People say hindsight is 2020.
Well… soon, 2020 itself will be hindsight.
No one imagined 2020 would have gone down the way it did. Many of us have already shut the door on 2020, hoping for a brighter 2021.
2020 taught us a lot.
What are we going to do with this much hindsight? The possibilities are endless!
For many of us, our New Year’s celebrations often looks forward with excitement at the upcoming year while saying goodbye to the previous year. We’re curious as to what joys and challenges the new year will hold for us.
This has been a tradition for me for several years now. Not just setting the stage for the new year, but setting it up in a way that helps me fulfill my new year’s resolutions.
Historically, I was often negative and loved to overcommit. When left unchecked, I still sometimes tend to go to the negative before the positive. The negative belief that I was incapable of doing what I set out to do fed my negativity for years, and was reinforced by the fact I continuously committed to insurmountably more than what anyone could ever possibly achieve. So around February, sometimes March, I said “fuck it” and just went back to what I had been doing. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I also bitched non-stop about what I failed to do and how hard my life was. That was usually the most productive part of my New Year’s Resolution journey.
Finally, I reached the point where I couldn’t stand to hear my own inner chatter or hear what I said to my friends because I was such a downer. It was time for a change, so I decided to shift my perspective in a massive, and new (and scary, and challenging) way.
In 2018, I made a commitment to myself to find gratitude every single day, in the mundane and normal things. This was the only commitment I made for the first three months of the year. I needed to put on my big girl panties and make sure I could actually do something small and achievable. This commitment was sometimes as small as being grateful that my pain was a 7 and not a 10 some mornings. Other days it was huge, like the day I stopped limping. I quickly realized that I could overcome many obstacles by staying positive and trying to find something for which I was grateful, even something as mundane as a hot cup of coffee.
… okay, maybe a jug of coffee. While I committed to only one cup of coffee per day, I never specified what size cup I had to use.
Let me tell you guys, 2020 was a year that challenged upholding this commitment like nothing else has ever challenged me before. However, even through 2020, I stayed committed to find daily gratitude, no matter where it hid in my life. For instance, the fact that the internet doesn’t have an end. Or that the year 2020 will only happen once.
As bad as this year has been, it could have been far worse.
2020 taught me the value of humor and how much that can release stress or pain. 2020 showed me how changing perspective and viewing the world through a different lens can change the way we see the world. For instance, toilet paper quickly became the most sought after consumer good. FaceTime and Skype became lifelines for connection rather than ways to zone out of the people sitting next to you.
‘Lockdown’ became Safer at Home.
I FaceTimed with my best friend the day I was finally able to buy toilet paper. Do not judge me for the incredible celebration that virtually ensued.
If something like being able to buy toilet paper brought feelings of immense satisfaction and gratitude, then what would happen if we made those perspective shifts with our own relationship with stress and pain?
What if we started laughing at some of the things ‘wrong’ with ourselves, our jobs, our partners, or our life in general?
What if we could find gratitude on the daily, no matter what went down?
How much would our worlds change?
What could be possible through a lens of real curiosity?
For me, 2020 brought me a lot more joy and contentment than I thought possible. I faced difficult decisions that I had been avoiding for years.
… Well, after I dealt with the anxiety and despair that is.
My year was filled with challenges, and I assume that is true for most of you too.
For me, the pandemic has been an endless rollercoaster of emotions, and in some ways, the ride isn’t over. While the experience now is coasting along a smooth track rather than the ups and downs, my anxiety almost overwhelmed me on more than one occasion when the pandemic began. Some Covid doom and gloom report would send me spiraling. My heart would start to race, my breathing became shallow, and my mind took off:
What if I never got to see my parents again?
Or my dog?
Or anyone I loved?
Suddenly all the things that once seemed commonplace felt as though we would suddenly have them taken away by circumstances outside of our control.
Before I knew it, anxiety had me looking to the sky for falling frogs. Or murder hornets. Or wildfires.
When the despair hit, I almost missed the anxiety. The depths of my despair made it so I didn’t even want to leave my room. And, by this I don’t mean avoiding venturing into the scary world where the virus was looming around every corner, but rather avoiding going into the kitchen because even that level of effort would require a nap.
Some days, I battled desperation and fought back against panic attack after panic attack. Those were the days I missed despair again and tried to recall what happy felt like. I experienced significant loss and massive change in 2020 - I moved from the West coast to East coast, driving alone with my two cats. Prior to the move, I had to give away animals I deeply loved because I couldn’t give them the level of attention they needed.
For me, fear, loneliness, grief, and despair were the primary emotions during those early days of Safer at Home. The mental anguish often translated into physical pain, and I hurt so much on those days that I knew movement could spell disaster. I didn’t really want to move. For those of us who live in chronic pain, we feel our emotions on a deeper and physical level.
The good news for those of us navigating chronic pain is that we get to enjoy the flip side of that extra sensitivity. This means that on days I felt other emotions, like hope, joy, laughter and faith, my pain wasn’t that bad. Take a moment and consider how your own emotions affect your physical pain levels.
As I write this, I am working through some fear and against a desire to forget that the world exists. Yet, I am finding the reasons I opened my laptop and started to type to be much more compelling than curling back up in my very comfortable bed.
Those reasons are my unquenchable desire to help others and turn that desire into work that really sets the stage for my business for 2021. I can’t make progress towards my goals if I'm hiding in bed.
As I sit here and start to think about all the things I’m working towards and about to do with my life, I feel a bloom of excitement start to open in my belly. That’s where I want to keep my focus, on the excitement of the blossoming excitement, not on the fear that threatens to rob the blossom of all nutrients and will to grow.
When reflecting on positivity and curiosity, and how I made this massive perspective shift for myself, I find one core reason for the change. Me.
How did I go from a perpetual Negative Nancy with commitment issues to a positive-thinking realist who upholds commitments?
Surrender. After years of injections, chiropractics, physical therapy, and other therapies that all fell short of helping relieve my back pain enough that it wasn’t interfering with my life, I surrendered. I unconditionally surrendered to the physical pain and accepted the fact I would need surgery. Again.
Commitment. I committed to facing my shit and systematically dealing with the things that held me back. No matter what I would find when wading through the shit storm of my life, I would face it and take on the responsibility by owning the fact that this was my life and the only person that could deal with it was me. No more blaming others, slacking off, ignoring my needs and responsibilities. The time had come for me to take the yoke and pilot the plane of my life.
As I took control, the course changed, the plane evened out, and I found that the lifelong turbulence that tossed me around like the last roll of toilet paper in a Covid shopping mob was that life was not as hard as I thought. Once in control, I discovered who I was. I gained confidence in myself and started to trust myself and my decisions. I then felt safe enough to truly open my mind and accept things as they were instead of always trying to change the world around me. I could simply change my reactions, I could change my perception. I could accept my reality.
Acceptance. My acceptance led to my biggest win of 2020: release from my 8+ year battle with chronic pain. When I accepted that I needed help, I no longer needed the level of help that I had previously.
Within the gifts 2020 brought, finally resolving my pain with my mind (and without surgery) is the one that will stand out the longest. This is what perspective shifts can lead to my friends!
2020 is the year of a pandemic. And it was also my year of freedom. The irony does not escape me.
While stuck inside my home, I was forced to focus on myself and fix things that were no longer working, or had never worked and subsequently freed myself. My journey with pain has led me to mental, physical, and spiritual places I never even dreamed existed!
This, my friends, is what I want to share with you over the course of 2021 and beyond - my journey to alleviate my pain and all the other things this journey has gifted me.
To be clear, it was fucking hell. It was not a joyride, yet it is a gift.
I didn’t enjoy the limits or being woken up by bad back spasms that made my lungs clench down in protest to breathe. Nightly. Repeatedly each night. I didn’t enjoy pain radiating down my leg so bad that it felt like I was pulling it behind me on the worst days.
Without that hell though, I wouldn’t have gained the strength and skill I now have. That strength and those skills are key to my happiness and success in 2021 and beyond. That hell is now a hell I have a lot of gratitude for enduring.
I can’t wait to share it with all of you!