In 2011, I began picking a word of the year. I’d researched it in 2009, and picked one for 2010. It felt good to have a way to turn from goals to a reflection at the end of the months.
But 2011 was when it all came together for me. This gave a new approach toward resolutions and goal-setting. I chose “Strength” and three particular facets: Mind, Body and Spirit. I had 6 goals under strength: 3 for spirit, 2 for body and 1 for my mind. These included strength training, eating vegetables, meditation and dance.
This year, I had a bit of an eye-opening reflection.
When I came to complete my review pages, to explore how 2019 has shaped me… how I have ‘unfurled’ as this was my word for 2019; I was shocked to discover that really I have disintegrated. Turns out that my year of revealing myself as this reinvented self, my year of unfurling, actually revealed how shaky my foundations had been.
I’ve written before about lapses and relapses; that sense of backward-steps, or lacking progress. That sums up my 2019.
I began the year as a confident, active writer and support worker. I ended it after 4 different managers at my day-job wondering if I was capable of even doing the simplest things. There were other things; health issues and life events. But I’ve been doing the same dayjob since 2012. To end 2019 less confident in that job was a real eye-opener for me.
So many images around reinvention and self-improvement use a butterfly.
But do you know what I caterpillar has to go through to grow wings?
As a business owner, they say you shouldn’t share your struggles with your audience.
I mentor, I write, I teach. But all of that comes from experience of the life I live. And here, on day 1 of 2020, I can safely say I’ve moved out of that experience with my feet rooted, my arms reaching up like branches and the power of my inner fire thrumming under my skin like energy and nutrients moving up a tree’s trunk.
I’ve read a lot about anti-fragility this year, and this is exactly what I would define as the journey inside the chrysalis. I’m no biologist, but my understanding is that to become a butterfly, a caterpillar digests itself; releasing enzymes which destroy its own tissue. And then the ‘soup’ it becomes houses a few groups of cells which survive and transform the pieces of the butterfly.
Through this process of disintegration the caterpillar becomes ‘stronger.’
When I picked “unfurl” as my word, I loved the imagery of opening my wings, of petals opening to morning’s sun. I have been working consciously to recreate and redefine myself for well over a decade. I began my first psychology degree in 2008.
Turns out, I had to digest myself, disintegrate the ‘shoulds’ I had been conditioned with, and now I need to rebuild. But my roots are still there. They are those cells which survived.
It turns out that although I’d rather be a snake, just shedding an old skin, a rooted reinvention can be both: internal shifts that shimmer in our personality, new perceptions that people around us never saw the transformation from the outside… of a total breakdown of everything we once were.
I help both caterpillars and snakes, because I’ve been both.
Like many of you, I’m a driven soul: I’ve sought out possibility and potential since I was in the single-digits. At 6, this looked like wishes to be a princess and make myself invisible… but the core roots of my inner compass was already there. Since I was 11, I’ve had identity crises and sought to understand why I felt broken all the time.
I’ve accomplished so much in my life already, especially winning personal battles. But this year, I’ve torn between the need to “feel progress” and to actually let myself step back. I have moved backwards. Not to square one (although it may feel like it sometimes).
Life is a spiral: we feel like we’ve gone around in a circle, but we’re further up or down the spiral, slightly further from the centre.
The difficulty for 2020 is that I’ve disintegrated so many things this year.
One year I planned to exercise weekly. Another year I focused on reading 24 books. For years I meditated weekly. For nearly a decade I wrote 100,000 words of fiction a year. Had short stories published. Sought an agent for my novel manuscript. I blogged every single Saturday.
None of those things are ‘current’ and yet all are present in the reinvented life I seek for myself. The identity I’ve spent a decade crafting.
In conflict with this, are all the things I know about goal-setting and habit formation. Not just what is shared in the self-help books, but my MSc in Neuroscience. In my training in Cognitive Therapy. In just experiencing and experimenting with life.
So it turns out, 2019 basically undid what I thought I’d slowly conquered, piece by piece. So I need to start with where I am, not where I wish I was. But one thing I do have is a hell of a lot of clarity.
I know now exactly which aspects ARE my roots.
I have the costumes which are true to me. Which instincts to listen to and how to hear them.
And I am moving into 2020 with my compass pointing North,
my weapon in hand and a fierce smile on my face.