We make it mean something and then decide we like it. Or not. When I was called ambitious, I could feel the internal shudder. Until I saw that a child so clearly deciding this wouldn’t be her life, surely had some of it within her. We disown the parts of us that we’ve judged as distasteful traits in others. We are all things. Some just sit more comfortably than others.
13. Our biggest act of love is to integrate all parts of ourselves including the shadows; the parts of ourselves we don’t like or rather not be seen. When we deny any part of us, we deny our authenticity.
14. Sometimes people keep themselves busy out of fear of what they may discover if they stay still. I didn’t think that was me. Sometimes it still is.
15. There are people in my life who I love, who I still overlook regularly. It’s not enough to know it, I still do it.
16. It will be ok. I will be ok. This will pass. Always.
17. Lockdown became sit down in our house. The results have been startling. I don’t recognise my own body. I have breasts! We call it Covid 10 – those extra pounds. If it’s not elastic it’s too tight. Uncomfortable and interesting to be with.
18. Every single time I take fresh air my mood shifts. It’s been of the smallest changes I can make in a day and yet during this year I often skipped it.
19. My marriage is my biggest teacher. It takes work and sometimes it’s been easier to slide to a default setting. We’re worth more than that.
20. Boredom is self-created and a sign I’ve checked out of my own life.
21. Motion v action. One has you talk action, prepare for it; I’ll order a book. The other has you take it; you actually read the book.
22. I’m inherently selfish. I don’t say this to judge myself (though I have), it’s simply a fact. I often don’t even see it. I suspect it comes from being a solo child. It was always mine. It also has me believe in scarcity. There’s enough to share, always.
23. Living an intentional life takes practice. The results speak for themselves.
24. I have never felt good after eating a tube of Pringles. I don’t seem to remember that when the lid is opened.
25. Whatever you do consistently shapes your life. Change even one of those things and your life pivots.
26. You can’t love someone more than you love yourself. You’ve already decided it’s limited.
27. My ignorance of white privilege was and still is staggering. Becoming consciously incompetent in this area has been deeply humbling and shame inducing. I’ve spoken those words “can I touch your hair?”. I remain committed to failing repeatedly in service of learning.
28. Knowledge and wisdom are different things. Entirely different things.
29. The power of whole heartedly being with someone for no other reason than simply to hear their soul speak is extraordinary. Its changes both.
30. When I judge someone, I’m deciding for them who they are based only on my own limitations. It says more about me than them.
31. It matters HOW you listen….
32. There is no ordinary day. It’s not possible. Unless we decide to think of it like that. And why would we do that? Every day can be the Best Day Ever. No matter how it looks.
What a remarkable year.
Create your remarkable life.