Last weekend was my birthday. This year felt different; not because of the number itself, but because of everything that happened this past year.
A few days before my birthday last year, I was moving from California to Madrid. I was leaving everything behind, taking a leap of faith, and jumping into an incredible love story.
Since then, I’ve grieved my life in California, reinvented myself in business to survive the move and COVID, got my heart broken, and moved back home to Montreal to ground, heal and get clear on what I wanted to do next. Once here, I also faced a traumatic situation that I can’t really get into here and now.
To say that this year was a growth journey is an understatement. Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned:
1. Courage doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.
To be honest, I was afraid every step of the way. I was afraid to make a mistake, to regret my choices, to “fail”. I was afraid of the change, the unknown, and the out of my control.
So how did I face my fears and continued anyway? I tried to take one more step than what was comfortable every step…
I remembered that living in fear, seems like a safe place, but it’s also a very unfulfilling place to be in. I had done it in the past, and I felt stuck in a cycle of defeat and frustration. I wanted a different outcome, so I was ready to try something different. I also knew that if I did fail, I would survive. I would be able to get back up. That’s another lesson I had learned in the past facing adversity and challenges.
So I gave myself permission to try. I gave myself permission to take a risk. I gave myself permission to fail.
When you lean into what you’re afraid of and get on the other side, you are changed, whether or not you get the result you hoped for, and that’s worth it.
2. Faith is believing that life happens for you, not to you.
When you stop blaming others for what happens in your life, you are suddenly in control. That might seem obvious intellectually, but I think I truly learned it, in an embodied way this year.
When you feel in control, you can surrender to the flow of life. There’s an ease that allows you to trust. There’s space for faith instead of having to understand and make sense of it all.
If life happens for you, everything is a potential source of growth, a gateway to the life of your dreams, even if it’s painful on the surface.
If life happens for you, you can have faith that it will turn out for the best.
3. You can choose love, even when you’re hurting.
I was sitting in front of this man. He was rejecting me and asking me to leave. I felt hurt, betrayed, and highly confused. I felt like he pulled the rug of our imagined future from under me, and was stealing my life away.
Yet, I loved him. And I chose to continue to love him. I remember telling myself, I’m gonna take advantage of every minute I have left with him. I’m gonna love him until I have to go.
That moment. That decision. That single point in time transformed me and changed the process. Heck, it changed him even. I’m convinced that by choosing love, I made the process easier on myself. My thoughts, my focus, my physical state, and my actions were different because of that one single choice.
As we say, you can’t avoid pain, but you can avoid suffering. Well, I still suffered a great deal in the months that followed but for a short window, loved prevailed.
4. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. We do.
When you believe that time heals all, you don’t have to take action. You can be passive or avoidant, but in my experience, it doesn’t really work. The truth is that I can be really good at avoiding. I have many strategies to not feel what I’d rather not feel. You know, things like anger, grief, shame, or sorrow, but I’m also very sensitive to energy.
I was always afraid that if I’d allowed myself to feel, I would drown in all of it.
This year, I fully allowed myself to feel. And yes, at times, I thought I would never be okay again. But evidently, I was wrong.
Emotions only stay when you’re avoiding them. When you acknowledge them and feel them, they transform and they eventually dissipate. And that was a major part of my healing.
5. Forgiveness is a practice.
As time doesn’t heal all, forgiveness doesn’t just happen on its own.
I learned that forgiveness is a practice that has less to do with what happened and more with how you feel about the situation. Once I noticed the impact of those feelings on my mental and physical health, I wanted to feel differently. From that moment on, you have to take action toward how you want to feel instead.
My key lesson was in repetition. That’s why I say it’s a practice. The action is not a one-time deal, or a quick-fix pill. It’s a notice, interrupt and replace pattern that you need to repeat again and again. It’s a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment, anger, betrayal, rage and more, and replace them with empathy, compassion, sympathy, and love. All, without having to forget, condone or excuse someone else’s behavior.
In my experience, forgiveness is also a vibration on its own. It’s something you can channel, feel and integrate separately from any events or any particular person. It’s a vibration you can entrain with so it becomes easily recognizable by your psyche and in reach by your body. One way I’ve learned to do that this year, is to hold forgiveness for other people or groups of people. That has been an extremely powerful practice and has changed my relationship with my personal trauma.
6. Your intuitive guidance doesn’t have to “make sense”.
It seems like every year I get more and more in touch with my intuition, and I get clearer on what it says.
This year, I learned to accept what my intuition says even if I can’t explain it intellectually. Sitting with the discomfort that comes from the lack of ability to justify your choices to anybody else has been interesting.
I knew that I would eventually want to leave Montreal again. I could have started a visa process right away, just to get on with my life and to keep moving forward. Everybody wanted to know what I would do next. To be fair, I’m a planner, and I usually know what I want to do next. I am pretty decisive and tend to make things happen. This time, I felt completely different. I felt like it wasn’t the time for me to make any decision. I needed to wait and I kept telling people I don’t know what’s next.
My intuition was telling me to wait and see. When I look back, the lesson was to not make a big decision from a place of hurt and of survival mode. I needed a moment to fight, flight and freeze. I needed to address my nervous system before I could think of the future before I could make a wise decision for myself. One day, it got clear. I was ready to decide and things have been unfolding with incredible ease since.
7. How is kinda irrelevant.
I told you I was a planner. I appreciate having a step-by-step plan laid out. It makes me feel safe and in control. The truth is, we’ve all seen it this year, it’s not because you have every step planned that it will happen that way. Maybe something out of your control, like a global pandemic will happen too.
When you listen to your intuition and you trust the guidance you received, you can let go of how you’ll make it happen.
As I let go of my need to control by planning, and allowed myself to trust that if I’m clear on what I need if it’s the right thing for me, I will figure it out. I can trust that things will unfold. I don’t have to know-how. I can focus on what I want, and allow myself to find a way as I go.
8. I’m never powerless, even when I feel like I can’t control anything.
With Covid this year I’m sure I’m not the only one who learned to let go of their desire to control the world.
No matter how much everything around you feels out of control, remembering that there are still things that you can control was a lifesaver for me.
At the very least, I could control every reaction I had, every choice I made. I could control my stress, my focus, my language, my physiology, my nervous system. When you really think about it, there’s a lot you can control.
Anchoring yourself into all of those choices instead of feeling like you are a victim of your own circumstances, your own tendencies, your own patterns allowed me to be OK with not being able to control the world or the people around me. It made me feel empowered again.
9. Home is a feeling, not a place.
For a long time, home was where I was born. Then, it was the place where I knew the culture and felt like I belonged. Then, it was wherever my loved ones were. Now, it’s something else altogether.
All these definitions were external to me. I realized this year, as I came back “home” but didn’t feel at home and as I was looking to establish a home in a place I knew no one, that it had to be something else.
I now think that home is wherever you feel like you can be fully yourself. Where you can thrive and feel joy. If you can be at home within yourself, you can feel home anywhere.
10. Asking for support is not asking for advice.
I’ve always known that asking for support was a good idea but it didn’t always feel good.
The truth is that I usually asked for advice, for solutions. I put myself in a place of less than and gave my power away. Asking for support, which I’ve experienced this year, is completely different.
Asking for support is asking for someone to listen, to mirror, to hold you, or hold space. It’s asking to be seen and to be received. It’s asking for empathy, understanding, and connection.
Those are the things I needed. When getting clear on what you need and asked for that kind of support, from the right person, it does feel good.
I’m excited to see what next year will bring. Cheers to another turn around the sun.